Truly, I was not expecting this call.
"The members of the Singles Social Dance Club in Sun City Center, which is very significant, are very insulted about your recent article that was in the Floridian magazine," said the person on my voice mail. "It has been a detriment in our community. It is not a very good selling point for people wishing to move to Sun City Center. It was a complete insult. Be ready."
Then the caller, a woman of a certain age, judging by the voice, invited me "to come to our meeting and apologize for that article."
That article, I assume, was the brief profile about "Diamond Jim" Kopernick ("On the prowl for love"). Diamond Jim, you will recall, was acclaimed to be one of the most eligible bachelors in the sprawling south Hillsborough retirement community. And as he told writer John Woodrow Cox, he was happy to remain that way. Sure, Jim was unapologetic about his extremely targeted interest in women decades his junior, but I couldn't detect the insult.
Still, no one says "Be ready" if she doesn't think you've blotted her escutcheon. But no name, no number. No time and date for my public execution. Moreover, I had heard nothing from any other senior dance club in the 33573 ZIP code. Not a knuckle rap from the Silver Tappers. Not a bad word from the Oldies But Goodies.
Then I got this email from ccable: "I read with dismay at the insulting way you portrayed Sun City Center. I will think twice about renewing my subscription. A public apology is warranted."
I knew then I had to get out in front of this. Here goes my official statement: The 467 words we devoted to Diamond Jim were easily my favorite in the entire issue.
I understand this lacks the elements of a classic apology, namely regret. But much as I cherish every subscriber, I can't apologize for our core mission — to tell stories that readers recognize as fundamentally true, even at the risk of annoying those readers who might prefer a less vivid reality. If I have my way, the masterful John Cox will check in with Diamond Jim about six months from now to see if he has widened his strike zone.
Be ready, good people of Sun City. Be ready.
Bill Duryea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8770.