One of the local counties wants to build some structures near a neighborhood in a mostly agricultural area in the San Joaquin Valley. This was subject to CEQA* review, and so I was sent out to have a look and see what was what.
I drove for about an hour, got to the site, and discovered that it was nestled amongst a group of dilapidated, abandoned homes, and a few rather nice currently occupied houses. I got out of the car, and began walking the lots, looking for evidence of archaeological materials, when I heard someone call out "Hey, what are you up to?"
I looked up, and saw a middle-aged Latino man walking towards me. He stopped about ten feet from me, looked at my shirt (I was wearing a UC Santa Cruz T-Shirt), nodded approvingly, and then walked towards me and we introduced ourselves to each other and shook hands. He owned one of the neighboring houses, and seeing me nosing around, figured that he should find out who I am. This is perfectly normal, and it is rare that I have a bad interaction with someone who comes out to see what I am up to.
I explained that I was doing the environmental review for this particular project, with which he was familiar, and was just looking at the ground. He then began telling me about problems his brother had had with getting building permits with the county, and abruptly changed the conversation over to a discussion (or rather a spewing rant from him) about how the county of Fresno, CalOSHA, the local hospital, and the Sheriff's department are all part of a massive conspiracy to deny him workers comp coverage, and to kill off workers in local canneries. Oh, and he also told of how he went to court, represented himself, but channeled questions from THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY and used these questions to defeat his opponents in court, only to have the corrupt judge decide against him anyway (Note: The is why the Tea Party people are so worked up over "activist judges" - apparently judges can over-turn the decisions of the almighty creator of the universe).
I politely listened for a few minutes, and then told him that I needed to get back to work. He proceeded to follow me around for the next 30 minutes or so, repeating most of his story during that time, while also asking me what I thought of various points, and then cutting me off before I got more than 1.5 syllables into a response. Finally, he stopped ranting, and said: "So, I see that you went to college, so you're smart. What do you think that I should do?"
Two things surprised me: 1) usually, these days, when people find out that I went to college, unless the themselves did as well, they immediately assume that I am shiftless, lazy and arrogant, and that I need them to tell me about "the real world". So, I was a bit surprised to have someone assume that I was more intelligent than them. Mind you, I'm not sure that I am more intelligent than this guy, but I do suspect that I have a firmer grasp on reality and mental health; 2) I told this guy that I was an archaeologist, not a county employee, not a lawyer, not a media figure, so why the hell did he think that I could help him at all?
It was very strange.
So, after trying to dodge the question for a bit, I finally told him to contact the media. I figured that, on the off-chance that there was any truth to his story (I really doubt it, but corruption is not unknown in Fresno County government) then it would expose it, but, more likely, the media people would see him as a crank and blow him off. He responded that he had called the local TV stations but "they wouldn't touch it, they're afraid!"
So, I told him to contact national media (even higher chance of a crank brush-off, but at least he wouldn't be my problem, and I could get back to work). He thought about it, decided that this was a good idea, and asked "So, who do I call?"
I explained, again, that I don't work in the media, and didn't know. But that he could get email addresses and phone numbers and find out pretty easily.
His response - "well, yeah, but you know people who work for like CNN or the New York Times, or something, right?"
I had to explain to him multiple times that no, I do not know any such people, before he'd finally believe.
In the end, I had to get in my car and drive around the block, and then walk back to the project area in order to lose the guy. So it goes...
*California Environmental Quality Act