No need for straitjackets

Published 9:56 pm Monday, September 29, 2008

You’ve probably figured it out by now, but we journalists are a different sort of people. You probably knew after you met members of our news department in public, stopped by the office to talk or just read our columns in the newspaper. But you knew.

We know it, too. We had an idea when we chose the field of study in college while all the “normal” kids were choosing public relations or advertising.

The college newspaper I worked at was the sort of place a lot of the more mainstream students would have had nightmares about. Posted along the walls were off-the-wall quotes spoken by staff members. There were some doozys. Most would be inappropriate for a family publication, such as the one you’re reading now. Given the hours we put in on top of schoolwork and, in some cases, other jobs, being weird was our way to stay normal. Then I moved to a real newspaper and found that those attempts at sanity through insanity would remain a part of the workplace.

Our jobs have to be easy, one might think, taking pictures, sitting and staring at a computer monitor and writing silly stuff. Putting out a newspaper is not digging a ditch during an Alabama summer, but most people probably underestimate the difficulty of catching the “i” incorrectly placed before the “e” in the word “receive” after a 12-hour day. Indeed, the stress is all mental, which leads to the kind of nights where the hint that one might be a little out of the ordinary becomes a sledgehammer to the head.

We have plenty of those nights around here – the kind of night where a group of people made delirious by mental fatigue feed off each other. Something that ordinarily might draw only a grin becomes enough to trigger hysterical laughter for minutes on end. There’s only so much in a given day the human brain can spend focused on grammar and sentence structure and punctuation and the like. There has to be some humanness mixed in (I just made that word up; you have to keep yourself entertained).

The next time you see us and think we might be a little weird, just know that you don’t know the half of it.