What would Andy Do?

Back in the day – my day anyway – one could turn on the television by leaning over and punching one of no more than four (five at the max) buttons at the bottom of the console. But no more. Today you need remote controls to turn on remote controls, remote controls to turn off remote controls and altogether different remote controls, and lots of patience for DVDs, Net flick and other such, well, stuff. 

So, the other day while trying to find a college football game to watch I juggled three different remote controls looking for a game and, don’t ask me how, I flipped on an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show. That rekindled my decades-long love for the program, my favorite episodes and characters – Andy, Aunt Bee, Opie, Goober and, my favorites, Barney, Floyd the barber, Otis the town drunk and Earnest T. Bass. As a card-carrying member of the Andy Griffith Club, I’ve seen every episode dozens of time and never ceased to bend over laughing during each one.

Now the moral of those shows transcends the ages and can be applied to just about every aspect of issues we encounter in the world today. For example, at Andy’s passing in 2012, I worked as a director at a Fortune 500 company where taking an online ethics course was mandatory. At the start of the 30+ ethics dilemma scenarios where we had to select one from several multiple-choice answers, it dawned on me to just ask myself, “What Would Andy Do?” Well, applying that, I aced the test. 

Now applying the “Andy rule” to today’s turbulent times, I wonder what Andy – the sheriff with no gun! – would do about gun control and about the vexing social challenges we face today? What Andy would do as President of the United States (and, Lord only knows, Barney Fife as his vice president!).

Turning now to some of the show’s characters. Let’s start with Aunt Bee. 

I salivate for a slice of her apple pie while sitting at her kitchen table across from Andy and Opie. After dinner Aunt Bee would stuff her picnic basket with food and deliver them to Sheriff Taylor’s jail to feed prisoners, Otis, who’d let himself into his cell after a night of binge drinking, and others. Truth is that there’s an Aunt Bee in every family.

And to me, Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife, was one of the greatest actors ever. They say that “laughter is the best medicine.” Well for me the times when I was bedridden with the flu or some other ailment, all I had to do was plug in one from my Andy Griffith Show collection, the one’s featuring Barney at his most hilarious, and the pain and discomfort would get washed away in side-splitting laughter. 

And who can forget Gomer and Goober, the banjo-plucking Darling boys, or Earnest T. Bass (“It’s me, It’s me, Earnest T.”) and his rock throwing trips into town from the mountain in search of a high school diploma, an Army uniform or an unwilling woman to marry?

Although he probably couldn’t handle what’s left of kinky hair like mine (an Afro back then), nevertheless I can envision myself spending Saturday mornings in Floyd’s barbershop soaking up the latest gossip and laughing my rear end off while sipping on a 50-cent bottle of Coke.

Last year on my drive back from Virginia to Georgia, I detoured to Mt. Airy, the real- life Mayberry and was awestruck by the Andy Griffith Museum and, right down the street, the restaurant strikingly reminiscent of the one Andy and Barney would stop by for lunch. As I made my way back to my parked car, I looked around and thought about a befitting quote from Lily Tomlin:“Ninety-eight percent of the adults in this country are decent, hard-working, honest Americans. It’s the other lousy 2 percent that get all the publicity.” I thought in the moment about Mayberry. 

Now although the show never featured people of color in prominent roles, or mentioned the racial troubles that plagued the 60s, a little-known fact is that in his later years the real-life Andy Griffith was a vocal supporter of civil rights. 

In the end, if ever asked for my suggestion as to what we could do today based on the lessons from Mayberry, I’d say that it would be wise if episodes from the show were weaved into school curricula and leadership training, and added as a 30-minute “stop and pause’’ into today’s rancorous blaming and shaming. And I’d recommend a similar action be included during recesses at the upcoming impeachment hearings to dampen the highly anticipated partisan yelling, screaming and finger pointing. 

And last, I’d suggest having Andy’s picture mounted inside every local and national voting booth during future elections for the fair-minded voter to ask, what would Andy do? before pulling the lever.

Oh, in case you’re interested in knowing, I never got to watching a football game that afternoon after all. I blame that on a succession of six straight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show featuring Barney Fife.

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Shenandoah Valley Hit, BlackMarket.com, The Echo World, the Appreciate You Magazine, The Valley Trail and co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

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