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September 05, 1997

It all started with the fuffet blunch (pronounced foo-fay blunch).

For those of you who don't know, fuffet blunch is not the name of a French restaurant. It is my editor's version of a buffet lunch. He just got a couple of letters out of place.

Newsrooms are crazy places on the best of days. When it's around the full moon, they're insane asylums. Actually, you can take the word "asylum" out of that phrase.

It was one of those full-moon weeks when Daily Mail editor Tony asked me to check a page he'd just finished laying out.

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(Laying out has nothing to do with sunbathing. It means putting stories and headlines onto an electronic dummy sheet. A dummy sheet is not something a mannequin sleeps under. It is a replica of a newspaper page we call up on our computer screens. It shows where the advertisements will be. The editor, in essence, fills in the blanks around the ads with news stories.)

Anyway, I was reading the cutline that Tony had written to go under a photo. I was looking for typographical errors. That's when I saw that the people in the photo had been treated to a "fuffet blunch."

"What's a fuffet blunch?" I asked.

"A what?" Tony responded. He wasn't looking at me. He was already working on another page.

"A fuffet blunch. You said these people got a fuffet blunch."

"I did? Where did I say that?"

We were getting nowhere.

At about that time, a co-worker's computer let out a blood-curdling scream. It does that a lot, and it can be very annoying.

When the scream had died down, Tony and I resumed our discussion of fuffet blunches.

"Let me guess, a new type of poodle?" I asked.

"A Parisian coiffure?"

"Perhaps a new type of French cuisine?"

Tony had agreed that "fuffet blunch" was a phrase filled with possibilities. It had a certain ring to it. In fact, we became so enamored with it that Tony almost forgot to fix the cutline.

It was during that same moon phase that we Daily Mail editors heard a noise from somewhere in the building that sounded suspiciously like sonar. Specifically, it was a rythmic high-pitched gurgling noise.

We who work here are accustomed to hearing strange noises, but the gurgling was something new. It was especially loud, and very ominous. We were sitting in the newsroom. It was around 6 a.m. We were alone. Just the three of us - Tony, Bob and I.

Gurgle-ping, Gurgle-ping, Gurgle-ping.

"Ah-h-h, something new and different," I said.

Neither Tony nor Bob spoke. Men don't talk at 6 a.m. They growl.

"Uh, what is that noise? Does anyone know?" I asked.

Nothing.

(Most men don't function properly in the morning. They should not be permitted to socially interact until noon, when they can be civil.)

"Uh, excuse me," I said. "DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT THAT GURGLING NOISE IS?"

Silence. Bob got out of his seat and walked toward the fax machine. That was the extent of their collective response.

I don't give up easily.

"Guys, let me try this another way," I said. "Do you hear that noise, and if you do, do you happen to know what it is?"

Nothing.

Suddenly, from somewhere behind the fax machine, a booming voice broke the silence.

"PREPARE FOR DEPTH CHARGES!!!!"

It was Bob.

It was a lot like being in the Twilight Zone.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure it had anything to do with the full moon. It's like that a lot around here.

Hmmm. Food for thought. Sounds like something to mull over during a fuffet blunch.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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