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September 4, 2005 - Between A Rock and a Hard Place

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World's Laziest Journalist

September 5, 2005

By Bob Patterson


[WARNING:  This column will use an industrial accident as a metaphor.  The descriptions will be gruesome.  Any reader who is squeamish about things like that might prefer to skip this week's column and come back again next week.]


Folks who work in the printing industry have two completely different ways of regarding the competition.  The Advertising and Editorial Departments for one publication will think of the staff of competing periodicals much like folks attending the Army-Navy football game think of the opposing team.  The backshop employees, however, tend to treat the topic very differently.  It used to be (it's been awhile) that full time employees at one place would often also be part-time employees over at the nearby competitor's shop.  If the camera room at (hypothetically) the city's weekly newspaper ran out of litho film, they would send a guy over to the daily paper and ask their camera room foreman, if the weekly could have a box (worth a few bucks) of litho film.  It would be returned "in kind" when the next shipment of camera room supplies arrived.  It was an "interline courtesy" type of thing and such requests were routinely granted.  (The backshop managers would deal with each other and not put such requests through the upper management level.  Can't you just picture what the accounting department bean counters would say in response to a request to give the opposition the film with the assurances that it would soon be repaid in kind?)


So it came to pass that this columnist (who has some experience in the "comin' through" area of newspaper production as well as other departments) was acquainted with a particular industrial strength paper cutter.  If the amount of paper was small, it was relatively easy to slice through a stack of paper quickly and easily.  A larger stack of paper might involve using both hands and a fair amount of muscle power, to move the mechanism's lever arm. 


Eventually there came a time when a newer version, at a rival publication, was inspected.  A big mechanical item like that isn't changed often just because of a rumor or urban legend, so when we saw that the operation required the worker to depress a button on the left side with the left thumb, it seemed natural to ask: "What's the purpose of that "safety catch" button and why was the change made?"  It was specifically there to engage a person's left hand.  The shop foreman explained why the change to upgrade the papercutter had been made. 


According to the story he told, it was because of an accident that happened to a person using one of the older versions that could be used, for a small stack of paper, single-handedly.  He was in his workplace on the Saturday of a weekend and was the only employee there.  Somehow, he didn't pay attention and a terrible accident occurred.  His arm got caught in the wrong place and he couldn't reverse the handle and blade's movement and free his injured arm.  He had only two possible courses of action.  He could free himself by continuing the cutting movement and cut off his own hand, or he could continue to bleed and hope against logic that some other employee might just happen to visit the work place during the down time.  It seemed he opted for freeing himself by completing the cut and quickly summoning help before passing out due to loss of blood. 


If he had not chosen the gruesome method of seeking help, he would have bled to death by the time other workers arrived on Monday morning.


Would it have any basis in logic to maintain that if the guy didn't choose to continue to bleed, he would have lost a lot of blood in vain?  At what point would he have lost enough blood to "sanctify" the process of loosing blood?  Wasn't the only logical choice to do what he had to do to live through the accident?


If any of the regular World's Laziest Journalist column readers are still here, they probably know where this column is heading and can fill in the blank space with a lengthy comparison to the situation in Iraq.

Start here:

Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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