By Kyle Jarrard
Allow me a some words now that my newspaper has been beamed up into the mother ship, The New York Times. I have edited the International Herald Tribune in Paris for over 30 years, long enough to have seen many things that cannot now be unseen. So, goodbye to all that, but hello memories. Here are a silly few:
The manager of the copy clerks who ordered a complete muffler kit for her Volkswagen Beetle and had it shipped over in our “pouch” from Washington, ending our express mail service for a time.
The executive editor who kept a minibar in his office for his vodka and who would throw back shots at his desk, albeit facing away from the door so that all you saw was the occasional backward jerk of his head.
The head librarian who answered “Je vous écoute” (Go ahead, I’m listening) — a typically rude French way of answering the phone — with “Moi aussi” (Me, too).
The photo touch-up artist who dabbed so much white-out around his victims that people regularly appeared in the paper as having melted marshmallow heads.
The copy editor who, returning from lunch, found a fully decorated Christmas tree directly in front of his desk, took it by the neck, carried it into the hall and set it in front of the elevator, drawing the ire of the building manager who thenceforth nixed the office Tannenbaum.
The executive editor who “received” from on high a paper bag of flour upon his chest as our party barge glided under a bridge in Paris, ending forever all festivities on the Seine.
The copy editor who, five seconds before we sent Page 1, noticed that the kicker headline at the top said, “The Balkans Are Free,” when it was supposed to be “The Baltics Are Free.”
The unidentified staff member who stole the VCR from the conference room, back when these devices cost more than most monthly salaries, and whose bold act so annoyed management that we were left video-free for months.
The copy editor who, during a routine fire drill that took us down several flights of stairs, across the print floor, through the underground garage, then up dark, narrow stairs to a heavy door opening onto a street so far away no one recognized it, said, “Perhaps we should have left a trail of M&Ms to find our way home,” to which the building manager leading the parade admonished us with, “This is a serious exercise! Be serious!”
The publisher who urged all those going out onto the front stoop for a cigarette to also watch out for suspicious activity, a pastime that quickly became quite popular, as in “I’m going out on Terrorist Patrol,” even though no one ever “caught” anyone.
The copy editor who attempted to sneak in the headline “U.S. Wind of Relief Lands in Bangladesh” after Marines swept into the cyclone-devastated nation.
The features editor who fell asleep at his desk so often that the slot editor (a sort of policeman who checked everyone’s work) would dial his extension to wake him up, or, when in a darker mood, drop a Webster’s on his desk from a good height.
The managing editor who imposed severe austerity more than once in the newsroom, hitting “going away” parties for departing staff members especially hard, who, instead of Champagne and IHT watch or pen, for a time received what one resigning copy editor called “hot wine and peanuts,” which exactly describe the see-ya fare.
The sports editor who called his computer something unprintable at airplane-engine decibel levels and then threw a full trash basket from the sports office all the way across the room into the features department, hitting no one but stopping all work for a few seconds.
The copy editor who submitted the headline “Reagan:;” for Page 1 after some presidential colon surgery.
The executive editor who could never be on time for the afternoon news meeting and had to be summoned with a powerful thump on the wall between the conference room and his office.
The finance editor who could not stand the sloppy work of one of his editors and who several times per evening would hang his head and say, “Larry, Larry, Larry, Larry, Larry … ”
The copy clerk who, ordered to call every TV network in the world to get their listings for the Olympics, encountered many nasty types whose yelling could be heard across the room, but nevertheless kept his composure and always hung up the phone so quietly that I can still hear that soft click 25 years later.
The copy editor with a long sweet-tooth who came into the newsroom one Sunday morning while I was working in a corner as news editor and who, spying two piles of licorice on the copy desk, approached, checked for witnesses, then seized a fistful of the goodies with each hand and stuffed them into his trench coat and backed out of the room.
The front-desk person who, ordered to have people “sign in” on Sunday mornings for some reason, never noticed when, week after week, a certain copy editor wrote down “Elvis,” nor when another editor scrawled, “Son of Elvis.”
The managing editor who wanted to have the entire staff executed when we ran a photo of Haitian refugees who had somehow made it to shore in Florida, past whom some Floridians were jogging while giving them the look, over a caption that began, “Welcome Wagon … ”
The front-office secretary who, as one of our long line of publishers was literally on his way out (from his job as well as the building), sent an e-mail to the newsroom urging everyone to go to the windows and wave goodbye.