Written by P.M. Wortham
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Tags: Fish, piranhas

Thursday, 3 February 2011

image for Pariah Found Alive in Piranha Pond Pat Wohm waiting for the "Be Back" bus.

Surprising most who found the man still figuratively alive and unscathed from the hundreds of omnivores surrounding him in a close-knit community of newspaper professionals, one fairly obtuse hack writer with good intent, emerged for the last time from the London journalist's favorite watering hole without so much as a nibble on his pinkie.

Mr. Pat Wohm began adulthood as an above average English student, but not from historical, cultural or geographic perspectives. Wohm liked to write, and became interested in using that very modest, even sophomoric talent to occasionally entertain his friends and family. Short observational stories eventually evolved into writing and editing company newsletters where invariably, a touch of attempted humor was added to help flavor the traditionally bland medium. Wohm reportedly liked to make people laugh.

It wasn't until a career change favored more global travel, did Wohm start to shift his writings toward experiences from that road less traveled. Chance meetings with people from different countries and cultures influenced Wohm, and for ten years reshaped his opinion about world politics, the concept of "expected" behavior as a guest in another country, and the critical importance of tolerance and compassion.

But this was a new forum for the tall man from working class roots, a step up from his caste if you will, and a chance to mix with those whom he had admired as professionals and aspired to call "peers". The seasoned newspaper men and women often gathered in a public house across from Kempton Park, called Hoof Step Stables. With a curiously undecorated fa├žade and a door not wide enough for equine, the misleading name carved quite carelessly into a wooden plank, hung asymmetrically above the entrance and alone, tended to keep the uninformed or otherwise uninvited thoroughbreds away.

An invitation was required. You, or more accurately stated, your name was recognized at the door and strictly by virtue of a look, a wink or a nod could you gain entrance. So powerful was the loose association of journalists that mere acceptance into a conversation at the bar became a right of passage. Wohm, now a beat writer for the Daily Rail had somehow passed the first test. Perhaps it was due to a story that had gained some recognition, or commentary he had made in the open blogoshpere, but he was invited, though informally, to participate at the "Stables", share a laugh and speak his mind.

Four years after joining his new found brothers and sisters, Wohm had come to realize that he had been watching events unfold at the Stables as if looking through an opaque beer glass. It was safer to shift his focus away from the fringe details of an oft heated discussion, but when prompted or inspired to participate, found himself trying to bring people back towards center and shared common ground. At least, he thought those were his motives and expected people to understand. Wohm would eventually find himself in familiar territory as a result of his actions. Wohm was simply wrong.

Things turned violent albeit verbally at the Stables on a number of political, personal and journalistic fronts. In time, friends had turned against friends, and brothers had turned against sisters within the informal community, where mutual association and camaraderie had been replaced by distrust and segregation. Weeknight attendance at the Stables had declined to a point where only a few regulars who were gifted and brilliant and above the petty squabbling from the masses, continued to meet and share a pint. Wohm, like quite a few others at the Stables was starting to feel like outsiders again, looking in.

Conversations started at the pub by those who had recently been accepted into the association were now being met with disdain or simply ignored. Walking up to join a conversation at the rail typically meant the death of the topic, yielding silence and a feigned grin in return. Wohm was learning, slowly, that he may have worked his way quite unintentionally into the position of pariah. "A writer's fate worse than death", Wohm muttered, with no one to hear.

It was hard for the man to put a finger on what caused the shift, or the change in acceptance at the Stables. Perhaps the shift had less to do with him personally than with the whole makeup and collective personality of journalistic talent surrounding him. Perhaps it wasn't personal at all. But, with so many other writers thriving on entertaining people and fearing the lack of attention, seeds of insecurity are easily planted. In the end, all writers write, so that they can be read, so that they can entertain. They are a group of fragile artists at times, easily offended and quick to defend. It was enough then for Wohm to feel like a pariah, and that caused him to take stock, look inwards, and ultimately be thankful that newspaper journalists won't start chewing on fingers and toes when they sense a weakness in the pond.

Without grand gesture or declaration, Wohm simply planned to fade back into newspaper obscurity, writing the odd technical article for his fellow geeks who might appreciate the topic. He remained hopeful that the stable of sports, news and entertainment writers would come back to welcoming each other at the pub, sharing a story and a laugh, and including him in the banter. Eventually Wohm knew, people tend to lean towards community, shared experiences and inclusion. There was hope for pariahs after all, it would just take time.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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