One of the more challenging parts of my job is getting "Man on the Street" interviews. I'm just not that good at walking up to strangers to a) convince them to talk to me, and b) get something interesting out of them.
About half the time people don't know anything about the topic I'm seeking comment on, especially if it has to do with Wall Street.
Not so now. I went to Burbank Airport yesterday after the bailout failed and the stock market tanked to get "the pulse of Main Street." This time, everyone knew what had happened. Everyone. And they all had something to say.
"Here we are in a crisis, and banks are being bought and closing down and falling apart," said a frustrated Dave Nathan, arriving from Sacramento, "and people are still lobbying for position." He blames Sen. John McCain for "giving the Republicans new life." Nathan, dressed in a business suit at the end of a long day, said he hopes the bailout passes. "Nobody's happy with it, but at this point, the ramifications on the other side are really frightening."
Not everyone was disappointed in the bailout's failure.
"What they're saying is that the people of the nation are going to have to pay for it," said Marcie Gill, catching a flight to the Midwest. "It's not gonna happen."
"They should look at it real carefully before they sign with taxpayer's money," said Michael Dao, running to his plane but still wanting to weigh in. "There's no transparency with what Congress is doing." When I asked him about the 777-point drop in the Dow, all the breath went out of him. "Scary times," he said, "very scary."
"I think it's a shock, and it's like a slap in the face," was John Hopkins' reaction to the market drop, stopping to talk as he dropped off a friend. "I'm hoping it wakes somebody up...Congress will have to step up and get into gear here real quick and make something happen."
What struck me was that many people who had been opposed to the bailout now wanted something done, as their 401k's took a beating with the market's dive.
"We're back to where we started from last week," said Donald Caldwell, adding sarcastically, "I wonder if McCain's going to go back to Washington."
Then I saw a limo driver standing with a sign, waiting for a client. If you've ever gotten a ride in a limo, you know these drivers listen to news radio all day long. I've found them to be some of America's best informed citizens.
I approached the driver, a young man with a Bluetooth and a slight accent. "Nancy Pelosi was probably the biggest reason (the bailout failed)," he told me.
His name is Philip Manos, and he said he believes Congress will come up with a new package soon, and all will be well. "You have faith?" I asked.
"I have faith," he responded, adding, "What are you gonna do? You gonna panic? You gonna go down? You gonna cry?" As a group of passengers arrived, he left me this advice. "Just try to watch it and not spend as much, I suppose," Manos said. "Watch your pocket for a while, and just see what they're going to do."
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