The guy with the jack

I drove home Wednesday evening thinking about my old friend and mentor Richard B. “Dick” Cosgrove. How could I not? I had just attended the swearing in ceremony of his son Joe to the Commonwealth Court at Luzerne County Courthouse. How proud Dick would have been.
“Richard B,” as I’d call him sometimes just for fun, died a few years ago at age 87. As Joe pointed out in his remarks, Dick worked in the newspaper field for 69 years, right up to his death. He wrote a column on the day he died.
I began working alongside of Dick when I was just 17 and could fill a book with what he taught me about this business, but one particular lesson came to mind Wednesday. It was to “never be like the guy with the jack.”
It stemmed from a joke we had heard. Dick turned the punch line into a journalism lesson and a life lesson.
Whenever any of us writers got riled up about something, when we couldn’t wait to sit down and bang out a heated editorial, Dick would caution us to take a step back and collect ourselves. “Remember,” he’d say, “you don’t want to be like the guy with the jack.”
He was right. We didn’t.
Here’s the joke:
A fellow was driving along a lonely country road one night about midnight when he got a flat tire. He popped open the truck only to discover he had no jack.
Off in the distance he saw a farm house. There were no lights on. Still, he set off on foot in its direction.
“I’m probably going to wake the poor guy up,” he said to himself, “but what can I do? I can’t change the tire without a jack.”
“I’ll bet he’s going to be mad,” his conversation with himself continued as he kept walking. “He most likely has to get up early in the morning. But what the heck, it’s not my fault I don’t have a jack. It’s a rental car.”
“He’s not going to give a hoot that it’s a rental,” the guy continued to himself. “He’ll probably call me some kind of idiot. Who drives a car without a jack? Easy for him to say. I bet he never rented a car in his life.”
“I bet he won’t even want to loan me his jack,” the guy thought. “And what a rotten attitude that would be. Okay, I might get him out of bed, but all I want is his stupid jack.”
The more he walks, the more his conservation with himself descends in that direction.
“What kind of jerk gets mad just because a stranger needs a favor in the middle of the night,” he says as he reaches the farm house and bangs on the door.
A moment later, the porch light goes on and a sleepy eyed farmer opens the door and says, “Can I help you, buddy?”
“Stick the jack up your ass,” the stranded motorist says and storms off the porch.
You can see Dick’s point. It was a good one.

Ed Ackerman