I’m Still Standing

Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's

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!

Mask - Germany

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?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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

  1. Reminds me of my own situation (but not of such great magnitude). Me ~ torn between small branch office 5 mins walk from home & big head office 25 mins train ride into business district. 🙂 *reminiscing*

    1. One of my favorite jobs was 5 minutes from home. I could have even walked there but I sometimes needed the car to go out reporting. Which did you prefer? Personally, I love train rides. 😉

      1. I picked head office because indirectly it forced me to stay neatly dressed & groomed, lots of good food available during lunch hour, a great gym just an elevator-ride away & after-work happy hour drinks on Fridays ~ music bars all over. Yeah, I chose the life of an urban yuppie, then. No regrets. 😀

        comment from earthrider to pekebun:
        Wise choice. Some wouldn’t have the discipline and would come to work in their workout pants or jammies if they could. Ah, the proximity to after-work happy hour. That’s probably the best reason of all. 😉

  2. Oh yes, Judy! Sometimes someone along the way in life, comes along and makes some period of my life seem like ‘paradise,’ ‘a piece of cake’ or a better situation. I think Time also passing down its swift fast lane, helps a lot to put things into perspective. I love the idea of ‘calling your own shots,’ no one to answer to, and having the place to yourself! I am so glad you had some fun, interesting and unique experiences along your road in life. It makes this a pleasant place to visit with some deep thought provoking questions, too. Rome, Italy may have been a perfect place for you, but somehow you made the paper and the job sound like fun! I love that song, “I’m Still Standing” and Elton John knows how to change my heartbeat to a faster tempo! Someone mentioned to me, “Have a grand weekend!” I shall pass this one on to you, Judy!

      1. Robin … I love that ‘calling your own shots” phrase. It fit perfectly for what I got to do many days while in Rome, New York. Yes, Rome, Italy would have been devine. Of course, there would be the language barrier. My Italian is minimal. 😉 Thank you for your compliment. There were many beats (topics – education, city government, etcc.) that I got to report on in Rome, New York. It was a fun and interesting place to work.

        I’ve often said that “with distance comes perspective.” Many times, when I look back, I see things in a different and improved light.

        One of my favorite Elton John songs is “Benny and the Jets.” But I also love this song, too. It’s very up-tempo, inspirational and positive. I wish you a “grand weekend” as well. 😉

  3. Just for the record, my favorite Elton song is “Rocket Man!” I agree, Judy, perspective is everything in life. I remember in my real estate selling days being asked to work out of a new construction site which, at first, I hated! So isolated and muddy and nobody to carry on with. BUT, over time, I grew to really enjoy the fresh air, the freedom of doing what I wanted pretty much when I wanted, learning lots about construction, and meeting so many curious house-shoppers. Kind of missed it all when that project was over.

    1. “Rocket Man” is another cool Elton John song. You’re right about perspective and how it changes over time. Initially, I wasn’t thrilled about the transfer. But I definitely grew to love being there. 😉

      Thanks for your comments, Barbara. BTW, you were correct. Your comment was in my Spam file. Hopefully, there won’t be a misfire like that again.

  4. You just love creating these posts, marrying photos, text and videos, I can tell. If this post were a music video, I guess you could call it “You can have your cake and eat it too!” (If you choose to like the cake to begin with of course.)

    My favorite image: “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.”

    P. S. Until I realized I was looking at a still from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” I thought this was a glamorous gal looking at guns. Another story?

    1. Marian … I do love selecting photos and music to accompany my stories. It’s a habit I picked up in radio first (finding the right music bed). At the newspaper, the photographer would determine what to shoot and which photo to run with a story. But, they did inspire me.

      I’m glad you love that image. I have heard this done in videos.

      Audrey (Holly Golightly) in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s appears to be looking at jewelry that’s on black velvet stands. Another story? Hmmm! 😉

  5. how fantastic, judy. what an adventure, and great training to boot. it sounds charming and wonderful. i’ve had those epiphanies along the way, and it changes everything for the better.

    1. Beth … What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. Those epiphanies do help put things in their proper perspective.

      I neglected to mention that Rome had THE best donut shop. They made a fried donut that, if I close my eyes, I can almost taste it. Hmmmm! I do miss those donuts. 😉

  6. Hind sight is 20/20 isn’t it Judy? After leaving a job I loved and thought I would be at forever, I took a 1-year contract elsewhere. I was so unhappy there but the things I learned I have been so valuable to me working with clients now through The Other Bottom Line!
    Diana xo

    1. So true, Diana. If we could only see the future, what choices would we make?

      I left one job for another that sounded more promising: better pay, better perks. I returned to the first job about 2 years later … and really had an excellent time while I was still in radio. I left radio because I saw the diminishing interest in news, plus the pay was not so great. The move to the newspapers did offer much more. Plus, the new administration at the newspaper in Utica was very supportive of me professionally and helped me develop my writing and reporting skills. 😉

      1. Would you say the job you thought was better was a wasted decision, or did it benefit you as well?

        comment from earthrider to dianasschwenk:
        Even out of something negative, I have found positive experiences. The job I went to had some downsides. The benefits from it were: I made some great friends, developed excellent contacts, gained a couple of awards, and got some of my undergrad courses for free while I was there. So, great perks. Not, overall, a waste. 🙂

  7. I’m a steadfast believer in looking at things from another perspective, and in the right to change one’s mind after doing so.

    Just this morning, I was doing my exercises (my own blend of modified yoga, pilates, and tai chi), and I watched a flock of seagulls fly over the ocean, upside down. It was funny, and strangely beautiful, as seeing the world upside down always is.

    1. Well, that does sound like a beautiful view from another perspective, Tracy.

      Sometimes, the world may seem upside down. Looking back, I’ve sometimes thought so. But to walk away from it and achieve something better is the best outcome of all.

  8. Sometimes the best things that happen to us are unexpected and happenstance. I was in the right place at the right time a few times. One in particular was when I was unhappy that I had missed out on a promotion I wanted. I got something even better within 6 months.

    1. Kate … As I recall, I once returned from vacation and found that my beats had been expanded to include: cops, courts and prisons. I really enjoyed the opportunity and diversity. It turned out really well because I was determined not to be overwhelmed. So, I do understand being in the right place at the right time. 😉

      1. Wow! What a vacation present!

        comment from earthrider to Kate Crimmins:
        Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to go away. Kidding aside, it all worked out and I had a great time. I appreciated the confidence in my work. 😉

  9. I think looking at a situation through a new lens nearly always changes my view. (Sometimes literally a lens, as when you see a photograph that reveals something you didn’t notice at the time lurking in the background.) Looking at moments in the past often reveals a silver lining. If I had been hired full time for a university position, I would have had more money, but I wouldn’t have had time to do some interesting things I’ve done in the past twenty years–probably including writing many of the books I’ve written. Perhaps I would not had the time I spent with my daughters either.

    As a historian, I often look at stories through different lenses, and as a reporter, you do that, too.
    Thanks for sharing your story–and the photos and songs!

    1. Merril … I think when we’re able to view a story as a whole, rather than as bits and pieces, that helps refine our view as well. The lens of a camera is a great analogy. There are things you don’t see at the time.

      In history, perspectives do change over time. What we thought then, we may view differently as time wears on. The same is true with reporting – which is history of a different type. It’s happening now but it isn’t set in stone. The story evolves when more of the facts are known. 😉

  10. Your story is so impressive Judy! It’s wonderful when perceived liabilities evolve into assets. That happened to me once too, being thrown into caring for and planning for and travelling with 50 American printers in Italy (for the first time). I had a list of 104 questions – mostly starting with “What if.” My employer tore up the list and said, “Just go!” The experience was life changing as I wound up with new self confidence and only a few of the “What ifs” actually happened. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you had that opportunity, Dora. I think I would have had a list of “What ifs” myself. Your boss was wise to tell you to throw caution to the wind and go for it. No time for self doubt. Delighted it all worked out. 😉

  11. Judy I loved this piece and reading about your life and challenges. I think any situation we are put in, can have advantages and sometimes we need to just trust in the path. As I am maturing in years I can see openings and opportunities a little easier now by just going with the flow. Kath.

    1. Going with the flow is a great attitude, Kath. What I realized is that you don’t need to look elsewhere for happiness. It’s often right in front of you where you are. Thank you for your comments. 😉

  12. Looking at the situation through the lens of your view made this a fascinating, inspiring and delightful post, Judy. You made sno-cones out of winter sludge–to say the least–and reminded me of numerous trials during my youth that turned out to be transforming lessons when I looked back on them.

    1. Marilyn … I love your comment about me making “sno-cones out of winter sludge.” At times, I felt like that was the case when clearing some of life’s hurdles. What I learned from those lessons, improved my outlook and my situation. 😉

  13. I think to look on the bright side in the face of seeming adversity is probably the best we can do. Sometimes what appears to be awful turns out to not be so and these are the life giving lessons we’ve all had. Although I don’t have anything positive to say about one student job I had – working in a mushroom farm – It was disgusting. But perhaps even that made me decide to concentrate on my studies so I’d end up doing something better!

    1. Jenny … The saying “you can never appreciate the mountains until you’ve seen the valleys” certainly is true here. I went to business school after I graduated from high school. I quickly realized that everything I had an interest in doing involved a college education. I did go to college part-time while I worked full time … and, later, while raising a family and working. I’m glad I had those experiences. In many ways, they did prepare me for the future and made me appreciate what I later achieved. 😉

    1. Darla … I agree. But I always think of Voltaire’s “Candide” and smile when I think of ‘everything happens for the best.’ But, I really do believe that everything happens for a reason. If you learn from it, then it did happen for a reason. 😉

  14. I think you found your peace in Rome, Judy. Quite a nice satellite assignment location, if you ask me, what with Griffiss AFB and more at the time. It’s all relative, of course, and you made it yours. (And Pat Corbett’s, eventually.) Nice Elton song, although I’m more of a fan of his early years … I’m going to sing ‘Levon’ for you just because I feel like it, and nobody but Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle will hear my caterwauling. 🙂

    1. If I had to land in a bureau, Mark, Rome was an excellent spot. Lots of news events, friendly people, great food – great Italian restaurant there. And, you know how I l-o-v-e Italian food.

      While I do love Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets,” I’ve really warmed to “I’m Still Standing.” Now, you’ve made me curious about “Levon.” On to “You Tube.” Oh, and, by the way, I can hear you singing from here. 😉

  15. Sounds like a lonely experience Judy! I got a bit confused when you said customers were phoning to find out where their papers were – were you writing the paper all yourself?!! 😯
    I think we need a certain amount of experiences like these to learn some important lessons of one kind or another, and put the rest of life into a better perspective. But hopefully not too many, that could be a real burden!

    Love Elton John’s ‘I’m still standing’ that has some good memories for me overcoming a really bad illness I had many years ago. It was my kind of victory song! 😀 I got to hear him sing that down the road in the football ground where I live – Elton John came to town! Unfortunately though, I was too late to get tickets. But I went for a walk by the football ground on the concert night with my brother, and we did at least get to hear some of the songs, and found a few hundred local people who’d done the same as us. Kind of a free concert without pictures! 😉

    1. Suzy … In a newspaper’s bureau, a reporter writes stories and files them with the main paper. Other reporters – inside the paper and at bureaus – do the same. So, I was writing and reporting on stories in a one-person bureau. Customers, who hadn’t gotten their morning paper, would call the bureau’s number. As I was the only one there, I had to field the calls and I would provide them with contact names and phone numbers of people in the main office who could help.

      Lucky you hearing Elton John perform in your community. He is quite the showman. 😉

  16. I worked as a tax preparer this past year, and even though I was brand new, I was assigned to a one-person office. I never did figure out if they had a lot of confidence in me, or if they decided I’d do minimal damage in the least-visited location. There were days when I didn’t do a single tax return — which was a guarantee that I made no mistakes.

    Great post, Judy.

    1. Charles … While I am comfortable in my own skin, I think of the song “one is the loneliest number there ever was” when I think back to those days. My brother also prepares taxes, a daunting task that my husband and I have turned over to an accountant years ago. I’m sure they sent you to that office because they trusted your abilities. 😉

  17. What?? That was really Audrey Hepburn in that first photo?? I just assumed it was you en route to the Rome police station, ready to work undercover… : )

    It is odd how “pluses” so often jump out of a negative situation, if we can only manage to shift our viewpoint. I think making that shift is one of your great strengths, Judy.

    Good post. I’m always excited to read anything about your journey to becoming a hard-bitten crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.

    “Super Judy… who, disguised as Audrey Hepburn, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, The American Way, and Utica Club Beer…” : )

    1. Mark … Not even on my best day would I ever come close to being mistaken for Audrey Hepburn. I adored her, a real class act – beautiful and talented.

      Thanks, I’d like to think that when life threw me a curve ball, I was up at bat and ready to swing. 😉

      I think I’ll go off with a latte and chill, wearing my Givenchy original and hanging out with my old pals, Shultz and Dooley (For my non-Utica Club beer fans, they were two staples – beer steins – in the firm’s ads.) 😉

  18. Any time I’m in a situation that wouldn’t be my first choice, I try to think of it from a different perspective.Usually, looking at it through a different lens and reframing the situation is enough to give me the perspective to find something positive. I think the ability to do that cuts down on stress in my life.

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