A couple of weeks ago I submitted a piece to the Richmond Times Dispatch for their ‘My Life’ column.
(I know, I’ve been going on about this for days now, but I (maybe) promise this will be the last time).
So, I sent the piece and heard nothing. Several days later, I got a short email saying they would use it, and they “could probably” get it in this Tuesday.
I was so excited that I shared this news on Facebook, but then I started to worry about that “probably” he threw in there. It might not run Tuesday. It might not run ever. If that happened, I would not only would be sad, I would also be a big fat liar.
I would be a sad, big fat liar.
Yesterday was Tuesday. I waited (not so) patiently, and as soon as I got Wyatt off to school, I drove to Walmart. The Times-Dispatch stand is just inside the door and I went straight to it, picked up a paper and held it.
I stood there in the front of the store blocking the normal flow of traffic for a good bit until I got the nerve up to open it up to the third section.
And there it was.
I saw my photo, immediately closed the paper, and started pushing the cart. It was in the paper. I was in the paper!
Then I realized I only had one copy and I needed more than one copy, so I went back and picked up all the other copies in the stand. I checked to be sure, and it was in those papers too.
By the time I had gotten three shopping cart lengths away from the stand, I realized I was smiling. You know, one of those stupid smiles that you can’t wipe off your face no matter how hard you try.
I tried to get what I needed quickly, but I kept forgetting what I was looking for because all I could think about was the pile of newspapers in my cart staring back at me. So I stopped in the aisle and looked inside again. Still there!
I took a picture of it with my phone, and sent it to my mom.
I tried again to remember what thing it was I was supposed to be getting. The two people stocking merchandise in the middle of the aisle stopped what they were doing to let me pass, but after I did, I remembered that I needed something on the other side of them, so I went back to get it. I tried to give them my best apology smile, but really it was the same smile I was already smiling.
I got the thing, and had to go by them again. For a third time.
Have you ever been at a four-way stop, and you know it’s the other car’s turn so you wait but they won’t go, so you start, but then they start at the same time, and then it’s start-stop start-stop until someone throws their hands up, says a bad word and floors it?
That’s sort of how it was with me and those guys who were stocking. Also, I was still smiling stupidly. I’m sure that didn’t help their humor with me.
I promised the one guy that I wouldn’t come through there anymore. He laughed at me.
The other one looked like he was the person who was about to throw his hands up and say a bad word, so I just got by him as fast as I could. Still smiling. I thought about showing him the paper so he would understand, but I didn’t want to look like a smiling idiot and a braggart.
A few minutes later, the cashier picked up on my chirpy attitude, and told me to “have yourself a good day, ladybird.” I refrained from opening up the paper so she could see for herself that this ladybird was already having the best day ever.
All day long I sang Dr. Hook (wanna see my picture on the cover, gonna buy five copies for my motha) and danced through the house like Elaine Benes. When I’m really happy nobody can much stand to be around me.
It was a good day.
I’m going to tell the truth here: It’s not like it’s a big feat to be printed in that particular column. That’s not why I was so excited and happy. Anyone can contribute, and my guess is they use most of what they get.
One of my first jobs out of college was at a newspaper. The first story I wrote was a feature about a twelve-year-old boy who had saved a small, wandering child from an oncoming train. I will never forget it.
And I still remember when I first saw it in print. My name in print.
I could hardly believe my eyes. It was a dream come true.
When I left work that day, I went to a store where no one knew me and I bought ten copies. I still have them.
It’s been a long time since I worked at a newspaper, and I miss it. I miss the writing, and the meeting people, and getting to be the keeper of so many stories–many of which are never published.
I enjoyed writing news, and I loved writing features. But, I always wanted to write things that would make people smile. To me, writing a column is the best newspaper job there is, but I had never written even one.
When I was growing up, lots of kids wanted to be famous basketball players or singers or actresses. Me? I had higher aspirations. I wanted to be Erma Bombeck.
It doesn’t matter how many years pass, dreams like that never completely die.
I don’t have delusions of grandeur. This was a one time thing, getting a column in The Richmond Times Dispatch. I’ll never be an Erma Bombeck, but yesterday, for just a little while I got to pretend I was. It was right there in black and white, with a picture and everything. Completely legit.
And people read it, and I hope it brought some of them a chuckle. I know at least one stocker at Walmart got a laugh from it, even if he didn’t know why.