Sunday, April 7, 2019

Flashback 2013: "Calling in sick is for the weak"

     "So are you putting out a Gone Fishin'" sign?" my wife asked hopefully. 
     "Maybe..." I lied, embarrassed to mention that I had lined up a few weeks worth of posts, out of exactly the foolish consistency that Emerson tagged as being the hobgoblin of little minds. 
      Though these snippets of a column—which I blundered upon while looking for something on Ed Burke—fills out the mindset a little. 
      Starting tomorrow I'll begin blogging about where I've been for the past ... 10 days.

     Being a workaholic (God, both a workaholic and an alcoholic — I should get some kind of prize) my first thought, when I suspected that the flu jamming emergency rooms and scything through offices is knocking on the side of my head, was to get this written, quick, so I can collapse in a corner and hope to be better 48 hours from now.
     Sure, I could just call in sick, but calling in sick is for the weak; I hate doing that — you’re not in the paper, you might as well be dead; besides, in most offices the present sit around plotting the demise of the absent.
     Plus, it might not be the flu; maybe it’s just some cosmic hand that has reached into my skull, snatched out my brain and is squishing it before my eyes, grey matter oozing through its fingers. Not a terrible feeling, really; a dizzy exhausted numbness. This must be what stupid people feel like all the time.
     Thank goodness I have a few housecleaning topics I’ve been meaning to put in the paper, which shouldn’t demand too much brainpower to relate, or to read, and will keep me in your I hope un-flu-flummoxed minds until Friday, when I plan to be better.

     Whenever our digital future is discussed, the typical reaction is to bemoan what will be lost — no folded newspaper tossed at the end of the driveway every day, no chance to shuffle curbward each morning to sample the weather, to dip your toe in the day ahead.
     That’s true enough — the brief stroll is always infused with optimism. But there are advantages to the electronic, the central one being the correction of errors: bam, they’re fixed. As opposed to the typical print way to address significant goofs: run a correction and hope people see it. A hastily applied bandage, at best — the error was given bold play, while the correction is coughed into a fist long afterward. I tend not to run them much, first because I, ahem, tend not to make them, and second because space in print is limited, and I am reluctant to shave off what I’m writing today to revisit some past blunder.
     But being sick, this is an ideal day.
     A few weeks back the phone rang — it was Ald. Ed Burke; no, make that “long-serving alderman” Ed Burke; no, rather, “the longest serving ever” as he informed me, having taken office on March 11, 1969, a date that found me in Miss Maple’s fourth-grade class.
     He was not sharing this information out-of-the-blue, but because, in a column gingerly seizing one Ald. James Cappleman (46th) between my thumb and forefinger and holding him under a bright light for his pigeon fixation, I had wrongly written Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) is the “longest serving alderman” (in my defense, I was listing aldermen off the top of my head, so checking seemed unfair).
     Anyway, in my blubbering, yes-sir-alderman-so-sorry effort to apologize, I told Burke I would run a correction, and then promptly forgot about it, until Mell himself, not satisfied at inflicting one relative, son-in-law Rod Blagojevich, on the world, made news applying political lube to ease his daughter, Deb, into his seat. Not her fault; she seems a good egg, and if my dad could name me to some pantheon of 50 well-paid writers who get to make speeches and send staff for coffee, I’d likely tell him to go ahead, though with a bit more guile than Mell is capable of.
     Anyway, the Sun-Times and I regret the error.
     —Originally published in the Sun-Times, Jan. 8, 2013


  1. I was born a grandnephew of the then longest serving Chicago alderman, a fact either unknown to or willfully ignored by my father. I discovered it only after jumping on the genealogy bandwagon. Seems that service to the city not necessarily the stuff of family pride. Certainly not for any conscientious members of certain present day political families. Your apology not necessary, Neil.

  2. Enjoying the beautiful photos atop the blog!


Comments are moderated, and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.