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Deadline Day

            I’ll tell you what, there’s quite a difference between working a 12-hour day when you’re 52 and doing it when you’re 22. What the hell.

            By noon my feet start to resemble the Queen Mother’s stuffed into those low-heeled pumps she used to wear. God rest her. You can see the strap marks from my flip-flops by 1:30. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’ve taken to bringing in salty snacks on deadline day.

            I’m copy editing all day, so my entire day revolves around finding a comma, or lack thereof, in the wrong place. Not to mention all those hyphenated words that need fixing. I know this doesn’t sound important to you, but to me, it’s titanic.

            Anyway, after scouring the screen for hours, getting up only to use the bathroom or to get a fresh glass of water to help with the bloat, my eyes are shot.

            It was bad tonight. By 7:30 p.m. all the words began to smoosh together and everything was unintelligible. I would read and reread paragraph after paragraph hoping to make some sense out of the story. It’s absolutely no reflection on the writers. It’s a side effect of a post-menopausal woman trying to work a long day.

            Thankfully, I work with married men who are familiar with the humor that only comes from a good woman. When I get loopy and start laughing hysterically at a cover story, I hear “get a grip Berry.” Sometimes it brings me back into focus. Sometimes it makes me laugh harder.

            There are times when I’m this close to completely losing it on deadline day. The words are like gibberish to me and the photos are absurd. Captions read…. “The bucolic scene offers a view of the stone wall outlining the organic farm where they make cheese from the curds of wild sheep’s milk….” or some such business.

            And there are lulls. There are a couple of hanks of time when I’m waiting on the next story to be read. That’s when I check Facebook or dig through my lunch bag to see if I’ve eaten every last bite. Co-workers normally use this time to take a walk. Then again, they also take yoga classes and stopped eating trans fats years ago. I prefer to stay seated just in case somebody forgets a period at the end of a sentence. I wouldn’t want to miss anything.

            There’s a sweet tradition we have at the end of deadline day. The stalwart group that puts the final pages together gathers around the art director’s chair and someone reads the captions and headlines aloud from the front pages. It’s an honor to read the last line. By this point we’re all ready to wipe the sweat from our brow and go home to our respective families. Or to the nearest liquor store.

            We coddle and nurture the words along all week and on Thursday, we have to go through the pangs of childbirth until the print edition of the paper springs forth from our collective loins.

            But like in real childbirth, by the time it’s all said and done you’ve forgotten how hard the labor was and you’re proud as hell of that baby.

            My especial object is to help the poor; the rich can help themselves. – Joseph Pulitzer


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