Wow, talk about bad timing.
Picture, if you will, the end of a pretty tough deadline at Coastal Point headquarters last Wednesday night. The final pages had been sent off to the printer, Shaun Lambert was doing the mystical things he does on his computer when a paper goes to bed, M. Patricia Titus was speaking in tongues after proofing more than 100 pages and I was quietly tending to the tiny holes scattered across my body — remnants of various forks tossed in my direction from an increasingly irritated Susan Lyons throughout the evening.
It’s actually a nice time, those minutes we await confirmation from our printer that the pages have arrived safe and sound. A collective sigh of relief is palpable throughout the air, and I scan back through the front page and the ViewPoint section one last time to make sure things are how we want them. I recall last Wednesday night clearly because I remember giggling to myself about something I penned about Sam Harvey in a piece lampooning London being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.
Fast forward to last Thursday morning.
News reports filled the air with coverage of the bombings in London that morning. Body counts rose, and I tried to buy some time with our printer so I could change the subject of my column. No luck. The paper was already printed, and I was bracing myself to be viewed as the most arrogant and insensitive piece of dirt since ... no, I was fairly certain I was going to be in my own class on this one.
Once word got to us that the paper was being delivered I started dying my head and practicing an accent so I could quietly skip the country before moral vigilantes got a hold of me in the parking lot. I called my father, looking for sage advice on how to steer through this mess, and he gave me his typical, and quite Irish, input.
“Well,” he said, drawing out his words a bit. “When you’re a smart*** for a living, things can come back and get you.”
Tearing through my belongings, praying to find a sweat sock soaked in Bushmills or a fake mustache in my desk, reality struck me full-bore: I’m kind of feeling sorry for myself for no reason. I mean, I wasn’t the victim here — those poor people trying to get to work in London were. And I wasn’t the perpetrator — those pencil-brained psychotic terrorists were.
The only thing I could rightfully claim in this situation was embarrassment over my poor timing.
Shoot, that’s nothing. I’ve been embarrassed more often than Bob Saget or “Stone Cold” Susan Argo on their worst days. There was this one time, when she first started working here, that Stone Cold ...
But I digress.
Let me give you a little taste of some of my finer moments:
• Student at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. In 1984, this was an all-boys school with a military flavor, so many of the other students, as well as the majority of Christian Brothers and retired Army personnel who taught at the school, leaned to the macho side of things. Your faithful columnist fainted (it was far too pathetic a fall to earn the distinction of “passing out”) during a military drill after school. Let’s just say I heard a few comments in the months that followed — and got in a few hallway scuffles as a result.
• Further back in time, I was playing Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball as a youth. For those of you unaware of CYO leagues, the talent is usually less than some of the public leagues in D.C., but the dirty shots and physical play is usually a little more persistent. Regardless, my beloved grandfather drove several hours to visit us and decided to take in our game. Your faithful columnist took an inbounds pass, eluded defenders downcourt and sank a beautiful jumper. Maybe I left something out in the telling of this story. Ah, yes. The defenders were in reality my teammates. It seems I took the ball and went the wrong direction, scoring for the opposing team. Until his dying day, my grandfather looked at me like he expected me to start licking windows at the zoo or something.
• California, the state of a million head cases, and the site of my first newspaper experience. There was a girl I really had a crush on in the Sacramento area, and she turned me down more often than a salad salesman at an overeater’s conference. Her excuse was that I was too immature. At this same time, overzealous 49ers fans in the area were getting excited about their team’s upcoming match-up against the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl. Growing tired of their moronic gloating, I made a few bets with some friends on the game. Well, the 49ers won, and I had to pay my debt. There, in the middle of our favorite neighborhood bar, I had my head shaved by my friends while the rest of the crowd chanted obscenities in my direction. And, of course, the girl I was so infatuated with decided at that very time to take me up on one of my million advances and meet me at the bar.
I, um, went home alone that night.