Over the years, I’ve learned that a first impression is not always the best way to judge a person.
Sometimes, people are standoffish, and you’ve got to get to know them a little bit better, and sometimes, people have bad days.
One of the best examples is my friend, “Granny.”
When I moved to Montana nearly nine years ago, I was overwhelmed. While I had plenty of experience in the newspaper business, I was not quite prepared for how difficult it would be to take over an established publication in Whitehall.
Every day was a learning experience, and I would have to encounter a lot of “firsts” as a business owner.
I had probably owned the paper for about two weeks when I received a call in the morning that would become my first impression of “Granny. “
When I answered the phone, she expressed her displeasure that the paper did not cover the “eighth-grade” promotion. I have to admit, at first, I was very confused because I had never covered a district that had a promotion ceremony for soon-to-be freshmen, so I had no idea what this lady was talking about.
I kindly explained that I did not know what the ceremony was, but I would have covered it if someone had let me know. It was already a whirlwind of an experience trying to navigate taking over a business, but I had also yet to establish a relationship with the local school district.
No matter how hard I tried to explain myself, “Granny” was not listening, and at one point, I had to put the phone down as she started to get very loud and aggressive. I’m surprised there weren’t flames from the phone because she was that mad.
I tried to tell her I would work with the school to put something together for the next issue, but she just kept getting madder and madder about how her granddaughter was not on the paper.
I finally had to just hang up on her. I could not take anymore. I was doing my best with the new gig, and I didn’t have time to spend an entire day getting screamed at. I’ve always considered schools the heartbeat of the community and covered them better than most papers, so getting chastised for an event I did not know was happening hurt a bit.
In my first few weeks, I became friends with the manager of the hotel in town. He was from Alabama, so it was nice to have someone who had also moved to the area not so long ago.
One day, we were talking, and he mentioned his grandma. I had tried to forget about my recent phone conversation about the promotion from the ceremony. Still, as soon as he started talking about his grandma also being from the South, I realized it might be the same person.
The caller about the ceremony had a thick Southern accent, and after telling him the story, he informed me that “Granny” was the one who called.
A few days later, I was covering an event when my friend introduced me to “Granny. “ It took me a few more months before someone told me her name was “Mary, “ but at this point, she was always going to be “Granny. “
After a few awkward pleasantries when we saw each other, we finally became friends and would chat for a few minutes at the school or around town.
A few weeks later, “Granny” would send me a friend request on Facebook, and we would occasionally gossip about small-town Montana.
“Granny” would eventually move out of state to South Carolina but would also ask me to send her my weekly column. She always seemed to get a kick out of my shenanigans, so I enjoyed sending her a link every week.
“Granny” would move back to Montana for a while, and on one of her first few days back, she came to visit us.
It was nice catching up with her, but I have to admit she was going to bring up the infamous ceremony and it would make things very awkward.
She would move again about two years later, but we keep in touch.
In fact, I talk just about every day with “Granny.” While she’s not my actual grandma, I enjoy our daily conversations and her constant requests that I keep her updated on Southwest Montana.
After the initial phone call, I did not want to talk to this person again, but first impressions don’t always tell a complete story. I’m glad we got to know each other and have become friends.
A morning isn’t quite complete without her sharing something silly or badgering me about the ins and outs of Montana.
As I’m writing this, she texted and asked what type of trouble I’m going to get into today. I should probably text her to let her know I’m avoiding a promotion ceremony.