Do Not Go To T’s Golf

By Michael Hawkins

As some readers may recall, an article appeared in the very first edition of Without Apology which disparaged T’s Golf in Manchester. This article is a reminder of that disparagement.

T’s Golf is a dumpy little joint run by Rawn and Judy Torrington. The deteriorating mini golf course is absolute junk. Even if I didn’t have a terrible personal interaction with the bitter, little owners, I would still hate their ‘facilities’ – in fact, long before I knew anything about the nasty, old couple I would often reject suggestions of using their business. The fact – and it’s an obvious fact – is that they run one of the worst looking (and playing) mini golf courses in the state.

But Without Apology has built readership since that first edition, so let’s get everyone up-to-date: I went to use Rawn and Judy Torrington’s driving range to test out a new driver one summer day. My intent was to hit 4-5 balls out of my own bag and leave. But being greedy, life-hating misers, the pair objected to me not buying their balls. They chastised my innocent girlfriend, told us we should know better, and even took down my license plate number. I suppose that made Rawn feel like a big man. Goodness knows his ugly, little business doesn’t.

Now give this all a moment’s thought: these two selfish individuals were angry because I didn’t give them a dollar fifty or so for a few balls. No one is saying they can’t tell people to pay, but what they can’t do is screech at people to pay and then expect to see some sort of uptick in business. Had they been remotely intelligent in their approach, I would have paid the pocket change to whack a few balls a few yards. Instead, they whined and yelled and threw a big hissy fit, thus losing my business forever. Now, I’m no business major (I prefer degrees that don’t take one’s soul), but I reckon the angry owners of T’s Golf might rightly be described as “business dolts”. But then, maybe I’m too kind.

So this is a reminder: DO NOT GO TO T’S GOLF THIS SUMMER. Or ever, really. It’s run by people who have no idea how to interact with the public; they do not deserve your money. Go drive a few balls over at All-Steak Burger on Hospital Street. That’s a business that is run by decent people, and the facilities are ever-improving, from the Disc Golf course to the batting cage to the driving range.

T’s Golf is a cheap joint run by a couple of old fogies who are bitter about their lackluster place in life, their inability to run a decent business, and the fact that they are unable to maintaine decent facilities. But most of all, they take no evident joy in their interaction with people. Go ahead, ask around town. Find out just what sort of stunts Rawn and Judy Torrington pull – from stories of berating customers who have spent $1000+ with them, to tales of denying 10 year olds free mini golf games because neither disgruntled owner witnessed the hole-in-one on the final hole, the anecdotes are seemingly endless.

And here’s the kicker: no one needs T’s Golf. There are other driving ranges. There are other mini golf courses. There are competently run businesses owned by decent people. T’s Golf is a black hole that adds nothing to the area. It just takes and takes and takes all the joy of summer, of golf, of humanity and consumes it into a pit of bitter nothingness and failure.

Save yourself the headache. Do not go to T’s Golf.

OTR, On The Rocks

By Kaytlyn Gillis

An article in the January 6th issue of the Kennebec Journal informed locals that Club OTR is at risk for being unable to renew its liquor license. The club’s owner, Mark D. Coulombe, is concerned that the club may not be able to stay in business if the liquor license is not renewed. This is an obvious concern, as alcohol is one of the main draws to this – and any – weekend nightclub.

In the same issue of the Kennebec Journal. Police Chief Wayne McCamish recommended that the club’s license not be renewed by the city, reporting that local police “responded to a total of 135 complaints in the immediate area of the club last year.” Now, I’m sure we can all agree that the local police shouldn’t be tied up on Water Street on a Friday night when there are people going 30 mph in a 25 on Western Ave. Therefore, it comes to no surprise that the officers are tired of this scene, and adamant about making a beneficial change.

The shock factor is that business owners continue to attempt to run a successful hot spot in the downtown area. How long did Club Liquid last? I don’t think the newly painted sign even dried thoroughly. And, does anybody remember The Edge? …neither do I.

When will we come to terms with the fact that trying to put a club in that part of the downtown area is doomed to fail? Its central location makes it an easy walk for most people, which would presumably provide more revenue for the business. Instead, the police find themselves breaking up the after-parties that collect outside because its central location leads to it becoming a place to “hang out”. And with Wal-Mart’s recent reduction in late-night hours, many kids don’t know where to hang out after midnight, repeatedly find themselves gathering outside this downtown establishment.

If the club were to be re-opened in a different location, perhaps it would attract a different crowd. Margaritas does not offer the same ease of access, but the police also don’t find themselves at the top of its usual guest list. If the club were to reopen its doors outside of the downtown area, perhaps we could eliminate a lot of the assaults and other drama that occurs outside OTR’s doors. If OTR is closed, then the (even more) limited options will force locals to drive to nearby Hallowell or Waterville, possibly increasing the amount of drunk driving, and certainly decreasing the amount of money spent in our town.

The problem is the (otherwise dead) location, not the business. Why deprive Augusta of the much needed business that this nightclub draws in? Many of the other local businesses benefit from the money young people spend when they come into Augusta for the evening. And really, does Augusta need less entertainment? The options are already too limited, especially for a state capital. The vibrancy needs a move, not a demolition.

McCamish Rectifies Officer’s Error

By Michael Hawkins

Lt. J. Christopher Read has been doing his job for close to 20 years. He knows how the Augusta Police Department works. In fact, he knows how the law works better than most. At least, he knows it better than I do. He told me so.

Let me bring everything up to date.

It began with a parking ticket in high school from Officer Richard Dubois. I was illegally parked, but Officer Dubois made the citation out incorrectly. I unofficially contested the ticket. Stubbornness ensued.

Officer Dubois wouldn’t take the ticket back despite the clarity of his error. (He wrote that I was parked on the sidewalk. I was actually on the yellow diagonal lines seen at the end of parking spaces. These lines cannot be placed on the sidewalk, nor are they ever put there.) I was guilty of a $15 crime and would have simply paid the fine had Dubois not made a silly mistake. But if anything, the law is full of technicalities. I saw no reason to not use that to my advantage.

Long story short, I went to great lengths to definitively prove the lack of validity to the ticket (and absolutely did so), but ended up paying it anyway. Okay, whatever. It’s $15.

But then came a great opportunity.

For a journalism course I had to use the Maine Freedom of Information Access Act (FOIA) to obtain some sort of information from a government entity. Inspired by the Boston Globe’s use of the Massachusetts version of the act to uncover the disciplinary record of a State Trooper, I requested the same record for Officer Dubois’.

Okay, I admit it. His stubbornness got to me. Maybe I’m arrogant. Maybe I’m cocky. I’ll accept those descriptions as long as I can still say I was right about that little ticket. I’ll sacrifice image for principle any day.

But whatever the reason for my actions, I requested Officer Dubois’ record. And I had a right to it. The Maine FOIA says so: “… if disciplinary action is taken, the final written decision relating to that action is no longer confidential…”

The language is clear. It’s unambiguous. The disciplinary records of municipal, county, and state employees are not confidential.

Lt. Read was confused on the issue.
I approached the Lt. on a Monday with my request. He informed me that personnel records are confidential. For the most part, yes, they certainly are. I know because the act states this immediately before naming a particular exception.

But I hadn’t read the Maine FOIA carefully at this point. I was turned away, no records in hand. I soon began my research.

Upon discovering that Lt. Read had made an error, I returned two days later. I gave the man the benefit of the doubt. Hell, I could see myself making a mistake like that.

“I think there may have been a misunderstanding. I’m looking for Officer Dubois’ disciplinary record, not his entire personnel record.”

Lt. Read held his ground. It was here that I read him, verbatim, what the law actually states. Remember, the language is abundantly clear.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years; I know how it works…That’s your interpretation.”

I persisted, explaining in the simplest terms possible why he was wrong. It was to no avail.

Realizing the brick wall in front of me, I decided to finish up by reminding Lt. Read that he needs to give me a written response explaining his denial of my request within 5 business days. (I’ve heard it may be 10 business days, though I’ve only read “5”. Regardless, a response is required.)

Looking me dead in the eye, no sign of a smirk, no twitch of laughter, he delivers his line.

“I’m not going to do that.”

I’m dumbfounded. I gave this man the benefit of the doubt. I read him the act. Twice. I interpreted it for him clearly. Yet here I was.

I reminded Augusta’s finest of the $500 fine that comes with a violation of this law. He was wasn’t fazed.

Going a step further with the overly-nice guy routine, I even offered Lt. Read a copy of my written request. I figured he may realize he’s wrong somewhere in the next few days. He’d need my contact information.

He refused it.

It was at this point in my mind that I questioned the honesty of the officer. I believe him when he says he’s been in law enforcement for 20 years. But I draw the line when he claims he knows how this law works. He had no idea that the disciplinary records were not confidential. He had no idea he was required to give me a written response. He didn’t seem to realize there was a fine associated with his bungling of the situation. “Liar” may be a strong word here, but it can’t be too far off the mark.

I let Lt. Read know I was going to see City Manager William Bridgeo with an identical letter. He had every chance to correct himself.

Bridgeo was in a meeting, but a clerk took down my whole story alongside copies of my letter and a printout of the relevant section of the law. She said the manager would get back to me.

And get back to me he did.

Within a couple days, I received a letter from Bridgeo. Perhaps the nicest man in Augusta, he praised my efforts (yay me!) while also informing me that Officer Dubois had no disciplinary record in the past two years (records are not kept longer than that, with exception for repeat offenses).

In other words, the records are public information. Great. Tickets made in error aside, Officer Dubois seems to be on the up-and-up. This is far more satisfying than finding an officer riddled with reprimands and suspensions.

But the story doesn’t end there.

A few days later I received another letter. This one was from Police Chief Wayne McCamish.

“I must apologize that as you are aware, should there be a final written decision relating to a disciplinary action taken against an employee, that information is not confidential and you would have a right to access of that information.”

He goes on to explain that as a result of Lt. Read’s handling of the situation, “[a]ll Police Supervisors are to review our Standard Operating Procedure, Public Access to Records, to ensure that a request for information is handled properly…I am truly sorry for the inconvenience you have experienced.”

Twenty years is a long time, but it doesn’t hold up against the law. But maybe that’s just my interpretation.

Bad Behavior and T’s Golf

By Michael Hawkins

We shouldn’t have to accept bad behavior.

We all see it. We’re waiting in line at the check-out and there’s that person. (In an effort to avoid politically correct grammar, let’s say it’s a guy.) The cashier double-scanned something. Or an item isn’t priced correctly. Or there’s an unexpected fee. Whatever it is, that guy is there. You can see the anger in his eyes. He’s been waiting all day to lash out at someone, and this particular $8-an-hour employee is the unlucky victim.

No one says anything because, hey, who wants to join the public scene? It’s awkward. But is that so acceptable? I don’t think so.

Society has become accustomed to allowing people to act out like this. It happens every day, from Wal-Mart to Shaw’s to convenience stores to delis to restaurants. People love to treat each other like crap. Let’s get one voice together and just say ‘no’ to that sort of behavior.

Okay, that item didn’t scan in correctly and it’s taking awhile for someone to get you the right price. At no point does it logically follow that you should offer up a dish of immaturity topped with pettiness. Most of us get that, but too many have no concept of what kindness means.

And this is a two-way street. It’s usually customers treating low-level employees like hell (mostly because they can), but it comes the other way. Have I ever got the example of the century for you.

I recently went to T’s Golf in Manchester to try out a new club. I wanted to literally hit 4 balls into an empty field, using an empty tee, at a business that had literally no other customers. It didn’t take long for the owners to come out an give me an earful.

Rawn and Judy Torrington ripped into me, telling me I “should know better”, yelling at the person with me who wasn’t even playing, whining with fists clenched that I had such audacity to hit free balls into a field.

Okay, they aren’t giving things away for free. Fair enough. But let’s grow up a bit. First of all, these people charge for use of their buckets of balls, not their range. They weren’t even aware of the policies they put in place. Second, while they have an argument that I shouldn’t hit 4 balls into their empty field at their commonly empty place of business, my actions were not so unreasonable. But third, even if they were, it doesn’t matter. That sort of behavior is unacceptable. It’s a demonstration of selfishness, greed, bad behavior, horrible business sense, and immaturity. We should never accept any part of that list.

Fortunately, there’s always All-Steak Hamburger on Hospital Street, not to mention a dozen other places run by good people more than willing to take the business Rawn and Judy Torrington, in their self-centered, greedy little world, don’t seem to want (or know how to keep).

But this isn’t about my bad experience with a couple bad apples. This is about ALL the rotten trees ruining the otherwise healthy orchard.

We can solve some of our problems with businesses by not going to them (and literally every person with whom I’ve spoken refuses to go to T’s Golf). But that doesn’t solve the deeper issue. People still behave badly. Let’s stop accepting that.

If you see that guy in the supermarket or at the deli or in the retail store, don’t let him get away with it. Let him know, sans the anger he displays, that it isn’t the end of the world. He’s making an inconvenient situation into a debacle. He’s encouraging and spreading disease throughout the orchard. He’s making the world a worse place.

Let’s not accept bad behavior.