HERE I AM at the office on New Year's morning . . .
The typewriters are silent, the phones are still asleep, and the only sign of life in this enormous room is my editor, who is leaning back in his chair and thinking about the thought of opening the log book there on his desk.
Pretty soon I will read Blondie and then Ann Landers and then the rest of the paper and then the other papers. After a while I may drift around to the places where the TV sets are, to check on the bowl games.
In the city it is about the same. A tired-looking guy, what we call a veteran, is telling a couple of aides about the time the managing editor found a reporter literally sacked out across his deak with his tux on. The aides smile politely because they are too cool to believe cornball stuff like that. But it is true. All the ridiculous collegiate pranks, all the telephone dramas, all the horrendous headline typos and single-entendre errors in wedding stories, all the legends you ever heard about city rooms: They are true.
The sports department looks like the floor of the Stock Exchange on Black Friday. I steer clear.
Back at my desk I haul out the notes on a story for Tuesday. Try a phone call. No answer. Another. No answer. Is anyone out there? If I'm up, why aren't you? It's 11 o'clock, man.
"Oh, Hello." Damn. "Just wondered if you had those figures we were talking about the other day." He doesn't. His assistant was going to get them but hasn't come in yet this morning. (meaning no one has seen the assistant since Thursday.)
Lunchtime at last. Automatically I head for the Blue Chip Self-Service Restaurant, but halfway there I realize it will be closed. So are my other places. Three people are visible on K. Street. The chain drugstores are doing a fair business in analgesics. Everyone I meet has the vague stare of a nuclear holocaust survivor. Back to the office cafeteria.
In the city room, things are picking up. I remember how it was: The weather story. The first baby. the hangover feature.The family burned out in a Christmas tree fire. The accident roundup.
Once I worked on a paper where they tried to have nothing but good news on Christmas and New Year's. I was the news editor, and every half hour before deadline I'd have to call the editor at home to ask if I could break the rule for this story or that.
At first he'd say no, but they always escalated: a four-car fatal, a shootout, a hospital fire. And finally he'd have to say yes, and we would have this horrible big screamer across the top completely surrounded by jolly features.
Now the bowl games are going big, and knots of people collect in front of the sets in the various offices. Everyone drinking coffee from paper cups. (The cups are decorated with poker hands to keep us entertained at all times - "use for gambling or awarding prizes may be unlawful" - but most of the hands are rotten.) Everyone making knowing comments about gridiron strategy. "They gotta pass now . . . Looka the nickel defense!" One person in each knot doggedly working.
A good group, this New Year's crew. We happy few. Like coming to work on the day of the big blizzard. People say hello was never say hello. Publicity man sails in, pleased with himself for being on the job. Manila envelope in hand. Greets everybody with a hangeover joke. Restrained response.
Deadline nearing. Working steadily now. A little rewrite; check the wire copy; whip off a bright. Phones are ringing, typewriters clattering. Start on the Tuesday story, and it goes like the wind, and here I am hunched over my desk on New Year's Day, and you know something?It's not so bad at that.