December 13, 2012
A few weeks ago, I walked to the back of The Rhino Times' and I asked Erika, who keeps these kinds of records for our office, this question: "Erika, can you please tell me the day in 2002 when I started working at The Rhinoceros Times."
"Dec. 9," she said right away.
I asked her how she knew the answer so quickly, and she said that, recently, she'd had to look that date up for another reason.
So, now, as of this week, it's been 10 years – one solid decade of working for The Rhinoceros Times.
I did some calculations the other day and it comes out to about 8,000 words a week, 400,000 words a year, and, over the decade, about 4 million words.
To give you an idea of how many words that is, if you started with the first word I ever wrote here 10 years ago, and you assigned that word the number 1, and you took the second word and gave it the number 2, and so on, and you kept going through every word I had ever written for The Rhino Times, then you would have to count all the way up to 4 million to get to the same number of words I've written.
Before I began working here, The Rhinoceros Times had been trying to hire me for a while, but at the time I was writing for a business newspaper covering corporate park openings, and – never a big fan of change – I decided to stay in that job as a business writer, a job I didn't like at all.
So God had no choice but to close that newspaper entirely, and He had to fire 11 people just to get me to take the job at The Rhino.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.
And to all the people who got fired so that I could get my job here – I'm sorry about that, but you can take some solace in knowing that it all worked out very well for me at least.
At that time, The Rhino needed not just a writer, but they needed someone to take over Scott's Night Out as well, so they were under some real constraints – because they had to find, not simply someone who could write and investigate county government, but also someone named Scott.
Which, as you can imagine, makes the hiring task much more difficult.
When I arrived here in 2002, Scott's Night Out was being done by Scott A. Farmington, who had taken over the job a few years earlier from Scott G. Williamson – a fascinating guy who later went on to become a photographer for Field & Stream, but who died tragically when he fell out of a redwood in Canada while trying to get a close-up of the extremely rare Saskatchewan Loggerhead Shrike.
Actually, of course, Scott's Night Out started in October 2005, after then Publisher Willy Hammer went out and bought me a Nikon and handed it to me one day, and said, "Now, when you go out, take some pictures."
Let me tell you one thing that I've really enjoyed about writing for The Rhinoceros Times these past 10 years: Everyone seems to read it.
Mike Barber, a former county commissioner and former Greensboro city councilmember, used to really dislike The Rhinoceros Times, and he always used to tell me that he never, ever read it; but, then, one day I saw a copy open on his office desk. (In recent years, Barber and The Rhino have gotten along swimmingly, by the way.)
So I think everyone reads The Rhinoceros Times – even people who say they don't. And I mean everyone: from hot college girls who want to see if their picture made it in that week, to 92-year-old retired judges who just want to keep up with what's going on in the schools or in city and county government.
I'd be willing to bet you anything that you, for instance, also pick it up and read it, at least from time to time.
In a fit of nostalgia, over the past few weeks, I've been looking through old Rhinos to pick my favorite things from the last 10 years.
I was going to go back through all of them and write about them in a column. There was the time the county commissioners went on a convention in Hawaii. I think about how hard Editor John Hammer and I laughed and laughed when we came up with the idea of sending me to Hawaii to make sure the commissioners went to their boring convention meetings while they were on a taxpayer funded vacation in a tropical paradise. I took a flight ahead of the commissioners and was waiting at the airport in Honolulu when they got off the plane, and, when they saw me, they looked at me like I was the devil incarnate.
Or about the time that I took the county commissioners' official portraits and put them on Am I Hot.com so that everyone across the world could rate each commissioner's sex appeal.
There was a county commissioners meeting the night the paper with those results came out in a big cover story, and I can remember like it was yesterday the commissioners just laughing and joking with one another about each others Am I Hot ratings. (Hint: None of them were voted 10s).
Well, most of them were laughing. The commissioners who ranked the lowest didn't laugh quite as much as the others, but still …
And then there was the time I wrote in my column that my copy editors had told me that "gullible" wasn't a real word, and that they wouldn't let me use that word unless I could find it in a dictionary. Well, several hundred gullible people emailed me, sent letters, came by the office in person, or called to let me know they had found a dictionary with the word "gullible" in it, and they provided me with the necessary information about the dictionary so that my copy editors would finally let me use the word in my writing.
Then there was the April Fool's edition a few years back when I had a giant cover story about how High Point was breaking away from Guilford County to form its own county. Even two weeks after that April Fool's issue came out, the chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners made me stand up at the podium in a televised meeting and assure everyone that High Point wasn't really breaking away from Guilford County.
And then there was the time …
Then it hit me.
It hit me that the column I wanted to write was impossible to write because it would be – well, about a million words long. Because, over the past 10 years, there have been so many fascinating, interesting and great things that have happened for me at this job, I could never list them all.
I remembered a quote I heard years ago when I was a graduate student in philosophy at Chapel Hill: "To talk about one thing, you must talk about all things."
And that's really true – and I certainly can't talk about everything in this one column.
So I decided what I wanted to do at the 10-year mark is instead simply thank a few people, past and present, who have made The Rhinoceros Times possible, and who therefore have made my job possible.
For instance, I want to thank Erika Sloan, who helps the office run smoothly and who does so many necessary but imperceptible things that often we don't appreciate her enough. And also Jacqueline Dulnuan-Kersey, who is brand new but doing a great job so far.
I want to thank Jerry Bledsoe, who has given us some terrific investigative reporting over the last 10 years, and Orson Scott Card, who regularly brings our webpage hits from all over the world, and who once had Rush Limbaugh reading The Rhinoceros Times over the national airways. I rarely agree with Orson – I mean, come on, Orson, how in the world can you not like Curb Your Enthusiasm? – but his name and his writing, known all over the planet, draws tons of attention to The Rhino from all over the world....continued on page 2