Another miracle

Ahhhh it’s good to be home. Once again, the paper’s to bed, the publisher is happy and all is right in the world.

I, on the other hand, am a wreck.

Because of a poorly-timed (as if it could be timed), massive arthritic flare-up in the last three toes of my left foot, I didn’t get into the office yesterday. For those of you who think arthritis is an old-folks disease, I’m here to tell you it’s not – in fact, I was diagnosed at the tender age of 30. Dropped my jaw, it did.

I’ve had it almost 20 years now, and while I’ve grown used to working around it, it was no little ache this time.

This flare felt like ha’penny nails were being driven into my toes and foot with each step. I can handle that – really! – because mostly, my job requires me to sit in front of a computer all day. Ibuprofen is sometimes helpful. And, in a pinch, I have my handy-dandy cane, which thankfully only gets taken out of the closet, dusted off and pressed into use once in a blue moon these days.

But yesterday, faced with that flare, I just plain wimped out. The thing is, you see, I have to drive to my office. In a car with manual transmission. The clutch on the … yes. Left. All my courage went right down the damned drain the moment I imagined what my flared-up foot was going to feel like once I got into town, with its bazillion traffic lights and heavy, stop-and-go traffic.

So I stayed home, but Mondays are the worst possible days for me to take off work, since Tuesdays are production days. Monday is, after Tuesday, the busiest day of my week. In over eight years, I’ve taken a Monday as a sick day just one other time. I’ve worked through colds, flu, and trots-inducing belly-aches, but yesterday, I just couldn’t do it.

I worked from home all day instead, with the phone glued to my ear and my e-mail account buzzing. I edited everything in Word and then e-mailed it back to myself so I could slam those stories into the editorial system today, ready to go.

But I couldn’t dummy the paper. Dummying is drawing a mock-up of each and every page, placing stories, photos and jumps, counting endless column inches and doing it all in what one hopes is a sensible and attractive way. As an artist, I generally don’t mind this part of the weekly process – these days, it’s the only time I get to be even a little bit creative at work, outside of working with words.

The graphic designers who actually do the computerized layout – called pagination — use the dummy as a guide. Without it, nothing happens. The little Gang of Three designers I work with are not intuitive people. They are not particularly artistic or creative. They don’t think for themselves. I can’t just tell them to put this story on page one, this one on page three, that one on page 10, just make it fit. Without the dummy, they are totally helpless.

So I dummied that @!#!*! paper in my head.

By the time I got up at oh-dark-thirty this morning, I pretty much knew where I was going to place everything and how it would all fit in the 62 pages that were my lot this week. My foot was marginally better, so I braved the drive. Even if it hadn’t been, I’d have still managed it somehow, because if Mondays are bad days to take as sick days, Tuesdays are even worse.

I spent the day in a blur, feeding the graphics kids dummied pages four at a time until, miracle of miracles, they had the whole thing. I hardly moved from my desk all day – that computer was smoking. Newsroom banter? Forget it. My desk was covered in eraser-boogers by the time the smoke cleared, but I had the clean, fresh and warm-from-the-laser-printer galley proofs on my desk an hour before deadline. I hardly had to make a red correction mark anywhere. It was … sublime.

When the paper was to bed, I gimped back out to my car and drove myself home, yelping obscenities every time I had to push that damned clutch to the floor. And now, here I sit, aching foot up on a box with a pillow on it, a fresh dose of Ibu coursing in my veins, my second cup of coffee of the day steaming gently into the air.

I do believe tonight is pizza night at the Wren’s nest.

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One Response to “Another miracle”

  1. Kevin Wolf Says:

    I feel your pain. Or some of it at least. Recently diagnosed with arthritis in the big toe of the left foot. This on top of ongoing issues in the same foot from a previous accident.

    I try not to pop the pills, but sometimes… I’m still learning to strategize.

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