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Conversation with Mr. Towne

The following is paper i wrote for my nonverbal communications course at Indiana university. the names of the individuals involved in this have been changed.

  1. For the purposes of this paper, I’ll just say the man I met last week is named Mr. Charles Towne. He is a community leader in the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and our meeting was regarding the Civic Leaders Program at Joint Base Charleston. This was the first time we met.

  1. When I stepped into Towne’s office, I felt uncomfortable but wasn’t afraid. As I quietly sat in one of the two leather chairs facing his desk, I scanned the room. I noticed he was very political. On a shelf near his desk was a bright red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat with Donald Trump’s signature in white sharpie marker. I guessed it was a campaign donation gift but didn’t want to ask.

On the same shelf was three framed pictures; one was a younger version of himself (with raven black instead of his current salt and pepper look) with George W. Bush, another was with current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (a candid photo, both in suits), and the third seemed important but I don’t know who the individual was in it with him. I don’t know who wrote most of the books on his shelf, however, I noticed titled by Ben Shapiro and Ann Coulter. Behind me Fox News faintly aired on what appeared to be a new flat screen television. I don’t know who the news pundit was, but the image quality was so crisp I swear I could see the pores on their nose.

Other than Towne, I was alone in the office. A secretary had walked me into the office, but I arrived alone. The meeting was mainly discussing event planning, coordinating dates, and giving ourselves an overall “warm and fuzzy” that we were on the same page with the program. I’ve always preferred to do business with people in person, so whenever possible, I meet people face-to-face.

  1. Towne was an older man, probably early to mid-50s, but based on the framed photos with prominent figures that were assorted throughout his office, he had never changed his haircut or clothing style in decades. In fact, he dressed casual for work. I figured his casual look was because we were meeting on a Friday. However, he was wearing Sperry boating shoes, a button down, pastel yellow Ralph Lauren shirt with the sleeves folded up, and crisp khaki pants. I noticed his belt had South Carolina flags patterned along the outside. I thought to myself, he this guy going fishing? I would bet money he owns a boat and couldn’t wait to get on it. Last Friday in Charleston, it was sunny in mid-70s.

Towne is very intelligent. At least, all the diplomas framed along the wall behind him indicated he was. I noticed a business degree from the University of South Carolina centered. Two other degrees were framed as well, at least I’m guessing they were college degrees, the font was very difficult to read, and I didn’t want to be caught staring.

Towne was in a great mood. He joked a lot, laughed at my humor (even when it wasn’t funny), asked a lot of questions, and overall engaged a lot into my military past. Our program doesn’t usually let prior military into it, because its purpose is letting the community understand the military mission, but Towne is a big mover and shaker in Charleston. That said, Towne’s mood was very positive and extremely friendly toward me. His mood made him approachable.

My impression of Towne is that he’s a part of the old guard here in Charleston, often called “The Good Ole’ Boys Club”. His actual last name is one of the prominent ones. The Good Ole’ Boys are very wealthy older, white men who are placed in prominent positions in town, such as lawyers, business owners, politicians, etc. These guys are the insiders, who look out for each other, and have been for decades.

I’m not from Charleston but have been here long enough to understand the system. I have very little in common with Towne but would never allude to that professionally. I have a feeling Towne didn’t know this. He slapped me on the back, even showed me a funny video he had been watching on YouTube. It was a compilation video of News Reporters doing bloopers. My old boss in the Air Force Reserve is a weather man for the NBC affiliate in Charleston. I believe my position at Joint Base Charleston, along with my gender, race, and history in the military helped Towne warm up to me quickly. That was my impression at least. However, he was very polite and never said a negative thing. I will continue working with him in the future. I never felt too uncomfortable beyond first impressions. My only fear was him bringing up President Trump, immigration, or any of the far-right, Ann Coulter talking points.

  1. I assumed Towne was a part of the Charleston Good Ole Boys Club. This was because of his position as a community leader in downtown Charleston. Towne is very wealthy, his last name is historic here, and his appearance was typical of the old guard as well. For example, he’s a business owner but also dressed like he was ready to go fishing. Why? To me, it was because he owned the business, so he made the rules. If the boss wants to leave early and go fishing, he can. In addition, fishing is very popular in Charleston. In my experience, someone in his tax bracket who loves fishing owns a boat, and is friends with other older, white guys who also love fishing and boat owning.

I also assumed he is a very conservative political figure in the town. He wants to support the troops and be a part of our outreach program, which is compiled of a lot of conservative individuals already. In addition, the older, wealthier figures in town are conservative. However, it was mainly the appearance of his office that indicated this to me. His office was filled with Republican relics, like the framed photo with George W. Bush, or the MAGA hat autographed by Donald Trump. Also, Fox News was nearly muted in the television behind me. He didn’t have it on for any reason other than to play in the background. I would guess this wasn’t an isolated event, and Fox News is always on in his office. In my experience, bringing up politics with someone like this is a terrible idea.

He was very friendly, in a great mood, and welcomed me into his office. However, this is because I have an extensive military background. I am also male, straight, and white. In addition, I was there to offer him something. I wanted him to be a part of our civic outreach program. If he was a part of the program, he would live out his old military days again. The only way he knows how to be welcoming is to treat me like “one of the boys”. That is why he shared a funny YouTube video with me (having me get up, go behind his desk, and watch it from his MacBook), and slapped me on the back as a farewell gesture. Also, his handshake was extremely tight. I felt like I was in a competition to out-squeeze the other person. If so, I lost because his handshake hurt but his hands were soft (as if he never worked a day in his life).