Editorial: Right when I think I’ve got it all figured out… guess again

The other day I was sitting at my desk in our office and the phone rang on our Lebanon line.

It was an elderly lady who said she was a subscriber who lived in Lebanon and wanted to tell me about a problem she had with her water bill.

I’m always interested in hearing from subscribers. Though we can’t always follow through, at least not right away, on their news tips or ideas for how to make the paper better, I always file them away for future reference.

I mean it when I say we want to hear from you.

This woman clearly had her act together. She informed me that the county was charging her a $7.50 fee that she’d never seen before on her water bill, for water softening. She told me she was a widow, living on a limited income, and that this fee represented a 32 percent boost to her bill.

(She told me she’d worked for a bank for many years before retiring. Aha. That would explain the precise math.)

This sounded interesting. I thought we were pretty up on things, especially with a crack reporter attending nearly every meeting of the county commissioners. But I hadn’t heard about this.

A water softening charge? My grandparents back in Illinois used to have a water softener, but I’ve really had very little experience with them myself. And now the county was doing this?

I also wondered why I wasn’t aware that the county provided water to people outside Lebanon’s city limits.

I asked her address. I wasn’t familiar with the road she said she lived on, but I don’t know all the country lanes around the community.

The caller really enjoyed the “Lebanon Local,” she said. She referred to the “other” paper, by which, I had to assume, she meant another of our other community newspapers.

She told me that even though the Lebanon Local is a monthly, she appreciated it.

Wow. Thanks!

I told her that we had a reporter who regularly attended the county commissioners’ meetings and who also was quite familiar with Lebanon. I’d have her call.

The prefix I got from her was strange to me, but the lady said she’d had it for decades.

“I’ve only moved once in the 60 years I’ve lived here,” she stated.

“OK,” I thought. “Maybe this is some ancient phone number that long ago was supplanted by (541) and I simply haven’t heard of it.

Our reporter called her a few hours late, and they had quite a long conversation. She, too, found the story interesting, from a news perspective, but she also noticed a few weird little things that didn’t seem quite right. It suddenly occurred to her to recheck where, exactly, the caller lived – which state?

“Lebanon, Ohio.”

One challenge that didn’t occur to me when we decided to start the Lebanon Local was that we’d have competition – from the eight other communities named Lebanon across the U.S.

We use a variety of means to try to stay on top of things, including Internet resources.

Searching for information is   not particularly complicated when we’re looking for individuals or happenings in Sweet Home, where we publish another newspaper. There are only three other actual “Sweet Home” communities in the world that I’ve found – none of them in Alabama – and one is a school district in upstate New York.

But try Googling “Lebanon” without an “Oregon” and you wind up with pages and pages of info – or our phone number.

Incidentally, on page 1 in this issue is our follow-up story on Fadi BouKaram, whom we wrote about in our first issue, last November, as he started a tour of all the Lebanons in the continental United States. It’s interesting to see what he found as he toured various communities with our same name.

I often say my job is never dull. That phone call from our friend in Lebanon illustrates why.