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franklin county times

Sunday, May 5, 2002

By Staff
Where is Southern hospitality' in Meridian?
To the editor:
I was returning from a meeting downtown around 8 p.m. on April 12. I noticed that something was wrong with my car, so I pulled over on Front Street between the Beauty Depot and Loeb's. I had a flat tire. I decided to walk down to Union Station to use the telephone to call for help. I needed change for the pay phone so I asked the person working at the desk in the Greyhound booth for change. She stated, "I can't give you change." I explained that I really needed to call home because I had a flat tire. She said, "Don't get an attitude with me, ma'am! If you give me the number, I'll dial it for you."
But it was the way the clerk responded to me that made me mad. I told her she didn't have to make the call and I went outside determined to get help. I spotted a Lauderdale County deputy sheriff and flagged him down. He gave me the money for the call. I went back inside Union Station to use the phone and stopped by the Greyhound booth and told her that it is a sad day when you ask for help and you are told you have an attitude problem.
If not for the sheriff's deputy I would have been walking downtown at night with no way to get help. Eventually, I also got help from Officer Henley of the Meridian Police Department.
I have talked to several people in the city of Meridian and at Greyhound about changing their policy to give change or to install a change machine at Union Station. However, if the customer service at Greyhound would have been helpful I would not have any concerns about the downfall of Meridian's Southern hospitality.
Union Station is the first place most visitors see. The bus line and train station has more visitors than any other part of Meridian. Friendly, polite customer service should be the No. 1 priority for any visiting center. If I had been a visitor and received the response I had gotten that night, I would never visit Meridian again.
In times when we are revitalizing downtown Meridian, we should start within and work with the problems we have first. Southern hospitality is something we should be proud of and something we should show to every person regardless of any situation. Where has the Southern hospitality in Meridian gone?
Susan Madere
Done right, zoo could work
To the editor:
I usually find myself agreeing with the opinions expressed by The Meridian Star. This time; however, I think that The Meridian Star is slightly wrong in its criticism of the "animal farm." I say slightly because I agree with them in some of your comments. I don't think that the county needs a "look and see" facility. I also think the $8 an hour salary was an act of charity that backfired on the supervisors.
I cannot agree that the idea of a "petting zoo" should not be a priority item for our local government. Meridian and Lauderdale County have almost nowhere for people to take young children to enjoy a day of sunshine and fun. Some place where adults can spread out a picnic, set up a lounger and take turns with each other either relaxing themselves or looking after the kids.
This takes a large grassy area, plenty of shade (in this climate) and something to help kids entertain themselves. A petting zoo in a park with a good play area would go a long way toward fulfilling this need.
As usual, the county is failing to think and plan adequately for such a facility. The suggestions made in one article that inmate labor could be use is excellent. The $8 an hour salary might be justified if the person receiving this salary was also responsible for organizing and managing an inmate labor force as well as a community volunteer force that could be used to turn the facility into a real petting zoo.
Looking at animals is not the same as touching them. Looking occupies a child's attention for about 10 seconds. Touching and holding can occupy them for hours. If you don't believe this, you should have come to the library's annual petting zoo. This event has taken place now for several years and I have brought my children's pets (iguanas to ferrets to goats to puppies) to most of them. United Fence Company sets up a few large chain link pens and several people from the community bring their pets and small animals. This is a hands-on event with the kids (and parents if they want to) coming into the pens, sitting down on the ground, and holding and petting the animals. It lasts about three to four hours, and I have seen kids stay and wander from pen to pen the entire time. The only problem has been getting enough animals and space to satisfy the desire of all the kids.
If managed well, a project such as this could be a real win-win proposition for everyone concerned. Volunteers win by getting one of the best feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment around, and this could be especially true for young social organization volunteers. Inmates win by getting out of boredom and confinement and doing something really worthwhile. The county supervisors win by turning a negative publicity situation into a positive one. Last but not least, the people of Lauderdale County and Meridian win by getting a really worthwhile and interesting place to have good family fun at an affordable price.
If managed right, you can get the public to help foot the feed bill by letting parents buy cups of food for their kids to give the animals. I bet you could even get the local veterinarians and pet stores to contribute animal expertise to this project. I know for a fact that they are "into" caring things like this since every time I have worked at a Red Cross shelter during coastal hurricane evacuations, our local veterinarians have opened their kennels for the shelteree's pets free of charge.
Mary E. Ethridge