Tough week. I made a serious mistake last weekend: I took a day off. At a Mustangs game last summer, my program had a lucky number and I won two free round-trip tickets to any place Big Sky Airlines flies. So my wife and I flew to Missoula last weekend, visited my daughter, ate Indian food and saw a They Might Be Giants concert.
That began the brewing of a near-perfect storm. I was, of course, behind on the paper and struggling late Monday and all day Tuesday to catch up. Our classified person quit on short notice last week, and Paula, our ace production person, was sick and went home early Tuesday evening. My wife, who helped by entering some ads late Monday, couldn't help on Tuesday because she had a paper due in a course she is taking. Our fall intern also sent an e-mail saying she was sick. That left our ad guru, Jim Larson (henceforth known as Lord High Muckety-Muck His Holiness King James I, or Lord Jim for short), and I to figure out how to get the classified pages done. Between us, we had only slight clues.
It was a nightmare, except worse, because nightmares at least involve sleep. After Jim struggled with the classifieds for four hours or so, we still had production problems that took a couple of hours to unravel. Somewhere in the course of our futile efforts, I managed to save the classified file over the file of the entire paper -- wiping out several hours of work.
Jim gamely hung in and rebuilt the paper. By the time he finished at 4 a.m., I was four hours away from deadline with about 12 pages to go. Cranking out a page every 20 minutes for four hours is a fairly tough slog under good circumstances, but I had been on the job for 18 hours already, after working until 2:30 a.m. the night before. And the stories all still needed to be selected and edited.
I didn't quite make it. By the time the printer called to ask about the last four pages, I was distilling them into PDFs. They were on the way within minutes, and I had time to go home, change my shirt and brush my teeth before teaching a couple of German classes.
And the paper looked, well, pretty good to me. I've said it before: This isn't a weekly newspaper. It's a weekly miracle.