November 28, 2023

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F. Jordan


A sales representative from a printing company featuring modern duplicating equipment made his way into my office recently here at the Doodlebug Run-on and publishing company, took a look at my ancient Mergenthaler linotype machine and my hand-fed Miehle letter press, trays of lead type of various sizes and families of fonts, shook his head, and asked tentatively and in obvious disbelief if I’d given any thought to upgrading my operation? Said he could sell me state-of-the-art equipment that would both speed-up and ease my printing requirements. “Why, the speed and simplicity will pay for the machines you buy in no time at all!”

Now, perhaps because, like me, my printing equipment and methods are admittedly of museum quality, any criticism arouses the same defensiveness as a hunter with an ugly dog, or Mitt Romney reccusing himself from the latest Bane Capital export of American jobs to China. My little shop has served me well for as long as I care to remember, and I didn’t want to hear any aspersions. “Well, if I were in the business of distributing news and helpful information, or publishing biographies of people made notable by national standards, I might want equipment that would rush things along, but anything in the nature of either of those things arrives here on Doodlebug Island nearly moribund and attracts all the interest of a Donald Trump pronouncement on the ‘birther’ cause.”

“But, sir, you could change that with modern camera and duplicating equipment. Why, you’d be cutting-edge capable over night.”

I took him by the arm. “Son, come over to the window and take a look for yourself. Do you see people out there rushing around in any kind of hurry to get someplace or get something done?”

He slowly shook his head.

“No, and for our small corner of creation, this is a busy day. People here are slightly less than moderately interested in anything the outside world could think rises to the level of ‘news.’ Oh, we like to hear about any war our leaders are clumsy enough or short-sighted enough to get us into, but that’s about it. If we want pettiness, scandal, sensationalism, politics, bombast, or what have you, we look for it right here. No one has to drag it in by the heels from someplace else. See what I mean?”

Disappointment and discouragement washed over the young man’s face. “You mean people here are honestly not interested in hearing about such things as the stock exchange, the workings of congress, movies, or social movements?”

“Well, in all honesty, there are a few who rather define their lives vicariously, so to speak, attributing importance to such things as ‘celebrity’ happenings and Hollywood talk shows. The rest of us are entertained by events taking place right here at home. If it’s scandal you want, take the recent Lambda Phi Delta initiation. Older members hoisted initiates up the campus flagpole in their skivvies. It was rather astonishing to young women on campus! And talk about celebrities! One young heathen doffed his shorts and was run up au-natural. He’s gotten quite a lot of attention!”

“Yes, of course, but pranks like that hardly rate news coverage. I grant you that if it had been done at Harvard or MIT, we’d hear about it, but…”

“Then there’s sports,” I interrupted, “We field teams that pride themselves on losing with style, even drama, and always with grace. And, on those rare occasions one team or another actually wins, why, we regard it as aberrational and a retrograde achievement with regard to character development. Our schools emphasize personal academic fulfillment and responsibility. We don’t so much care about grade averages, class standings or ivy league propensities as we do involvement and personal growth. In short, we are a laid-back society, content with just being ourselves, and enjoying living the adventures each of us creates in his own life, but being part of the adventures of those among whom we live.”

The young salesman studied me for a time, then turned and studied things going on outside. He spoke musingly. “I can see that equipment of the type I sell would be about as useful as a Paul Ryan math lesson, if not quite so vague.” He sighed gently. “Bill,” he said, at last, “one day I’d like to come live here. Would you hire me?”

“Of course! Especially if you can tolerate occasional squirts of lead from Bessie here, and the mischievous malfunctions of the Miehle Vertical.”

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