You don’t like me, and that I can accept
Late in the year, a woman walked into the office to renew her subscription.
I just happened to be the only one available to help, which is always cause for concern.
I mean, I arrived as editor in December 2013; no one told me where we kept the cash box until March.
A month later, I found out we had actual receipts to give out, too, which saved me from issuing hand-written receipts on torn notebook paper saying, “You paid. Signed, Andrew McGinn.”
When the lady informed me she wanted to renew her Herald subscription, I smiled and said I’d be glad to help.
She pulled out her checkbook and asked how much it would be.
“That’ll be $39,” I replied.
At that exact moment, she let out a grunt not entirely unlike something you’d expect to hear from one of those giant feral hogs they have down in Alabama.
I took that sound as a sign she was displeased that the price had gone up $10 between renewals.
I wanted to point out that $39 for a FULL YEAR isn’t actually that much. (We’re talking $3.25 a month.) Of all the things you could blow 39 bucks on, the paper is still a pretty sound investment.
Plus, of course, I have a lavish lifestyle and a prescription drug habit to maintain.
But, I was in full customer service mode, so I stood there, still smiling.
“The Jefferson paper just isn’t the same,” the woman snorted as she nevertheless picked up her pen to write out a check for $39.
“Oh, how so?” I genuinely wondered.
“I dunno,” she shot back, pausing. “There’s nothing about Jefferson in it.”
As the editor — and a hometown boy at that — I kindly pressed her for specifics.
“Here’s this week’s paper,” I said, pulling a copy off the stack. “Would you please show me what, in this issue, isn’t local news?”
She put down her pen and leafed through the paper. A moment of silence ensued.
“I dunno,” she spoke up, “I just don’t like anything that guy writes.”
Naturally, I reasoned she meant my boss and friend, Doug Burns, who revels in all things politics.
In our hyperpartisan society, writing about politics — even though I think Doug is just common-sense in his views — is the quickest way to ruffle readers.
“I really just don’t like that guy and anything he writes,” the woman reiterated.
“All he does,” she continued, “is write about his kid and his family.”
Hold up, sister!
She wasn’t talking about Doug. She was talking about ME.
She also apparently didn’t realize she was face-to-face with that guy.
I briefly thought about playing along.
“Yeah,” I thought about saying, “that guy is pretty annoying, isn’t he? And his kid! That little orange-haired chimp just thinks he’s soooo cute. Go get a third-rate Disney Channel sitcom already, you little brat, or just shut up! Personally, between you and me, I wish the paper devoted more space to the goings-on of Adaza.”
But, I just couldn’t.
“I think you’re talking about me,” I spoke up.
Enter an awkward pause.
“Well,” the lady explained, “I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.”
And, with that, she handed me a check for $39.
I also realized then that the jig was up.
It’s time to come clean.
Six and a half years ago, I was a down-on-his-luck newspaper columnist in Ohio who had simply run out of column ideas.
Then I hit on a brilliant plan — my wife and I should procreate just so that I could have a plentiful supply of column fodder.
It was genius.
I suppose it wasn’t unlike when they added Danny Cooksey to the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes” near the end of the series as a desperate measure to recapture some of the show’s cuteness.
So along came Henry, our son, and I planned to milk his cuteness until he turned 18 — not unlike Gary Coleman’s parents — at which point he’d sue me for back royalties.
Right according to plan, I just happened to father a really cute kid, who said and did really cute things.
For a columnist, it was a wealth of riches, and what I discovered is that people could relate. (That is, unless they had an ugly, unfunny child.)
Like generations of columnists before me, I quickly found that kids — and the goofy things they do and say — are universally loved.
I mean, Henry this past Christmas referred to a Nativity as “Jesus Land.”
If you’re not smiling, you have no soul.
But, I’m still happy to accept your $39.
We also take MasterCard and Visa.