Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I used to be better at my job

Date: April 4
Mileage: 31
April Mileage: 36
Temperature upon departure: 41

Had one of those long, frustrating, hectic days at work that buzzed by before I ever looked up at the clock. I came home, ate because I felt a little hungry, and headed out on Roadie. At first I put the bike on top of my car, but when I couldn't get out of my driveway due to shin-deep slush, I just saddled up and rode my bike from my house - slush, mud, gaping potholes on all. I should do cyclocross.

I had a great ride, and I was amazed how little traffic there was. There didn't seem to be a car on the road. When I finally completed the climb back home, I found out why - it was 9 p.m. I don't care what people say. I love Daylight Savings Time.

Also, today I found out I won an award from the Alaska Press Club! I wanted to thank Mary for leaving a comment to inform me of this. Turns out I won third place for "Best Layout and Page Design" for a page I designed back in November called "Hanging 10 at 10 degrees" (It's about people who ridiculously attempt a summer sport - surfing - in the middle of winter in Alaska. How could I possibly relate to such a thing?) I was happy about the award, but it's hard not to feel overshadowed by my place on the short podium.

See, when I was a bright-eyed graduate fresh out of college, I secured the feature editor position on a circ.-7,000 community newspaper in Tooele, Utah. What a great job, right? I was but a week on the job when I rolled into work bright and early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. When I stepped into the newsroom, it was just a few minutes after 7 a.m. MST - just in time to see something very shocking live on the T.V.

That day, I had a reporting assignment prescheduled at the Deseret Chemical Depot. I was supposed to participate in a mock decontamination drill the DCD had planned, then come back to the office to complete my duties as feature editor. Convinced that World War III was beginning, I still drove out to the Depot because, well, it was my job - a brand new job - and I didn't know what else to do. The problem is, the Deseret Chemical Depot is a chemical weapons incineration plant. They store chemical weapons, massive quantities of mustard gas and other lovely products that could easily wipe out the entire western half of Utah with one swift hit. I arrived that the depot at about 7:30 a.m., just a few minutes before the entire facility went into complete lockdown. No one was allowed to leave, including me.

As the only "media" within reach, the DCD commander dragged me into his office and explained the entire situation to me. He spent over an hour with me alone, waxing eloquent about the futility of terrorism and the stregnth of spirit in America. I scrawled pages and pages of notes, convinced that I, a measly feature editor, was about the write the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin news story of the year.

When the Depot finally cleared me to leave, I drove as fast as I could back to the office, equipped with my Pullizer-worthy notes and action photographs of soldiers barricading the entrances. What a great local tie-in to the news story of the decade, right? When I got back to the office, I excitedly told my editor what had happened. He smiled and told me to give my notes and photos to a news reporter. "You have feature pages to design," he said.

And as I watched the Pentagon burn, the Twin Towers fall, the entire world as I knew it collapse around me, I designed a freak'n feature page. It was about a guy who builds cement flower pots in his backyard. I slapped it together, sent the thing to press, and turned back to watching the TV.

When the 2001 Utah Press Association awards banquet came around the following year, guess which page won first place in the "Best Feature Page" for small newspapers? That's right. The one dated Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I think that was the day I lost my passion for these awards. Or maybe it's because, with just a week of experience behind me, I created something I'll never be able to top.