It’s a hard knock life

The wrenching wails emanating from the copy editor’s direction cut through the normal bustling din of the press room like a sharp cutting implement of some sort. “WTF?” the entire editorial team thought as we surrounded his cubicle. Did his chihuahua, Marmaduke, die? Did he lose at that goddamned video game he plays when he’s supposed to be hunting down typos?

Sniveling and shaking, he pointed to a news story on his screen. “Look at this!” he screeched. “First they tell us to drink eight glasses a day! Then they tell us not to! First it’s great for our health to drink a lot of water, and then suddenly it isn’t! Then we’re supposed to drink tap water, and then they tell us its full of pharmaceuticals! Now they’re saying that tap water is as good or better than bottled water. Does that mean all that money I’ve spent on Evian was wasted? “I feel so jerked around and confused! What the hell am I supposed to do-whoo-whoo-whoooo-whoooo-whoooo?

The last word–that sounded not unlike an owl on meth–was broken up (as we helpfully indicated with hyphens), by sloppy sobs and snotty snorts accompanied by the arrhythmic heaving of his bony little shoulders.

Touched by the stripling’s total self-absorption—and making a mental note to revive our dormant employee drug testing program—we handed him a tissue and cooed comforting there-theres and now-nows. He opened his eyes, which he’d squeezed shut to block out the harsh reality of his life, and was momentarily startled at the sight of so many tissue-offering hands. He selected one, blew his nose, but continued to whimper and shake uncontrollably.

Luckily, the editor-in-chief had just been to a workshop on how to take a tough-love approach to in-house mental breakdowns. She put her cigar down and with one hand grabbed him by his black emo T-shirt with the other gave him two smart snap-out-of-it slaps. She had the tough part nailed.

She pulled his wide-eyed face close to her three-day stubble. “Listen copy editor [not his real name], there are a lot of people on this planet who can’t make the choice of whether or not to inhale gallons of water all day like a race horse training for the Preakness,” she said ever so softly. “Their choice is what dusty path to take to find a filthy little puddle of bacteria-infested brackish water to give to their emaciated child. Their dilemma is ‘Should I let my baby die of thirst now or of diarrhea later?’ They don’t have to worry about pharmaceuticals in their water because they don’t have medicine and they don’t have any water. They don’t have to agonize about which bottled water is the perfect accessory for their lifestyle, because they don’t have lifestyles and did I mention that they don’t have water?”

“So, your choice is either move to one of those countries where life won’t be so gee-williebillers complicated or stop your whimpering and get your skinny little ass back to work,” she quipped. Squeezing his shoulder firmly but not enough to bruise, she spun his chair around toward his monitor. He must have felt the love, because he immediately grabbed his AP manual and started industriously flipping through it. As the boss turned she noticed our admiring glances and humbly said, “What are you looking at? Get the hell back to work!”


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