Kirby: The nasty truth about being a columnist
Robert Kirby is on vacation. This is a reprint of an earlier column.
A question commonly asked of columnists is where we get our ideas. It's a complicated process that never should be attempted by the novice. It works like this:
At 2:06 a.m. Monday, I awoke with a headache. I got up to take some aspirin. Because it was dark and nobody other than my wife was around, I went into the kitchen in a state of complete undress.
After taking the aspirin, I went downstairs to check the latest Web news on the Iraq election. There might also be other news items worthy of a column, I reasoned.
I searched the Net, read the news and found several promising leads, including a story about some moron who got his head stuck in a storm drain. I made notes.
"Ideas for Thursday: 1. Iraqi election and freedom? 2. Monkey diapers? 3. Groundhog Day and guy in drain?"
Thirty minutes later, my headache was subsiding. I started back to bed. My office doorknob, increasingly recalcitrant of late, chose this moment to fail completely. I was trapped.
Panic. Not only was I al fresco in the dark and freezing basement where, even at the age of 51, I believe there might be monsters I also had forgotten my glasses and the cordless phone.
Waking my wife for help was out of the question. Not only would she be mad; in all likelihood, she would leave me here and sell tickets to the neighborhood.
Tearing the office apart failed to produce a single tool capable of easily removing the doorknob. Extracting the screws with a straight pin was the only option, a process so tedious that it would make a clock-tower sniper out of a saint.
I listened to music for solace. Pink Floyd and The Doors mostly, but later some Partridge Family, which I blame on a growing sense of despair.
By 2:59 a.m., the cold had finally became too much. I tried fashioning a pair of pajamas out of Scotch tape and The Tribune. Don't bother.
I searched the office for food. I could survive approximately 48 hours if I ate the four sunflower seeds one at a time, and saved the Rolaid for dessert.
At 3:55 a.m., intrigued by the noise, Bob Valdez stuck his paw under the door. I passed some time coloring his claws with Hi-Liters.
Later, the dogs came and snorted around the edges of the door to see if I would share my rations. It was not a Timmy-and-Lassie moment. Sending them for help was like asking them to do my taxes.
By 4:36 a.m., I considered shooting the doorknob off with a rifle left in the office by Pat Bagley. Unfortunately, the only bullet I could find was bent.
In the event that I didn't survive, I kept a journal: "Should have paid attention in shop class. Found a spider and have named him Rocky Anderson. Somewhere, someone is eating Frosted Flakes."
By 5:22 a.m., one of the screws was out of the knob. The other one came out grudgingly a half-hour later. Near death, I crawled upstairs to bed.
I'll probably do a column on the guy stuck in the storm drain. For some reason, it just seems more topical.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.
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