The joke y’all are playing on Brian in the comments reminds me of something that happened in Fort Wayne, back when the newspaper business used to be fun and not fraught with doom lurking around every corner.
An editor — let’s call him “Steve Grimmer,” since that was his name — had one of the coveted semi-private cubicles along the newsroom perimeter, which he wasn’t in most of the time, because he did most of his work out on the copy desk. The office/cubicle was for job reviews, plotting coups, etc. Unfortunately, his had a door in the back wall that opened into an alcove where the second-floor vending machines were located. You could get to the machines two ways: Take the long walk around, or the extremely short cut through Steve’s office. Steve was very explicit in his desire that people should not treat his office as a newsroom highway, and we all listened politely and nodded sure, sure Steve, I’ll never cut through your office again, but he left early in the day, so after 1:30 or so, our promises went right out of our heads. After 4 or so, lots of times we didn’t even bother closing the door.
He was good-natured about all this until the Sandwich Incident. Steve brought his lunch one day and left it on his desk while he worked on the copy desk. It was a standard sandwich on white bread, cut diagonally. Someone — the culprit was never fingered — cut through his office, stopped at his desk, took one bite out of each half, put it back in the plastic bag and left the crime scene.
Well. Suddenly this trespassing was not a minor irritation. A memo was written by a higher-ranking boss, forbidding the uninvited from setting foot in Steve’s office. Hints of serious retribution were dropped. This was no laughing matter. A sandwich had been vandalized.
Then Steve went on vacation. We took over his office.
Every day, someone brought in a plate of cookies or brownies, and we had a bake sale on Steve’s desk. A designer set up a series of photos of people using the office for various unapproved activities, and at one point there was a group photo where everyone in the newsroom crammed into the office. The pictures were mounted on a bulletin board on an easel in the middle of the office, under the words, WHAT WE DID ON STEVE’S VACATION.
To his credit, he was very good-humored about it all. Not long after he left the paper, the office was surrendered to the vending-machine highway, and by the time I left it had been equipped with a refrigerator and microwave, and was a de facto cafe.
By that time, cubicles were so plentiful they were no longer coveted. Tumbleweeds were blowing through the newsroom, and a committee was in place working on a plan to move out all the empty desks. Where have all the good times gone?
How should we welcome Brian back?
(When I took screenwriting, we talked a lot about “stakes,” how they have to be high enough to match the action. That is, it makes little dramatic sense to kill four people over a song a rock star has yet to write, to use but one vivid in-class example. It made me think that comedy comes from people fighting over low stakes, as anyone who’s seen at episode of “The Office” can testify.)
Notice I changed the On the Nightstand book. I’ve been waiting for “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” to get off the hot list at the library, and it finally did. Read three chapters at the pool yesterday, where I planned to swim laps. That’s a comment on the lure of the prose, not on my ability to avoid exercise under all circumstances. This account of life in the Green Zone was well worth the wait, and highly recommended. Click on the book in the right rail to read an excerpt from chapter one. Note how, in this Muslim country, in a cafeteria staffed by Pakistanis and Indians, the main protein on the menu was? Yes, pork. It gets better from there.
A little bloggage:
A great YouTube clip, which I won’t embed, but it’s recommended — a waterhole squabble between some lions, two crocodiles and a herd of water buffalo. It’s like high school, especially when the water buffalo come back to kick some lion ass.
If anyone’s interested in reading the WashPost Cheney series, here’s the index page for the whole shootin’ match. Yes, shootin’ IN YOUR FACE.
And thanks to Alex, for picking up this personal souvenir for yours truly at the Chicago gay pride parade last weekend. Click for a larger view: