We had a couple of visitors to Memphis recently from an alternative newspaper in another city. Our cities are similar in size, and we share many of the same editorial and business concerns. They joined us in our conference room, and we discussed Web strategies, staffing, publishing software, the competition, and other common issues.
Then we decided to go to lunch.
"How about the Bar-B-Q Shop?" my publisher asked. "Best sandwich you'll ever eat."
"Um, we're vegetarians."
No problem, we said. Memphis is a sophisticated city with lots of places that have great vegetarian food. So we decided to go to a lovely little downtown bistro where there were many fine veggie options on the menu.
As we walked to the parking lot, I said, "We can all just pile into my car," pointing to my 11-year-old 4-Runner.
"Wow, an SUV. Pshew," one of our visitors said, sounding a bit like someone suggesting I might want to quit farting in public elevators.
"Yeah, it's paid for," I said, sounding a bit like somebody becoming less inclined to Southern hospitality.
Lunch followed in much the same vein. "How about a glass of wine?" I said. Nope, herbal tea was their preference. Dessert? Nope, no carbs.
Driving back to the office, my publisher decided we should get coffee for our afternoon meeting. "There's a Starbucks just up ahead," he said.
"Um, we don't do Starbucks," our visitors informed us. "Aren't there any locally owned coffee shops around here?"
"Yes, there are," I said. "And I go to one of them almost every day, but here's the thing: It's many blocks away, and we'll burn lots more gas in my SUV if we go there."
Silence from the back seat, as our visitors pondered the proper ethical move. Or whether I was being an ass.
"Two venti lattes," I said, as we pulled up to the Starbucks speaker. The afternoon meeting was a short one.
Don't get me wrong. I support locally owned businesses if their product is better. And I'm all for going green. When my car finally dies, I'll get one that's more fuel-efficient.
But I'm not giving up the Bar-B-Q Shop.