Having appeared in print for years now, you would think I would have both a deep understanding and an acquired immunity to the craziness that come over people when it comes to seeing their name in print.
Alas, you would be wrong.
Quite by accident and through no fault of my own I became embroiled in what can only be called “The Great Photo Caption Scandal of late 2008.”
I write of it only now because tempers have cooled and wounds have healed.
I am far from perfect. Any one of my friends and every single member of my family will assure you of that. If you want to be furious at me for something or other you probably won’t have to look far to find one of my many foibles to fume over. I’m easy — and human — that way.
Thus, it came as quite a surprise to find that my personal waterloo would not be one of the many times “my big mouth got me in trouble” but, rather, the moment when I, with no thought for my own personal safety, volunteered to submit to a local newspaper a photograph taken at one of the 1,200 activities my children take part in every weekend.
My first hint that people would just go ahead and lose their minds over an oversight came within hours of delivery of the publication. This was the dreadful, dark day that the photo I had dutifully submitted appeared in print with roughly four of the 12 children’s names unintentionally omitted from the caption beneath the photo.
Clearly, this was a capital offense.
Was this due to human oversight? Could it possibly have been a print error? No. It was bald-faced evidence of my obvious disdain for adorable, freckle-faced 6-year-old boys. There could be no other plausible explanation.
Within hours of the photo’s appearance — and before a correction could be issued — I received a heated e-mail calling into question our morals, values and accusing me of undertaking a conspiracy to include only the names of a chosen few.
I was, I was assured, bent on destroying the self-esteem of America’s youth.
The last line really worried me because I had previously been woefully unaware that youthful self-esteem stemmed solely from being mentioned beneath a blurry black and white photo.
There I was thinking that the thrill of victory at the actual event would surely outweigh a nominal print error in the newspaper after the fact.
I was, as usual, terribly wrong.
Granted, I suffer from an unusually thick skin, having once appeared in print with the words ‘Veeda Weeda’ under my photo in place of my name.
I chose, perhaps foolishly I see now, to assume it was a typographical error rather than a carefully wrought conspiracy. I chose to find it charming when my friends heckled me mercilessly about it for weeks afterward.
My own mother to this day refers to me as Veeda just because she can.
Stepping back from the chaos I can understand the situation. I don’t think there is a human being among us who doesn’t identify and commiserate with feeling like an “outsider.” We all hate feeling left out.
This is why I apologized, profusely, even as I gave the people who went over the top on the issue a wide berth after that. Frankly, they scared me just a little.
I think I now understand why newspaper editors must almost never sleep and, if they do, not peacefully.
I knew, by dint of my profession, that people take the printed word very seriously. I just had no earthly idea that they took it so poorly when a word or two was unintentionally left out.
On that note, if you should happen to know an editor in charge of overseeing anything –be it a major print publication or your local PTO newsletter — please give them a big hug and a pat on the back, from me.
It is pretty rough and risky work when you take feelings — and human emotions — into account.
Less risky endeavors. In the meantime, I’m currently volunteering for less risky endeavors than being in charge of the photographic duty at kiddie activities.
Seeking a safer alternative, I’m only taking on assignments such as “rabid dog handling” and “throwing oneself on live grenades.”
I’ll consider flame-juggling as a back-up option — but only if they really need the help.
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