Written in the dust of a blown deadline:
Back when I was an expert on everything, my cynicism knew no bounds.
This when I was young and mostly what I knew was that everybody else didn’t know half as much as I knew, because I knew so much.
Some of us start out knowing everything, you know, and I suspect my younger know-it-all self would’ve made a terrible reporter.
After all, why bother with a question if you already know the answer? That’s for lawyers and internet bloggers and wives, not that I have a need for the first two.
And my cynicism tends to be mostly kept in check these days.
Part of that is due to this job, which while randomly exposing you to the worst humans can drum up also compensates by introducing you just about every single day to people trying their level best to make their corner of the world a better place to hang out in.
Take the wonderful Charm Reed for example of the latter.
Charm, who regularly brightens people’s days around here and for that alone deserves a statute in her honor somewhere, gifted me some time back with a commode planter and some Oreos, just because I’d come back to the Courier to help Patty Leon get papers out the door.
A commode with flowers on it and some cookies and a basket with a smaller commode figurine something or the other and some kind of gummy candy fish.
The cookies and the candy are gone, but the commodes sit on my desk right next to an unplugged card reader, a stapler and a bottle of Absorbine Jr. Oh, and a calender still turned to January 2020.
I am nothing if not prepared for Y2K.
What’s more, thanks to Charm’s gift I learned that International Mens Day and World Toilet Day are on the same day (or maybe it was the same week, or month) — which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to any man lucky enough to own his own commode. We’ve got three in my house, by goll, so during the Middle Ages I would’ve been a laird of the moors.
But never mind that.
Truth is, the world doesn’t have enough Charm Reeds in it. Nor, I think, does it have enough Patty Leons.
Patty is one of the most generous, big-hearted people I have ever met, and one of the hardest working.
She started here as a clerk and a sports editor and moved her way steadily up the ladder over the past decade and some change until finally we threw her under the bus and convinced our ownership to make her a boss.
Patty is as dogged a journalist as any I’ve known – although on occasion her passion for stories would run neck and neck with the detachment and distance you need to make sure you’re not putting somebody in jail who shouldn’t be there.
Punishing people isn’t our job, though some Soundoff callers may think otherwise. Our job’s to do the best we can reporting with what we have, and we as a staff no longer have Patty, at least not in any full time capacity.
You may’ve read on this page Patty’s columns about her father Paco, whose declining health made it necessary for her to go to Chattanooga to take care of him and her mother. She’s written another today. She says goodbye to a community she loved a great deal.
At the same time, on the front page of today’s paper is a story introducing Dee McLelland as our new publisher here and in Richmond Hill, where I also work.
His optimism and his newspaper experience is welcome, since both seem to be rare commodities this day and time.
In fact, there are times when I feel like the Little Dutch Boy trying to figure out which holes in the dike we need to plug with ever fewer fingers and toes.
But then I look at the commodes on my desk and the kindness that put them there and realize I’m too old to worry about what we don’t have, too old to be cynical and too old to know it all.
I need to be grateful for what we’ve had, and what we have, and for the chance to get up again the next day and see what the world brings.
And then, like my friend Patty, try and go figure out a way to plug the holes in the dike. It’s what we do.
Whitten is editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier.