Laying out the paper is like a controlled plane crash,” my editor said across the table from me at A&W, pausing with a knowing-turned-quizzical look that seemed to say, You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
No, I don’t, was the only realistic, albeit mute choice as my expression struggled to remain neutral while my blood pressure elevated ever so slightly.
This was a meeting of the minds, so to speak … for the editor, Darrell Hookey, to give me my last “marching orders” before he left on holidays (notice I’ve taken over his spot, here, with “She’s just saying …”).
I’ll bet that not many of you knew that Hookey was in the reserve army and that, in fact, he comes from a military family and that makes him a … umm … a military brat!
There, I said it.
Brat might very well have been the word I was wanting to communicate across that table when my eyes, if not my expression, shot back, Of course I know what you’re talking about, you, you, you … brat!
An hour and a half later (long marching orders) after discussing the paper, the laying out of The Book, photo quality and cover photos, paper sizes and deadlines … and bold wines (referring to the boldfaced names of wines in Peter Turner’s Vino Borealis column), I finally got around to asking my question in response to his “controlled crash” comment.
I thought I saw a touch of satisfaction in his expression. Then he sat back, thoughtful a moment before fixing his gaze on me, raising one arm to the elevation of a plane approaching the table, er, runway, and began.
With his landing gear down, Hookey proceeded, with just the right speed and altitude, to approach “the runway” … but then, using his hands to demonstrate, the tail made a sudden swerve to one side, threatening the safety of the passengers and crew onboard (OK, I’m dramatizing, but you get my “drift”).
Then, unexpectedly – just as things always happen in the publishing business – the plane’s tail shot off to the opposite side and those little bags, the ones provided in the seat pockets in front of the passengers, became useful.
But, as they say … all’s well that ends well. Hookey brought the plane in for a well, not a perfect landing, but it did stop. “There,” he says as if it were as simple as that. “The plane lands.
“Everyone gets off the plane and they walk into the terminal. And that is all that matters.”
Aha! My adrenalin-addled brain got it: the terminal; the paper. Things go smoothly and everything is perfect, until it isn’t, until the expected unexpected happens (too few inches here, too many inches there) and you have to adjust something to “land the paper” successfully.
What had begun as a mild to moderately disturbing analogy had now become somehow, somewhat oddly comforting – comforting because I knew that one way or another it was “controlled”, not “out of control” and that the plane would land with the inevitable adjustments along the way.
And now, here I am … standing inside the terminal.
So a word of thanks is in order: Darrell, for your weeks of training and patience and for probably sacrificing some of the precious and few hair on top of your head.
And for giving me the opportunity to take my first solo flight and land my first editorial.
And I like the view from the terminal … but, surprisingly, I am looking forward to the next flight.