Back in those weird old days

There are all kinds of benefits associated with working in a modern, 21st-century newspaper office equipped with the almost-latest computer and telephone systems, tasteful lighting and an assortment of decorative plants.

Every now and then, though, I have to admit that I miss the regular doses of weirdness that used to wander into The Reporter’s cobwebbed old offices on Main Street in strategically ambiguous downtown Vacaville.

We don’t get a lot of foot traffic out here in the Cotting Lane hinterlands, but weird traffic seemed to be the order of the day when we published from a century-old building on Main Street.

Way back in the good old days (like 1990…) we didn’t worry too much about workplace security and just about anybody could wander into the newspaper office through any one of three or four seldom-locked doors to voice their opinion.

Not that we didn’t want to lock the doors, but it seemed like we lost every usable key to the place every six months or so and we’d have to start over – which could take another three to four months.

I’ll never forget the irate woman wrestler who stormed into our front office one afternoon to protest how we’d written up the arrest of a rural gunman.

Our newspaper story said the man had surrendered to police without resistance.

The muscular reader said she’d witnessed the arrest and we hadn’t gotten it right.

“Police jumped on him LIKE THIS! And they grabbed his neck LIKE THIS! And they banged his head down on the ground LIKE THIS!” she explained as she spun me around, put me in a headlock and slammed my head down on the front counter of the newspaper office.

Like an idiot, I tried to explain that although the police may have restrained the man, their actions didn’t necessarily mean he offered any resistance.

Smart move. I was promptly treated to another demonstration of energetic neck bending and head banging.

Before she could begin round three, I promised to look into the matter and limped back to my desk.

The old newspaper office used to attract a large number of unusual street vendors, too.

I particularly remember one diminutive woman who wandered into the newspaper’s creative services department – I think we called it “paste-up” in those less-sophisticated days – and launched a dozen or so flying wind-up toys into our office air space.

“Fly away! Fly away!” she trilled.”Three dollars! Three dollars!” she added.I should point out there seemed to be some sort of language barrier beyond the phrases “Fly away!” and “Three dollars!”, and repeated suggestions that she vacate the premises were met by uncomprehending grins and more waves of flying toys.

I think we finally got the plucky peddler to leave for just a tad under $75.

Believe me, amigos, it would have been a bargain at twice the price…

Originally published February 5, 2006

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