Opinion: Exxon Mobil, this park bench is for you


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What would your bench say?

You’ve seen them plenty of times, in parks, along trails, in gardens: Benches dedicated to individuals, often with brief sentiments about the person.

Visiting Mammoth Lakes during the Fourth of July weekend, I saw several on the town’s new walking and biking trail to the lakes basin.


A person’s life, summed up in a few words on a bench:

‘He loved to fish. He loved to ski. He loved Mammoth.’

Another gave brief characteristics -– among then, astrophysicist -– formed in the shape of what looked like a Christmas tree.

It made me wonder: Did the person being honored write the inscriptions? More likely, it was friends and/or family. And does it matter?

Somehow, I think it does. After all, if you’re going to be on a bench, don’t you want what’s said about you to be what you think of yourself? Leaving it to others could be, well, complicated.

For example, reading The Times over the weekend, you could find stories that would make interesting inscriptions on a bench.

What would the folks of Laurel, Mont., say, put on a bench dedicated to Exxon Mobil overlooking the river that oil from the company’s ruptured pipeline is fouling?

Or how about a bench outside the Crystal Cathedral dedicated to the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, put there by the church’s board?


And wouldn’t you love to let the various Republican presidential contenders write inscriptions for one another?

Then there are the workers at BMW’s parts distribution warehouse in Ontario, Calif., that columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote about. What would they say about the German company’s chairman, now that BMW has decided to outsource the facility to a third-party logistics company and they’re likely to lose their jobs?

And I’ll bet American consumers could think of a few choice words to describe Missouri Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. As consumer columnist David Lazarus writes, Emerson is leading the charge to gut funding for a federal product-safety database.

So here’s a fun test you can do at home or at the office: Write your bench. Then have your friends or family or co-workers write your bench. Then compare.

It just might mean a better bench in your future.


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-- Paul Whitefield

An Exxon Mobil contractor mops up oil along the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont. Credit: Matthew Brown / Associated Press