After spending my non-adult life as a kid, I wanted to so something non-adult as an adult. I wanted to be a musician, a comedian, an actor. The nuns said oh no you’re not, mister. You’re going to be a priest.
I said oh no I’m not sister and ran screaming into a world as far from holiness as possible.Oh, the humanity. I became a newspaper reporter.
Those were the days when people actually read newspapers–sometimes in the morning AND evening. They learned not only about shootings, car wrecks and stabbings in the park, but about world affairs (shootings in Africa, car wrecks in Germany and stabbings in Gorky park) and culture (paintings of shootings, poetry that didn’t rhyme about car wrecks and Broadway musicals about stabbings in the parking lot).
Perhaps most important was what your newspaper told you about government and the people who made it run like a one-legged hippo: politicians shooting their mouths off, Congress continuously looking like a car wreck and one good turner smiling while stabbing another in the back.
Flash forward three or four decades to the day the newspaper industry wakes up in an undertaker’s basement as dead as a stick. While the world still has plenty of shootings, car wrecks and stabbings in the park, it now also has a horde of reporters with no place to call rewrite. Oh, the humidity.
Just as retired marines don’t like to be called ex-marines—because there is no such thing as an ex-marine—the same applies to former newspaper reporters. There are no ex-reporters. There are live reporters and dead reporters (some of them, ironically, still alive), and then there are those reporters without portfolio (TRWP). Which essentially means reporters who have been fired or laid off, rehired and then fired harder (RWHBLORATFH).
RWHBLORATFHs were simply placed into a small, metaphoric dinghy and set adrift in the Sargasso sea of snapped rubber bands and broken cookies. You’ll find them along the roadside in bigger cities, selling used apples, outdated news tips (Garfield is Dead!) and antique passwords, none of which contain both upper and lower case letters, at least one number, a punctuation symbol or hieroglyphic.
Other sans portfoliozers like myself, have found meaning as low-paid observers of manners. It’s a two-step process: First we watch the madding crowd in full madden and scribble illegible notes. Second, we employ little microscopes and teeny brain cells to those notes to get at the heart of human existence and those speed bumps that make it so hard to keep existing without screaming.
Like when the fire department breaks down your front door and a guy rushes in with an axe and smashes out all of your front windows while you’re sitting there, minding your own business and plunking your banjo.
And then the chief pokes his head in the door and hollers “You idiot!” And the man with the ax rushes outside to the flaming house next door.
You spend the rest of the week standing in one line or another getting an estimate on new windows. And all the time you’re wondering in the back of your mind if the chief could have meant that you were the idiot. After all, who sat there playing the banjo while a crazed man with an axe had his way with your fenestration.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.