Weekly newspaper people live by two cardinal rules: (1) never miss deadline, and (2) never on Tuesday, production day.
Never what on Tuesday? Never anything, else rule No. 1 will tumble, too. Word around the shop was the only excuse for missing work on Tuesday was a funeral — your own.
Well, maybe we weren’t quite that inflexible in my day, but we were close. Everyone on the staff took Tuesday deadly serious. Nobody went home until the newspaper was put to bed — no matter the time of night — and anyone’s absence or misstep could throw the whole crew off schedule.
Ours was a small staff at the Buffalo Reflex, similar to that of weekly newspapers throughout the country. We all had a multitude of jobs. The manager, editor, reporter, photographer, darkroom tech, graphic designer, delivery boy and janitor were all the same person on different days of the week — and just about anyone on staff could be one or more of those people at the drop of a hat. It was a marvelously efficient system. Everyone’s job description was “Get the paper out.”
Pull one cog out of the machine, though, and everyone else had to work that much harder. See, “Never on Tuesday” wasn’t a rule handed down from on high, it was a mantra coined by workers out of respect for one another.
Every newspaper staffer and his or her family knew it. Wives didn’t plan Tuesday dates for their husbands, and vice versa. Kids got used to sandwiches for supper or spending a couple hours at the newspaper office. Usually they got pizza out of the deal.
Still, I was only half-serious when I forewarned my late wife, Dee, pregnant with our second daughter when I was news editor at Bolivar, “I hope that baby doesn’t come on a Tuesday.”
Either she took that to heart or fetal Melissa sensed my concern while still in the oven. Whatever the reason, Dee arose on the morning of Monday, Oct. 25, with a compelling urgency to get to the hospital.
Monday. Whew. One less thing to worry about, I thought as we piled into our car for the fastest trip I ever made between Aldrich and Cox Hospital in north Springfield. Just one short side trip to leave Angela with an aunt on the same side of town, and the rush was over. Once at the hospital it was several more hours before Melissa saw daylight, and a few days later when mom and newborn came home.
Though still in a bit of a daze, I was back at my desk in the Bolivar Herald-Free Press early Tuesday morning. I probably could have finagled that day off, but the thought never crossed my mind. It was Tuesday.
In successive years my own children came to embrace the sanctity of Tuesdays. “Never on Tuesday” became ingrained the same as “Church on Sunday.” In truth, for years I missed more Sundays than Tuesdays.
Now well into retirement, I don’t have to respect Tuesday more than any other day of the week. Still, sometimes when making plans, I hear a little voice whisper, “No. You can’t be gone that day. That’s a Tuesday.”
Copyright James E. Hamilton 2018. Jim Hamilton is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.