By Judy Berman
It was September. The leaves were turning. It’s a time when the elements begin to make me feel hemmed in.
That feeling only intensified when I learned that I was being transferred to the newspaper’s Rome bureau – not the exotic city in Italy, but a small city in Upstate New York.
There were two women in the Rome bureau, a district circulation manager and a receptionist. Within two weeks, they were gone.
I dreaded working in an office all alone.
It hit me – much later – that I was looking at this situation all wrong.
This is where, if this was a music video, the phonograph needle would be scratched across the full surface of the album until your ears bled.
At times, I felt like the Maytag repairman at the Rome bureau. Few of the calls were for me. Most were from irate customers wondering where their papers were.
The good news? I didn’t have an editor hovering over my desk, pacing back and forth, waiting for me to “send my copy to rewrite, sweetheart.”
The transfer cut my 55-mile, one-way commute to the main office in Utica to 40 miles. Winning!
In winter, however, I might eat up that savings when I shadowed a snowplow at 10-miles-per-hour.
That beautiful white blanket is a deceptive and seductive enchantress. Amnesia sets in each winter, and you forget the misstep that can alter your skip across the highway into a careening, nerve-racking, steering-wheel-clutching, off-road tumble.
Still, I met fascinating people stranded by snowstorms just off the thruway on my way to work. For a reporter, hoping to score a weather quote, perfect!
With Christmas fast approaching, I didn’t bother to decorate the office, as I was the only one who would see them. So, time saved twice. I wouldn’t have to put away any decorations, either.
Unlike the residents of Cicely, Alaska, in the TV show, “Northern Exposure,” I wasn’t isolated or trapped in a remote location.
Any time I wanted, I could head down to the police station or city court. While I was gathering info for the police blotter or a story, we’d share a few laughs. There, I learned some things that proved valuable later.
Sometimes, it led to a bigger story. Others, to excellent contacts.
Six months after my transfer, a fellow reporter, Pat Corbett, joined me in the Rome office. We would bounce ideas off each other and joke about some happening that day.
At first, there was only one computer. So we took turns using it to file our stories from the bureau to the main office. Then, we commandeered a second computer from the main office – with permission, of course.
A year after my transfer, I was back in the main office assigned to a job that I really wanted: night cops reporter. I’m grateful that what I learned in Rome paved the way for this beat.
It took a friend of mine at a competing paper in Syracuse to put my transfer into the proper perspective for me. A few years after my move, his paper opened more bureaus.
I asked how he felt about that. With a twinkle in his eye, the reporter joked that the main office was in a shambles. The move for them “is like when the royalty shipped their children to a safe haven during the war so they wouldn’t be hurt.”
Love that warped sense of humor.
Did looking at a situation thru a new lens ever alter your view?
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Music Video: “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John (1983) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHwVBirqD2s
1. Main Photo – Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – movie trailer screenshot. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Audrey_Hepburn_esmorza_al_Tiffany%27s.bmp.jpg/640px-Audrey_Hepburn_esmorza_al_Tiffany%27s.bmp.jpg
2. Photo: Mask – Germany – Author: Gexon from Darmstadt, Germany. Photo taken June 12, 2011. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bf/Mask_No._231432_-_Flickr_-_Gexon.jpg/400px-Mask_No._231432_-_Flickr_-_Gexon.jpg
3. Photo: Elton John in 1980s – author – http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiabba/ http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Elton_John_in_1980s.jpg
4. Photo: Elton John by piano, video screen shot from “I’m Still Standing.”