Sunday, February 28, 2010

They Call Him Stumpy

Since the present moment leaves a little to be desired unless you are wildly interested in my kids' temperatures and their stomach contents and emptying thereof, it's time for a blast from my past.

Right after I graduated with my Master's degree, my hubby and I moved to a new town so he could do his PhD. I took a job as a copy editor at the local paper. (My undergrad degree is in journalism.) I wanted to write, not copy edit, but I am suitably anal retentive when it comes to all things grammar. But, it was a paying gig with insurance and a 401K, so a far cry from the waiting tables I was doing.

Every night one of the copy editors came to work an hour after everyone else and then stayed late to "put the paper to bed." If that was your shift, you were responsible for any last minute changes and if there was a problem that delayed the paper from running on time, it was your job to call the managing editor. Undoubtedly waking them from a sound sleep, of course. If the delay went on long enough, you got to call the executive editor. And if it was really bad, you got to call the publisher.

Sounds fun, right? But I was reassured it had never happened.

After a few months, I was assigned my first late shift. On that very first night, I was up in the newsroom whiling away the last 15 minutes until I could go home. All the final changes were made, and the press guys had the paper running full speed. Piece of cake. Then all of a sudden the alarm sounded, signaling that the press had stopped.

I wasn't concerned. The press often stopped for a paper break or some other minor mechanical issue. I got up from my desk and wandered down to the press room. When I showed up, the press was still stopped and everyone was looking around on the floor.

It was then that Dave, the press chief, walked up to me and uttered words that I will never forget. "It's going to be a while. Stumpy lost another finger."


There were so many things wrong with that sentence that it took me a minute to process.

"Stumpy lost another finger? STUMPY? ANOTHER?"

Apparently Stumpy had lost a finger in the press before. Dave explained that was how he got his nickname.

As it turned out, Stumpy was fine. They had to talk him into going to the hospital to be checked out, but he only lost part of a finger, from the first knuckle up. So he came back to work. (Of course he did.)

My problem was that once the press was stopped for 15 minutes I was going to have to make the phone call to the managing editor. I was a rookie, and by 10 minutes I was really sweating it.

But they couldn't find the piece of finger. (And you never saw so many people looking for something they didn't really want to find.) They checked everywhere, until it became obvious that the finger must have made it to the inserter -- the machine that stuffs the preprinted ads into the printed newspaper.

Not exactly what you want to find when you open your paper over breakfast, is it?

Once they determined that the finger was already IN a newspaper, they pulled all of the papers and trashed them, then restarted the press, just in the nick of time.

I went home and I just couldn't help myself. I had to wake my husband up at 1 a.m. to tell him that Stumpy lost another finger.

It's still a story worth repeating, and proof that truth is stranger than fiction!

© Trippin' Mama 2010


Jen said...

LOL! Poor Stumpy. Maybe that business wasn't for him.

Anonymous said...


Suzy said...


Beth said...

Thank you. I actually laughed out loud at poor Stumpy!