The following was printed (The Boise Weekly) on August 15, 2001
Whuh … Me Nervous?
Tomorrow—assuming you’re reading this today, by which I mean the day BW hits the streets (by which I don’t mean the paper literally “hits the streets” … that’s just newsnerd talk for “is first available to the public”)—my daughter is registering for middle school. Gad, six measly years ago, she was registering for kindergarten. Now she’s signing up for middle school. Makes my head swim like a one-legged fish.
Coincidentally, it was also about six years ago I started writing for BW. I had time once the kid was otherwise occupied, you see. Take my word for it, should you ever decide to sit down and write a snotty newspaper column on a regular basis, make sure your offspring are somewhere else when you do it. I’m not suggesting you make them go out and play in a snowdrift, or that in any way you neglect the little yakkers. It’s just that mixing childcare with writing is like trying to play a piano with your butt.
It’s probably also coincidence that in the six years I‘ve written this column, six separate BW editors have come and gone. I’d prefer to blame the high rate of editorial turnover on the seismic nature of the journalism business, but the truth is, I’m starting to feel like it’s my fault—like I’m a foster child nobody can put up with for very long. Or maybe I have a personal hygiene issue it’s easier to run away from than tell me about.
Self-esteem issues aside, anytime there’s a new boss in town, people have real reason to worry, yes? Trying to please a new editor about whom you know absolutely nothing except that you gotta have his signature on your pay check is also a bit like trying to play piano with your butt. Even the right notes come out sounding wrong. Therefore, to learn exactly where I stand, I’ve decided to test the waters, right here … right now. This is my first column for the seventh and newest editor, and I intend to use it to find out if I can continue to write the way I want and get away with it. For starts, I’ve chosen a subject no one but me gives a hoot about—my kid. What better way to test a questionable relationship than to pull out the family photos on the first date? What’s more, I began the column with as convoluted and deranged a first sentence as I could dream up without first mixing prescription drugs and cheap wine.
So, by virtue of the fact that you are even reading this—or not—we should know by now how my little test turned out, eh?
* * *
Yup, middle school already. Were she a student in most other school districts, she’d have another year of elementary ahead. But here in Meridian, a sixth-grader is low munchkin on the middle school totem pole. It has to do with how to stuff an endless supply of children into a finite number of facilities. I recently read that China has turned the population corner, that their tough birth control policies are beginning to pay off. No such luck here in Meridian. We’re churning out kids as though we thought wild dingoes were going get most of them before they grow up. But alas, there are no wild dingoes in Meridian.
Anyway, back in the fifth-grade, my girl was warned she and her friends would soon be assigned homework for which they would need Internet access. All part of growing up in the Age of Point and Click, I suppose, but it makes me mad. “What if needier families can’t afford the Internet?” I asked.
“Oh, Dah-yud!” she answered. “What’s THAT got to do with anything!?”
Not wanting to humiliate my increasingly-sensitive young’un by having to trudge her down to the—ugh!—public library for access, I went out and bought a new computer. My old computer is too small for the Internet, see? It’s like a second-grader, only old and decrepit—which is why I drive into Boise every deadline day to deliver, by hand, my column to various editors. I’m hoping this new boss doesn’t think I’m some backwards technological hillbilly because I show up in person with a snotty column in my bibs, rather than zip it through digitally like Dave Barry does, I bet.
Not that me getting a new computer has anything to do with me getting a new editor. Nope, love me … love my old, decrepit, second-grader computer. I don’t need to impress anyone with how techno-hep I am—or am not. I’ll just continue driving into Boise once a week, column tucked firmly into my bibs, and if the new guy doesn’t like it, well … well … guess I’ll get my daughter to teach me how to e-mail the damn thing.
After all, it’s for her benefit I bought the new machine. She’s moving on up, and I meant to tell you more about that. And meant to tell you more about Meridian middle schools. And I was hoping to squeeze in some more about China. But I’m out of room, darn it. Looks like I’ll have to turn this into a two-parter. Maybe a three-parter, even.
Wonder what the new guy thinks of three-parters.
August 15, 2001