Turnovers and Changes

I never moved to a part time position after rejoining the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As it turned out, that full-time position was a gift from God. Jon lost his contract in the aftermath of 9/11 and we were blessed to have insurance coverage through my new job. He was recruited by Southwest Airlines within a few months at a nice salary but still much less than his contracting position. We liked the comfort of the extra income so I remained full time, taking calls, selling ads, and enjoying the characters I met on the phone and those I worked with, or encountered, in the office.

The department, at the time, was located on the first floor of an annex building on the corner of Fifth and Taylor. Occasionally, a homeless person with diminished mental faculties wandered in and approached our front counter and ordered a meal. Someone usually provided something. Other enhancements of the work day were often provided by the antics of a co worker. In a room of 30 or more, there are always interesting characters. There was “Donna” for instance. Donna, you might say, had a way with words. That is, she had a hilarious way of misplacing the correct word with similar sounding syllables. She once announced, “I went to Walmart at lunch and bought a new floor fan, it ovulates and everything.” When her car was damaged on a service lot while there for repairs, she exclaimed “They are reliable for that damage.” “Are they reliable for it?” I said quietly. “Yes, they are reliable for it.” When telling the story of her daughter being called to the office at school and wrongly accused of something, she remarked that said daughter was “completely humidified.” Then there was the conversation in which I told Donna that I caught Stephen sneaking friends into the house late at night. “You better lick that in the butt” she said. I was perplexed for a few minutes until I figured out that she meant “NIP that in the BUD.”

Odd names were often an entertaining topic of conversation among my coworkers. Taking the billing information for 50 to 100 callers a day is certain to uncover unusual, and sometimes unfortunate names. I wish now that I kept a record for there are many I have forgotten. The ones I remember include Dis Able, Rosemary Rottencrotch, Talker Walker, High Price, Ima Hogg, Ann Nuss, and a long list of other names that made me wonder what their parents were thinking or why they themselves did not choose a different first name. Of all the interesting name cases, the most notable is the names of the dual owners of a local real estate company. When I was given the account, I called to introduce myself. I was greeted with “This is Dick Eudaly, my partner Chuck Licquiset and I will be placing ads with you each Thursday.” The pronunciation of Chuck’s last name rhymes with “fixit.” I paused, thinking that it must be a joke or part of a Saturday Night Live routine. I verified the names and spelling and yes, I heard him correctly. Mr. Eudaly called each Thursday afternoon and, with a confident, radio announcer worthy voice said “Hello, Carla, this is Dick Eudaly, is everything copasetic with you today?” He seemed totally unaware of the oddity.

The Star-Telegram and its people became a strong part of my life. I needed the support and the diversion. My family was quite diverse. Aside from the fact that we could check off every age bracket in a survey, there was the blessing of different points of view. There was my husband, far right and opinionated, my older, far left, daughter, my son who just wanted to party, and the wide-eyed youngest child who seemed somewhat bewildered most of the time. Top it all off with an 80-something mother-in-law who voiced unwelcome opinions and theories with no concern for what family member or friend she might insult. Altogether, it was reality show material. We wore out several realtors searching, to no avail, for “just the right house.” That, I believe, would have been the funny farm.

I loved seeing Carla and Debi every day. It was a blessing to work with women with whom I had shared life and friendship for the better part of 30 years. Carla was understanding of the priority of family and the demands of children which gave me flexibility that I did not have with previous jobs. Through teenage struggles and ups and downs, my children began to grow up and made me proud. Susan graduated high school, became certified as a surgical technician, and bought her first house at the age of 22. She then used her employer’s bridge program to earn her RN pin. Stephen graduated high school and began working on his Paramedic degree. Katherine, that surprise baby, spent a lot of time in the classified office during this time. On school holidays, she came to work with me and crawled under my desk where she was perfectly happy, with her favorite pillow and blanket, to sleep away the first part of the morning and wake up to play in her “house” complete with dishes fashioned out of clay. At lunch-time, she emerged for food to the surprise of my coworkers who were usually completely unaware of her presence.

In 2006, Knight-Ridder, the parent company of The Star-Telegram, was purchased by McClatchy Company. Not long after, for the first time on record, staff reduction included sales personnel. First, we were all given the option of a voluntary layoff, complete with termination package. I considered taking the offer but decided to stay. Several positions were eliminated, making the room seem empty and hollow. The call-waiting flasher seldom flashed, ad volume continued to decrease, and the paper became even thinner as more and more people turned to Craigslist and other on-line advertising sources. It was the transition of a busy, vibrant time when, for decades, the printed newspaper was a vital element in the community. Once indispensable as the major source for news, information, purchase options, job opportunities, buying and selling, etc., the paper was slowly becoming a relic, an afterthought, and, like many of its employees, dispensable.

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