Every week, I aim for a perfect Express. And every week, I’m disappointed. Several factors: simple, garden variety obsessive compulsiveness; trying to function in a never-ending stream of distractions, particularly when I’m highly distracti- … Oooh, sparkly!!!; other people and their drama, random power outages and computer crashes, and advertising staff who don’t understand why it’s a problem to submit a half-page ad after the pages are already completed (and a boss who lets them get away with it).
Even when the Express seems relatively error-free, I’ll scrutinize it until I find something that displeases me. I seek out things that cause me pain because as a Gemini, I’m my own sadomasochistic relationship — I can whip myself and like it so much that I’ll beg for just one more, Mistress Me.
More disappointment happens because being the Express editor is like juggling plates. You have to keep everything moving or it all crashes to the ground. So, besides polishing some typo-ridden grammatical snarl of half-sentences (and in all-caps, of course, because some folks think writing in all-caps masks their mistakes — newsflash: it doesn’t) into something that resembles a story, I may also be serving as photographer, breaking news reporter, front desk receptionist, copy machine and fax operator, local tourism center, classified ad department or complaint desk not just for the Express but pretty much everything under the sun.
Mad at the post office? Sure. Come grumble to Debra. She’ll fix it. Like I’m freakin’ Harriet Potter or something.
Want a peek of life at the Express office? Watch a three-ring circus through a kaleidoscope. It’s a miracle that a newspaper gets printed at all in this zoo, let alone one that’s perfect.
And by the way? It’s the same scenario when I’m trying to write a column.
(Funny side story: my little step-grandson visited our office recently. He looked around at the rubble and disarray, and his face got all quivery and scrunchy. Clinging to his mama’s skirt, tears began leaking from his eyes. In his tiny munchkin voice, he whimpered, “Mommy, I don’t like it here. I want to leave this place right now.”
Oh, precious, sweet child. I feel the same way every day of my life.)
Last week’s Express was a microcosm of my ongoing disappointment. Just as it was time to get ready for press, there was breaking news: Putah Creek Café’s long-awaited debut on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was announced. So, instead of giving my own stories one last glance (like the lovely little story I wrote about the new acupuncturist in town), I was interviewing people and scrambling for photos, and literally slapping the café story onto the front page.
Besides this unexpected flutter of activity, while composing the front page I was stricken with “pagination blindness.” (“Pagination,” for those outside the journalism circle, means composing pages on a computer screen.) Pagination blindness makes screaming typos completely invisible until they appear on newsprint, when they’re suddenly as obvious and appalling as an oozing zit on the prom queen’s forehead. That’s how headlines like “Smoking linked to beast cancer” and “Crash kills tree” make it into print.
The unhappy cocktail of breaking news, pagination blindness and a parade of people strolling into the office demanding my undivided attention on the spot, with just a dash of software sabotage, resulted in a huge zit on my acupuncturist story. While hurrying to pull the café story together, I got the bright idea to use the correct spelling of “Qi” rather than the English version, “chi” in the story. I did a last-minute “find and replace” and turned to the café story.
Turns out, “find and replace” is amazingly thorough. It replaced every single instance of “chi” with Qi. Including the “Chi” in “Chinese.” I wonder how many folks reading the story wondered what exactly an “ancient Qinese healing practice” is and how many wondered if the editor is an imbecile.
Oh well. At least the café story was spot-on and made it in just in time, because everyone will want to be at the Buckhorn at 9 p.m. on Monday for the community viewing party.
And then, just as our freshly printed bundles of newspapers landed in the office, the café staff announced that the time of the party was moved up to 6 p.m. Fabulous. And all those people will show up to see the show. At 9 p.m. Who do you suppose will be blamed for that?You got it.
Once again, the perfect Express I’d hoped for was blemished. Tarnished. Ruined. Remove this rag from my presence and relegate it to the recycle bin. The sight of it sickens me.
It’s tough being Queen.
Know why else it’s tough being Queen? Jesters. And sure enough, one of them (let’s call him Dave) came a-calling just as I was scrutinizing that multi-blemished edition. He sat down beside my desk and furrowed his brow as he oft does before confronting me with my latest foible, and pointed to my headline — “Café debut airs Monday.”
“You know,” he said, “There aren’t any accents over letters in English.”
But I was writing about the Café, not a café and their staff told me there’s an accent over the e in their name, (even though I’m now staring at a Café menu that doesn’t have an accent over the e) and even if I do type cafe, my know-it-all computer changes it to café, and…
… Oh, nevermind. Excuse me while I shove my keyboard aside and bang my head softly on my desk.
— Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at http://www.edebra.com and http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find Debra’s columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.us
You know, right about now, maybe one of those ancient Qinese stress treatments is just what I need.