So anyway, last Tuesday, after leaving the Metal Shed, and headed home, I stopped off at the Pilot gas station down the street. You see, the store has (or had) this awesome welfare program for smokers. You buy three packs and you get a free lighter.
Anyhoo, I laid down 9 or 10 cases of beer on the counter, and ordered up some Marlboro Red 100s. (Hey, if you're going to smoke, do it right. Don't smoke those girly-girl menthol cigarettes. Unless you're a girl. Or work on the sixth-floor of the Deathstar. Heh.)
So, I don't get my lighter. (By the way, the purple ones lasted the longest.) I joke with the cheery cashier (they're all really nice at that place, so props to them), and ask her about my lighter. She says that they're no longer giving them out. Then she said it had something to do with someone complaining that they were considered political gifts or something. She wasn't very clear about it.
I get to thinking: You know that would make a funny story (or stupid blog post) if some jack-leg actually thought Gov. Big Bill was giving away lighters to get votes. (You know, cause the Haslams own all the gas on the planet.)
I mean, I've heard of dumber things, but still. Lighters? Naw.
Still, I couldn't resist putting in a call to Dave Smith; he's one of the governor's flacks. He's also about a useful as a two-legged chair on a ridgetop or hillside. (Had to throw in a local reference there for those I haven't yet bored to death here.) Anyway, this guy has never been very helpful, and he makes the county's spin doctor – Michael Grider – look like Michael Clayton.
(OK, that last reference wasn't really fair. I like Grider, but, man, I've been wanting to use that analogy on someone since forever. Good movie. Check it out. But I digress.)
Anyway, Smith of course doesn't return my call. So I call him again Wednesday. He finally gets back to me. I explain what happened and want to know whether someone considered the lighters a political gift. He tells me to call Pilot.
I'm like: “No, I'm calling you, man. It might have to do with the governor and gifts.”
He rambles on like some kind of mental patient for awhile. I tell him: “Look man, I know you see the big guy around – he's probably up there in the mansion, strutting around. Go ask him.”
Smith: “No. It has to do with Pilot. I have no idea.”
Like I said: Useless.
So I call Cynthia Moxley. (Actually I had already called her earlier.) Moxley of Moxley Carmichael for those living under a rock are pretty good flacks. For flacks. They represent the News Sentinel, although if you asked me what they do for us, I'd answer with a blank stare. But, they also represent the Haslams or Pilot, or whatever.
So, I tell her the story. She laughs. Says either she or Alan Carmichael will check it out for me. (Oh yeah, at some point I called Big Jim, the patriarch of the Haslam family, but got his voice mail.)
So, Thursday evening Alan calls me back. He's finally gotten to the bottom of the story, although he wasn't very clear. But who cares. It's PR, rights?
He said the reason they stopped handing out lighters to anyone dumb enough to slap $15 in coin down for three packs of cancer sticks is because there's some state tobacco law that won't let you give away anything that would entice cigarette sales.
“It's a state prohibition against doing that and once they realized it, they said they can't do that,” said Carmichael.
Me: “So, uh, you're telling me they were breaking the law then?”
Carmichael: Long, uneasy silence.
Carmichael: “Let's just say they ceased doing that.”
Oh well, whatever. I guess the moral of the story is that every once in awhile Dave Smith is right. Naw screw that. He's not right. And gas prices are still too high.