Years ago I participated in a writing group through the local community college. It was a small group of mature adults. The first night of the class we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. I snapped to attention when I heard an elderly woman say her name. Norma Quick! OMG, I had been reading her letters to the editor in the local paper forever. It seemed like several times a month Norma Quick had something to tell the editor and here she was, live and in person and she didn’t have horns or a tail. I didn’t know Norma Quick, but I already knew that I didn’t like her. Her letters to the editor, although well written, were guaranteed to push my buttons. Politically we were polar opposites.
I read the local paper, the East Oregonian, every night (except Mondays, they don’t publish on Mondays.) I was raised reading the Los Angeles Times and one thing I miss living in a rural area is a big city paper. The East Oregonian is not in the same league; on an average day there’s probably only fifteen pages of newsprint, but all the local news is printed and if you want to know who was arrested for drunk driving or who is filing for divorce, well, The East Oregonian publishes it all…and those damn letters from Norma Quick. I would read her letters and vent to the spouse, who, you may recall, is not particularly noted for his liberal views either. He was not always sympathetic to my position. “When I retire I’m going to respond to all of Norma’s letters” I would tell him.
There are lots of advantages to living in a small town, but one of the disadvantages is that taking a liberal stand in a letter to the editor won’t win you any friends. As a school administrator I needed to keep a lower profile than Norma Quick.
Over the course of the writing class I got to know a little about Norma. We had lively discussions. I’d sprinkle my conversation with comments that I knew would get a rise from her. “I have such admiration for Hillary Clinton,” I’d casually mention, and Norma would move into red state attack mode.
I don’t know what happened to Norma Quick. I can’t remember the last time I saw a letter from her in the newspaper. The class ended a long time ago and our paths never crossed again. During the class I got to know Norma and I admired her spunk. I still didn't agree with her, but I stopped looking for traces of horns and a tail.
I thought about Norma this morning as I wrote my first post-retirement letter to the editor. A small-minded bigot had written that same sex marriage is a violation of natural law and therefore not discriminatory. I imagine that Norma would agree with the writer of that letter. I don’t. I'm secretly hoping that Norma is still out there and will respond so we can have that battle of words that was never possible when I was a civil servant. This one’s for you Norma!