The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

May 28, 2008

WORKPLACE WONDERLAND

I DON'T SPEND A LOT OF TIME AT THE NEWSPAPER THAT EMPLOYS ME.
With the wonders of computer technology and the demands of my job, if I'm not out covering a game live at night, I'm often attending a team's practice during the day and writing stories about athletes.

And I'm often writing those stories from home, especially now that I've got a wireless router and can plop my laptop down anywhere to write and then to file my stuff into the paper.

I'd say, on average, I'm in the office once or twice a week.

Now no one's trying to pretend that journalism requires the kind of wordsmithing or creativity of poetry or the sustained and sustainable flair that novelists or the best magazine writers possess.

It's pretty much just the facts, Ma'am, but hopefully spun in a way that tells readers something about the people they want to hear about -- in my case, mostly professional athletes that fly or flop on the teams they care about.

This is all to say that ANY kind of writing, professional or not, can be helped or hindered by the environment in which that writing is done.

And if that environment is about as conducive to creativity as a dark cave, well, then you have to surround yourself with objects and things that are yours, that are part of you, to get those juices flowing.

In a workplace environment, it's not the easiest thing to do. There are privacy issues, for one. And you wouldn't want to insult any other employees in this politically correct milieu.

On a recent Saturday, I had to work in the office during the day. Hardly anyone was there, so I felt safe taking a few pictures.

Here, for example, is my view in my newsroom as I'm sitting down at my workstation following a recent reorganization of our workplace.

I'm right next to the water thingy. Well, this means I can tease all the women who have to bend over to fill up their water glasses or mugs, for one thing

(Eds note: RELAX! I said tease, not ogle or otherwise! Although some other males envy my location...)

But it also means that it seems I'm always the one lifting those heavy refill containers so all those water drinkers don't have to. The women at the front reception desk order me to.

This kibitzing around, all in good fun, helps me get through the day in between writing, answering the phone, doing phone interviews, etc. when I DO have to be in the office.

It's a good diversion throughout the day that helps me focus.

But so in the absence of nice lighting, quiet if I want it, aloneness, and with a newsroom's hustle-bustle going on around me, I make other little additions and substractions to my environment.

And I do it almost entirely for laughs.

Like this...




I haven't until now known much about her, but I traded some item I can't remember to a news reporter several months ago in return for her doll (above).

This doll has handcuffs on. And when you press her tummy, she says "I'll never telllll...I'LL never telllll!"

Movie buffs will know those words were uttered by the character Elisabeth (played by Brittany Murphy, whose tummy, ahem, I'd like to press up against) in the psycho horror flick Don't Say a Word (2001, starring Michael Douglas).


Here's a link to that short clip, so you can hear it and see it yourself:

http://movies.virginmedia.com/player/default.asp?url=/film/fid813/features/avfid453/wm/bb.asx&filmid=813&ftrid=453&partner=virgin&sec=ftr&psec=


The woman who once owned this doll now wants it back, but I refuse to hand it over. So every time she passes by my desk, she presses the doll's tummy, whines and wales, and I get to tease her some more.

Whatever. Elisabeth's doll has found a home sitting there sitting on my hard drive smiling, her arms open although handcuffed, on my computer.

When I need a break or when things are especially tense in the office or quiet or there's a lull or I just want to be mischievous or when this woman passes by, I'll press the doll's tummy.

"I'll never tellll! I'LL never tellll!"

Everyone looks up, momentarily wondering what the heck that sound was.

Then they snicker, shake their heads, we make a few jokes and break the silence and then everyone buries their faces back into what they were doing.

Then there are my mini-footballs, of course. I've written about them before. There they are, below.

The blue one, on the right, was used so much it's starting to fall apart.

So the business weanies, who work over to my left, gave me another one, even though they're the ones who always whine when I throw the ball at them as they're conducting an interview or writing.

I realize this is just negative attention-getting manoeuvring so I toss the ball at them anyway.


And whenever someone passes my desk, they know to watch for a surprise throw...I've even tossed the ball to our publisher and to our editor, the two highest-ranking managers in the building.

But for the most part, this is a fun thing, a tension-buster. I'll surprise pretty much anyone, any time, but the important thing is to do it at the right time.

Newspapers are deadline-driven places, especially now with the need to get news stories on to the Web immediately. I have, ahem, thrown the ball and knocked over someone's water bottle.

My bad.

But for the most part, everyone from Diane the receptionist person to Larry the business writer to Dave the Web Guy laugh, although they steal things from me to get me back.

Finally, probably like most of you, I have a collection of old coffee mugs that have dirt and grime inside them that I use to hold pens, pencils, .44 magnums and other accoutrements of the trade.



Pardon me. I need to have a nap now.

9 comments:

  1. Creativity is there in any form of writing. Be it poetry writing or novels. The main thing is to hold interest and make the reader think. Journalism wins it hands down, in most cases.

    I tell my nephews and nieces that to learn the best of the vocabulary, always read the sports pages. One learns so much more in the form of puns etc etc.

    And double pardon me. I too need a nap after reading your post.

    PS: If you gift me that doll, I promise not to fall asleep reading your posts!

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  2. Whines and wales?
    Wines and Whales?
    Whines and wails?

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  3. It's been a while since I've had a job long-term enough to bother personalising my work environment! Two or three jobs ago, if I recall correctly. I used to have several cactii on my desk at Warwick Fabrics, as well as photos of Aidan and I... but the last two jobs, nothing. Your working environment looks and sounds rather fun! My mother works for a magazine, although it's considerably smaller than your newspaper! (I think they have about 5 or 6 staff members in total, one of whom is on maternity leave right now.) So I know all about deadlines and stress and antsy editors! ;) Although mum's editor is actually pretty cool; she's an old hippy vegetarian chocoholic workoholic fowl-enthusiast!

    Ziggi - wines and wales. Drunken welshmen are amusing. :)

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  4. Gautami:

    I don't know I'd agree, Gautami, that journalism wins hands down, but I respect that you say so.

    Sports writing is full of puns or at least cliches, I agree, but then it can be more forgiven for that. News writing shouldn't contain any.

    When I write about sports, I do everything in my power to avoid cliches and I'll refuse to use quotes from athletes that contain them.

    I hope you enjoyed that nap! The doll is NOT yours!

    Ziggi:

    Oh, you! Whines and wails, it IS! Who knew beautiful witches could spell too?

    Stace:

    The problem with cactii, in my experience, is they always frickin' DIE!

    Photos of you and Aidan, I would think, would NOT die.

    Does this mean you're going to become an old hippy vegetarian chocoholic workoholic fowl-enthusiast?

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  5. Chris, you are so very mean! I WANT that doll!

    *STOMPING MY FEET AND BAWLING LOUDLY*

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  6. If someone in my office had a doll wearing handcuffs, I'd be making some pretty interesting assumptions and trying hard to get to know that person a lot better.

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  7. Gautami:

    Can't have her!

    Anna:

    Ha ha ha!!! To each her or his own...

    It might be instructive to note that the woman who owned the doll had her that way, and I think it's in keeping with the movie from whence she came...

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  8. dude... your office is SOOO much more entertaining than mine!

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  9. and i totally loved that movie!

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