If I take another job in journalism, I hope they put me in circulation. I want to be the Mistress of Carriers, for which I will wear tight clothing and carry a whip. I will lay it on the buttocks of all who fail to take the job seriously. It will resolve some of my frustration over doing the best job I can up at my keyboard, of sweating over commas and adverbs and le mot juste, and then having the whole shooting match rest on the shoulders of a 13-year-old.
Not that all of our carriers are 13-year-olds. It’s just a helpful image to keep in your head when the phone rings with circulation complaints, which, after hours, all seem to end up in the hands of the shlub working the night metro desk, i.e., me.
Some say, "Yougottacallcirculationtomorrownotmyjobbusybye," but I’ve decided to make these customers my crusade. I follow up on them like a ponytailed public defender appealing a death sentence. It’s deeply satisfying.
"Mrs. Johnson, this is Nancy Nall down at The News-Sentinel," I said to one lady today. "Did you get your paper last night? I’m just checking."
"Oh yes," said Mrs. Johnson, sounding very happy. "I got two!" Good. Mrs. Johnson deserved it, if the story she told was even half true, which I should probably not relate here to protect parties who may not be guilty. Even better is when the customer recognizes my name, which they sometimes do — I still write two columns a week between moonlighting as a customer-service agent, after all. "Uh, yeah, I got the paper," one man said a couple weeks ago. "And I like your column." I felt like the Lone Ranger! (Although it’s entirely possible he was thinking, what the hell is going on down there that they got her handling circulation complaints?) But I’d do it even if they were only interested in the Jumble and Beetle Bailey — you pay for the damn paper, we ought to get the damn paper to your house, on time and dry. Accidents happen, people get delayed, presses break down, but customer service is extremely important, and if no one else provided it this evening, well, the buck stops at my desk. I will swing the Hammer of Thor on your behalf, navigate voice-mail mazes, follow up in person. If you knew how many times I’ve heard people say, "Oh, I used to get your paper, but my carrier couldn’t keep it out of the bushes, so I cancelled," you’d do the same thing.
Next week: I solve the crossword for you. Call me and tell me the clue, and I’ll give you my best guess.
Swinging the Hammer of Thor is hard work, though, and I’m teetering on the edge of collapse. I didn’t even have much time to go rootin’ for tasty links today, although I liked this column by Richard Cohen.
So hey, instead of me droning on in my exhaustion, here’s some of my mail about "Last Tango in Paris":
From Cousin John: The night, about 29 years ago this month, that my HS partner in crime and I saw Last Tango, the cops showed at the end of the first showing and confiscated the obscene material. Normally our third running mate, Arc Cosine Carter, would have been with us, but he was only 17 and we didnt want to run the risk of getting the boot. The local judge viewed the film the next day (in his chambers?) and pronounced it depressing, but not obscene and allowed the show to go on. Depressing, but not obscene was pretty much my take on it too. Certainly not as entertaining as other films (Fritz the Cat, Oh! Calcutta) we had viewed that spring.
From Michael in Cali: Last Tango has the greatest death scene in movies – ever. Bar none. When it came out I read a review in the" New York Review of Books" that was pretty worshipful. It (the review) also went on in some detail about how the movie was largely improvisational and what a great talent Brando was. I don’t know where La Schneider went. She didn’t really do it for me. At the time I had a fairly serious lech going for Italian actress Laura Antonelli who was in all those movies with Marcello Mastroianni. Also Claudia Cardinale and Clio Goldsmith. Probably a dozen others too.
Claudia Cardinale! Every man’s fantasy.
And finally, from Alex: I have a funny Indiana University story about "Last Tango in Paris"–from back in the ’80s when I was in school there.
The school didn’t get Draconian on porn in response to Shane’s World and "Campus Invasion." In fact, I.U. must have considered porn a bigger menace than alcohol, because keggers in the frats and dorms weren’t banned until much later. I’m not sure what prompted the policy, but in ’85 or so, with much hoopla, the school announced that the viewing of X-rated materials on campus was thereafter officially banned.
To test the new rule, one of the dorms held a public screening of "Last Tango," which by then was about as tame contentwise as a PG-13, but it still carried the X rating given it by the Motion Picture Association in 1972.
I wish I could tell you that the school officials made fools of themselves breaking up this porno party. The showing took place without incident and few in attendance.
That’s "Last Tango" for you. At end, finally…anticlimactic.
Tomorrow, late (again! I have no life!).