Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Musings: My Old Phone, Walking, Jackie O., Mistakes

 My pride in successfully fixing my iPhone 4S is diminishing at the unfortunately same rate the replacement battery I installed is draining power. Maybe it wasn’t the battery that was the problem. Maybe it’s just iPhone old age.

At least I can be proud I didn’t destroy the phone. I was able to install a new battery. A small, but significant, victory.

I hate slow walking. I like a brisk walk. I bristle when anyone walks passed me.

Walking up Park Avenue for 32 years from Grand Central Terminal to my office at 55th street, and back at the close of business, I would challenge myself to outpace every pedestrian. Even after peripheral neuropathy in my feet slowed me down about 25 years ago I was still able to maintain a competitive pace.

Anyone not a New Yorker might not understand that obsession. True New Yorkers are competitive in everything they do.

But walking with Gilda Monday afternoon around the 1.58 mile track circling the reservoir in Central Park I was humbled by how many left me in their dust, literally because the track is not paved but rather some mixture of crushed pebbles. A pickleball-inflamed achilles tendon kept me from being able to accelerate. Vexing, truly vexing.

The reservoir is named for Jackie Kennedy Onassis who used to jog around it. During my professional career as a newspaper reporter and business magazine editor I’ve had many encounters with famous people. If our meeting was not planned, I quietly greeted them with a “thank you for your work” acknowledgement. Furthest from my mind was any visible or audible display that might expose them to more intrusive members of the public.

One of the perks of being a field editor on Nation’s Restaurant News back in 1977, was being able to dine at some of the classier eating spots in Manhattan. One day, I found myself with co-workers Liz and Peggy having lunch in an expensive, over the top restaurant off Park Avenue in the mid-East 60s. The décor was gaudy—lots of mirrors and gold accents. 

As it had recently made its debut, the restaurant (long since closed) had yet to be discovered by the lunchtime crowd of power elites. It was, to be honest, rather thinly patronized that day. Aside from we three, only one other table was occupied. As I looked around I saw two people sitting at the table, a professorial-type man with unruly grey hair and a strikingly composed, thin, raven-haired woman with big glasses, eating a salad.

As Peggy’s back was to the other table, I whispered to her to glance in the mirror to see the reflection of what I thought was Jackie O. Instead, she twisted her body for a full frontal look and then, in no semblance of a stage whisper, blurted out, “It’s Jackie Kennedy!” 

I shrank in my seat, but Jackie didn’t bat an eyelash. A perfect example of being cool, calm and collected to what must have been a common occurrence in her lifetime.

As she worked as a book editor at Viking Press a few blocks from my office, I saw Jackie O. several times enter or emerge from a taxi. We never said hello.

Uh-Oh: Perhaps it’s because I spent decades trying to publish “clean” copy I am attuned to miscues that make their way into print, or bytes for today’s technical craft. So I was amused by the following that appeared on my iPhone at the end of an article from The New York Times last week on Maryland governor Larry Hogan’s efforts to combat Trumpism within the Republican Party and the possibility he would seek the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024: 

“He added: ‘There’s still a long way off before ’24. I wouldn’t make any decision about that until next year sometime. I haven’t really decided what the future holds, but I don’t want to give up and I’m not just going to walk away.’

“Advertisement will go here, if sold. A horizontal rule will appear above the ad by default. Please place at a break in the content, where a horizontal rule exists below.”

Clearly the second paragraph was meant for internal communication only. You’re only as good as your proofreader or copy editor. It reminded me of a more egregious slip-up at The New Haven Register some 50 years ago.

After covering a night meeting of the Little Elephants, a group of Republicans in Shelton, Conn., the reporter included a quote from its leader in a story transmitted by Scan-a-Tron machine from our Ansonia bureau to the copy desk in New Haven. The quote did not make any sense to the reporter, but it was colorful and conveyed the political sophistication, or lack thereof, of the speaker. 

To be on the safe side, the reporter chose to alert the night editor to the wackiness of the remark by adding the following in parenthesis after the quote: “I don’t know what the f*** it means, but that’s what he said.” (For the record, he did not use f***, preferring the common spelling of the expletive.) 

No doubt you’ve guessed what happened. The night editor never saw the parenthetical note, until it was in print. Like I said, you’re only as good as your editor. 

P.S. This being a one-person operation, I edit my own writing. Not the best arrangement for error-free copy, but considering what you’re all paying for these missives, you’re getting a real bargain. 

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