While “Spinning Wheel” is a song that quickly got on my last nerve back in the day (and David Clayton Thomas tried way too hard to be cool, which, eww, didn’t work), the line “what goes up must come down” is perfect reminder in certain situations of life.
One such time was a situation I’ve alluded to earlier, when my dear friend and coworker Jan and I were dubbed the Princesses of Puke. It started so innocently …
Let me insert here that Jan is brilliant, astute, witty, funny and beautiful inside and out. We can finish each other’s sentences, if not thoughts. We can’t have a single conversation without laughing, and she’s the only person I’ve ever trusted 100 percent to edit my work.
We sometimes got teased on the copy desk at the paper about being the Pollyannas of the bunch because we were blonde and had fairly sunny outlooks on life. We didn’t mind the label, since we knew we were actually complicated, sophisticated mixes of cynicism and sunshine.
We also share a certain level of doofusism. Or is that doofism? Whichever – you get the drift.
Perhaps I should edit this to say were knew we were complicated, sophisticated mixes of cynicism, sunshine and cluelessness. That’s probably more accurate.
Dave Barry, of all people, got us in trouble. The way we worked was like this: Jan was on the day (features department) copy desk, called the rim (first line of defense, for sports or war fans). I was a supervisory copy editor at the slot level (last line of defense).
We sat next to each other but facing different directions. On the fateful day, Jan swiveled in her chair, beautiful eyes big and round, and said, “Oh, my gosh, Laura, you’ve got to grab Dave Barry. It’s the cutest thing and you’ll love it.”
So of course I grabbed it, and I did.
Another interjection is appropriate for younger readers who might not know Dave Barry, a Pulitzer-Prize winning humor columnist known for writing about gross and manly things like, well, you know how those things go. He was hysterically funny and had even had a successful TV series based on his life.
But at this point, he was an older (in his 50s!) stay-at-home dad to a toddler girl and most of his writing leaned toward that. The column we loved that day addressed his then about 2-year-old daughter’s favorite game, Pirouette ’til You Puke.
It was perfect, priceless, profound, even. But it contained one of THE forbidden words. Oops. That never crossed our minds. We’re talking DAVE BARRY here. You don’t edit the masters.
Actually, it wasn’t that. We just missed it entirely in all the cuteness. So did the section editor, who was also called to task for the egregious error.
We didn’t just fail readers who were exposed to a word that didn’t pass the “breakfast test,” we failed the quarterback. Sorry, pal. (The “breakfast test” means you shouldn’t run any photos or words that wouldn’t go well with breakfast. Seriously.)
To add to the irony, just about a week before, Jan was queen for a day for saving readers from being exposed to the word “puke” in the comic strip “Dilbert.” I don’t remember why the cat said it, but Jan caught it on the page proof and scurried to the office of the editor in charge of comics.
The offending word was covered with Liquid Paper, and Jan reaped high praise for astute editing. Definitely a high point.
By the time the naughty column ran, we’d forgotten about it, so we weren’t sure why the three of us were summoned to the principal’s office, I mean, budget meeting room. I guess the powers that be had looked at the version history of the offending column to see who had approved it.
All eyes followed us as we walked to the uh-oh room. Our boss, bless him, had a hard time following through on the reprimand; he literally made air quotes as he told us it was an “official reprimand” and would go into our files.
Oooh, we’re bad girls. Hah! Call us Pollyannas now.
We tried not to laugh as we walked back to our desks. It blew over pretty quickly – crises blew through on a regular basis. But somewhere, in our permanent files, is a puke-covered record.
(If you think that whole story is a bit bizarre, it’s got nothing on this crazy take on “Spinning Wheel.” Check it out if you dare.)