The news release came in late Wednesday afternoon, announcing that a man from Glen Ellyn had won a $1 million lottery drawing. As a veteran news editor, I knew exactly what to do with the information: I immediately met my quota as a regular contributor to our Saturday Soapbox feature with this heartwarming entry:
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Sure, we all dream of lavish vacations, new homes, new toys we'd get if we won the lottery. Glen Ellyn resident Ron Yurcus lived the dream this week when he won a $1 million Powerball drawing. But it wasn't all about him. Yurcus and his wife routinely give their time to various charities. Now, he says, "we can donate financially as well." Very nice.
One little detail escaped me in all the excitement: I forgot to assign someone to do a news story on our lottery winner, who had set the winning ticket aside and didn't check it until three months later. The good news, as is often the case around here, is someone on a night shift noticed the news release that evening and fashioned a story for Thursday's editions. Another career disaster averted.
At the next morning's news meeting, several editors were talking about the lottery winner ("What are people talking about today?" is our mantra), and even though we had a short story in that day's paper, they were thirsting for more. I admitted my news oversight and promised to make amends with a boffo story for the next day's paper. The result was Chris Placek's Page 1 piece in Friday's paper.
Seems to me these little mental lapses and acts of forgetfulness used to be laughed off by people in my age group (I'm a boomer, in case you haven't guessed) as "senior moments," as if to write off such gaffes as something other people did. Funny thing, I don't hear my contemporaries ascribing these to senior moments anymore. Couple reasons for that, I suspect. First of all, we are seniors by many different benchmarks (AARP was the first to target us as seniors at age 50. Sheesh, what an insult). My golf buddies and I qualify more frequently these days for the senior rate, which seems to bounce between 55 and 65. Just the other day, three members of our foursome were paying that reduced rate, and my friend indignantly pointed out to the guy that ... he forgot to card us!
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Absent-mindedness. This seemed like the perfect column to solicit similar amusing anecdotes from my peers in what we call the Tuesday Morning Group. This is a group of editors who assemble on, uh, Tuesday mornings to discuss the burning issues at the Daily Herald. So I sent them a note late Thursday asking for some pithy examples of their work-related senior moments, and how, best of all, someone here had their backs. In a stunning development, no one replied. Perfectly understandable, I thought Friday morning; they're boomers, too, a lot on their plates, my timing was lousy. So I sent a reminder note. Two replies: one from an editor who forgot to show up for work on non-normal work day and one from another editor showing up for a Tuesday Morning Group meeting on a day he wasn't required to do so.
I lamented the lack of terrific material to another editor, suggesting that my concept was "a little too obscure. Or too personal. Or everyone's busy. Or they don't like me."
"Or," he replied, "they fear they'd be fired if their boss knew the stupid things they've had to scramble to make good because of their forgetfulness."
Kidding aside, we really do have each others' backs when the chips are down. On this column alone, I could cite scores of instances during the editing process in which my peers haven given helpful advice or caught typos.
Or someone suggests we do a story on a local man who almost forgot to check a million-dollar lottery ticket.