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48 Hours in teh Glamorous Life of a Publisher

48 Hours in the Glamorous Life of a Publisher

by Courtney Caldwell

As I sit here at my computer on a Sunday afternoon wondering what I should write about for my column in our next issue, my mind goes blank. I begin to wonder how many brain cells are have left or how long what's left will last. The older I get the fewer that spark, it seems.

I haven't showered in two days and haven't seen another human being for three. I've been locked behind closed doors since I returned from a New York business trip Thursday night, trying to bang out a twelve-page business proposal and meet the next issue's deadline before I leave for my next trip in two days. No pressure.

My mind feels numb as I gaze out the first window I've ever had in an office. I remember it's Easter Sunday and reflect back on all the Easter egg hunts and big family dinners we used to have when I was living in total anonymity in the obscure little New England state of Rhode Island. Ah, those were the days. Anonymity sounds pretty good right about now.

I find myself laughing in my silly little daydream all by myself in my office. What am I laughing at? I'm laughing at how everyone seems to think the life of a publisher is so glamorous, exciting and social. That everything in my world is perfect and that those all around beckon at my call, leaving me wanting for nothing. That everything in my orbit is always perfect. After all, I live the life of a glamorous publisher. Or so it seems. Keep in mind, things are never what they seem. In fact, there's usually tumultuous turmoil going on in the life of a glamorous publisher. And very little social life.

So glamorous and social is my life that when I'm not traveling, most of the seven days a week I work are spent on emails or behind my trusty Dell with most of my mind focused on auto and travel stories, developing new issues, editing new articles, creating new marketing campaigns, selling advertising, creating new sponsor proposals, interviewing candidates for jobs, and producing events. Yes, even on Easter. I'm not complaining. I love what I do. And I know some wish they had my cushy job but before we go there, allow me to share what 48 hours in the glamorous life a publisher is really like. Then, decide.

Last January, I flew from LA to Detroit to attend press days for the North American International Auto Show, the biggest press event of the year in the auto industry. I went from a 70 degree coastal paradise to a 10 degree freezing ice pit in the span of four hours. Stepping off a plane into Detroit's dark, cold air is like jumping into the arctic ocean naked after leaving your mother's womb. Not fun.

Press days are a few days prior to the show opening to the public which means most exhibits are still being built, so there are plenty of ladders, forklifts and really cute construction workers with leather tool belts on. Forgive me, I digress.

It was the last day of press week and I couldn't wait to get back to the warmth of Santa Monica. I was feeling pretty dapper in my new black velvet pant suit, cowhide boots and black suede hat. But that didn't stop what was to come next. While walking by the Dodge exhibit, I suddenly found myself airborne, having tripped over a pile of unseen two-by-fours. The next thing I know, I'm on all fours, face down, palms and knees stinging, where I landed in a pile of sawdust. Too stunned to realize it was sawdust, I rolled over on my butt to get my bearings and realized I had now sat in the sawdust. Did you know that sawdust sticks to velvet? Very glamorous, indeed.

Like any glamorous publisher, I picked myself up, brushed myself off and sauntered on my way pride not withstanding. Not one of the nine construction workers taking a break two feet away came to my rescue. Either no one saw this amazingly graceful feat or they were laughing too hard to offer assistance. And trust me, they were laughing as would I had it not been me.

Almost immediately, I began sneezing. Of course, I assumed it was from all the sawdust that lodged up my nose and down my throat upon my face plant. It didn't take long to sink in that instead I had caught a cold but not just any cold; the dreadful flu that had been permeating the convention hall with thousands of workers abound and dozens of doors left open for easy access to forklifts and trucks coming and going. The hall was about 40 degrees inside. Even the workers had on gloves, scarves and double hoodies. So perhaps my sneeze-fest was a combination of flu infestation and the velocity at which I was propelled through the air landing in a pile of sawdust on a bitterly cold Detroit day. Who cares? I just wanted to leave.

Anxious to get to my plane and just sleep it all off, I drove back to the motel to pick up my suitcase. Sue Mead, one of our contributing editors, came along for the ride. The sneezing and sniffling got worse. I couldn't wait for the sanctuary of my private and cozy seat on the plane, in the glamorous coach section, of course. Because glamorous publishers always get paid last if at all.

After leaving the one-star and oh-so-glamorous Red Roof Inn, we drove 30 miles south to the airport, where we pulled up in front of Southwest Airlines. Suddenly, police sirens consumed the winter air.

Five cop cars immediately surrounded our little inconspicuous white Chevy press car. Within moments, five DEA agents were banging on the windows from all sides insisting we eject ourselves from the car immediately with hands up. That was the first clue that this was not just some traffic violation.

Too scared to leave the warmth of the car, I instead rolled down the window to politely ask the nice officer what the problem was, to which he gruffly replied, "Just get out of the car, lady." Shaking in my cowhide boots, I obeyed. Sue was a snowy shade of white.

After fumbling nervously through my luggage in the trunk where my purse was stored, and while all the cops carefully watched with one hand placed on their unsnapped holsters, just in case I pulled out anything other than a license, one of the agents grabbed the license from my raised hands and hustled it away to the fourth police car in their convoy. As they all huddled together to investigate, a crowd began to gather with pointing, snickers and stares. Glamorous, indeed.

While we waited in the freezing cold with our mitten-covered hands up, the uniforms had us surrounded with their hands placed firmly on their visible guns ready to draw in an instant if need be, while others stood silent in their plain brown windbreakers with big, bright yellow letters that screamed DEA. How subtle, I thought. This alone should be a good warning to those thinking about muling drugs. Just being 'surrounded' is a deterrent in itself. I nearly peed my pants, which of course would have frozen in the January cold air before running down my leg.

Shivering like a cowardly lion due to the immense adrenaline I felt, coupled with below freezing weather, I blurted out, "I'm just a magazine publisher, what's the problem?" He told me to be quiet, a difficult feat for me in any situation. "Who would bail us out?" we wondered. I could see the morning headlines: DRUG QUEENS POSE AS MAGAZINE PUBLISHER AND EDITOR: FOOL THE NATION WITH THEIR MIDDLE-AGE MUGS!

Finally, a tall, dark, rather young, plain-clothed DEA agent walked up to me with a big, forgiving smile, handed me back my license and apologized. OOPSIE! We got the wrong dame. WTF?

As it turns out, they had been staking out the Red Roof Inn from where they tailed us all the way to the airport. I wondered why they just hadn't stopped us in the parking lot of the Inn instead. Was the big airport mega-drama really necessary to the success of the bust? Were we the stars of a hidden camera TV show? Had we been punked?

Oh no, indeed this was real. Apparently, they'd been on the lookout for some female drug ring kingpin (or is it queenpin?) whose description I clearly fit. They finally let us go unscathed but shaken to our cores. Lucky me. Just another day in the glamorous life of a publisher.

When checking in, the ticket agent behind the counter obviously could tell I was having a bad day. My knees and palms were still stinging from the sawdust dive, not to mention still picking it off of my black velvet suit. I could see a trail of sawdust behind me as I walked to the counter. The adrenaline was still racing through my veins from the big ring-leader-sting-gone-bad, and the freezing temperature was venting its wrath on my already numb body.

The agent kindly upgraded me to business class. At least they had big, cushy reclining seats with a foot rest. Finally I could snuggle up to my pillow, hide under a blanket, take a cold pill and sleep off this bad day for the long flight home to LA.

She gave me the aisle seat. At first, no one sat next to me in the window seat. I thought, 'Oh good, no one to talk my ear off.' That quickly changed when a sweet, stout, elderly Japanese man, who reminded me of the Pillsbury Doughboy, excused himself to climb over me to the window seat. He didn't speak English and I didn't speak Japanese so I foolishly assumed, "No problem, he'll sleep too." And he did until they brought dinner.

After finishing my airplane snack, which they tried to pass off as a meal, I reclined my seat and lifted my foot rest into full snooze position. I left a full glass of water on the armrest table between us. After all, cold medicine leaves one dry as does the oxygen deprivation at high altitudes. I wanted to be prepared.

Just entering the dream state, I felt a nudge. It was the sweet elderly Japanese man next to me who needed to go to the restroom. I tried to push my seat upright and decline my foot rest to let him by but apparently he just had to go too badly. He instead swung one leg over me straddling me like a horse. He lost his balance and fell on top of me while I was still in the reclined position. Because he was short and stout, like a tea cup, he couldn't reach the floor when on top of me and began to flail around like a beached whale. I am 5' tall, 100 pounds soaking wet. He was at least 250. Then of course, he panicked which caused allot of noise and attention our way. To those around us, it looked like he was attacking me. To him, it was mortifying. To me, well, just another day in the glamorous life of a publisher. He finally waddled his way off me.

Why are you laughing? Do you have any idea what it's like to get the Pillsbury Doughboy off of you in such a small space?

During our wrestling match with each other to get him upright, the glass of water I had left on the table between us was knocked over. Naturally, it landed in my crotch of my black velvet pant suit, leaving me sitting in a puddle of water. After he left, I used his blanket to absorb the puddle. If I'm going to be wet, then so will he. By now, I'm not a happy camper. The saturated seat was cloth, not leather, so on top of everything else, I had the very wet butt of a glamorous publisher all the way home. And naturally, all the remaining sawdust now turned into wood chips and splinters.

We finally landed...safely. OK, so there's one good thing. But by now I'd had all I could take. This life of a glamorous publisher isn't all it's cracked up to be. After a quick exit, I ran, not walked, to baggage claim to get my one and only suitcase.

I was still sniffling, sneezing and coughing, so everyone around me retreated to a 10-foot distance, which was just fine with me. It made it that much easier to retrieve my luggage and get the hell out of there. By now, I wasn't in the mood for anymore outlandish adversity. I was done.

The baggage claim belt turned and turned as each bag was slowly removed, one at a time, by other passengers. Finally, I was alone. All the bags were gone. I even waited for the belt to come to a stop. Nothing. My luggage was lost. I wanted to scream. Really loud. But I didn't because glamorous publisher's don't scream.

After spending nearly an hour filling out the missing luggage report for one freaking little duffel bag, I dragged my glamorous publisher's ass to the curbside of the the terminal where my friend John said he'd pick me up. After the horrible last several hours, I really didn't expect him to be there...because that was the luck of the day.

John did show, and by doing so saved me from walking into the nearest bar and drinking a bottle of tequila. And I don't drink hard liquor. Well, can you blame me? By the time he arrived, it was 10 p.m. and I wasn't exactly looking like the glamorous publisher you think you know. Rather, a vision of the "Exorcist" comes to mind.

After pouring my defeated ass into his car, I tried to share my tale of woe with John but he didn't seem to care. I even tried to explain it in a way that would make one laugh. He wasn't laughing. Obviously he didn't see the humor in my glamorous life. Well, 'that's okay,' I thought, because all I really wanted to do was go home and hide under the covers anyway.

The next day was scheduled for moving RTM's six-room business office to a new location, an endeavor I wasn't looking forward to. I was sick as a dog and worse, the first heavy rains of the season were on their way. The only help I had was John, who told me not to worry. "We'll get it done," he assured just a few days before.

Before dumping me out on the sidewalk in front of my apartment John announced that he wouldn't be able to help move my offices after all, nor could his friends. It's now 11 p.m. on the night before 1,800 square feet of office furniture and equipment had to be moved all of which had to be done over the next two days. My lease was up and my landlord was not a nice guy.

Checking myself into the house for the insane began to look like a good idea right about now. What am I supposed to do now? At this hour? Sick as a dog? Exhausted from a trip gone bad? How much more could my patience be tested?

My daughter Shannon, who's as strong as an ox, was the only one who came to my rescue with her tiny, two door SUV. Well, she and her ex-boyfriend who was 6'4" and weighed about 90 pounds. He was so thin that when he turned sideways, he disappeared. He could never be jailed as he'd easily escape sliding through the bars. Shannon could lift him with one finger. What could he possibly lift, I wondered? Nonetheless, I was grateful for the help.

We all pulled our hair back in ponytails with scrunchies, yes even Todd, and got to work. For the next two days, we lifted, carried, moved, dragged, heaved and hauled nearly 70 loads of office furniture and equipment in what ended up being the heaviest rainstorm Southern California had seen in years. We were drenched, but none of us ever complained. We just did it. And whatever was too heavy to carry, we tore apart with screwdrivers, wrenches and hammers and hauled it over piece by piece to the new office.

By Sunday night, it was over. Everything was scattered in the new office everywhere in boxes or in pieces. The monumental task of putting everything away and back together was still to come for another day. But the worst was over. Or, so I thought.

We made it. I made it, 102-degree fever and all. When my head hit the pillow late that Sunday night, I remember thinking, 'I can't believe I just lived through the last 48 hours.' Why me? Because this is the glamorous life of a publisher. Silly me.

John did stop by the new office on Sunday afternoon offering to help after everything already had been moved. After my head spun around my neck a few times spewing green grime from my pores at his too-little too-late offer, he left in a huff and never called again, nor I him. I hope he was thankful that I let him leave alive.

Much to my surprise, I woke up the next morning. I was amazed I hadn't expired in my sleep from pneumonia or anxiety. In fact, my flu symptoms had subsided. I jumped out of bed and ran for a hot shower. The worst is over, the sun is out, the birds are singing. The weather is warm again. I feel better. The nightmare is now behind me. I lived to tell the tale. I survived. It's a new day. Things will get better from here, so I thought, again.

The shower couldn't have been hot enough and felt fantastic. You all know that sense of a hot shower after a couple of long hot dirty days? After getting out, I wrapped my hair in a towel and myself in my big red, ugly, fuzzy 20-year-old bathrobe. Shannon was in the kitchen getting ready for her day. I could hear her humming her favorite song by a group that made me realize I had finally lost touch with the MTV generation. All was right with the world again. Calm and normal had returned.

As I stood in the mirror applying lotion to my glamorous publisher's face, I felt lucky to be alive. I thought nothing else could go wrong, because it was a new day, and I'd been tested and passed.

I then removed the towel from my head, took one long look in the mirror and let out a bloodcurdling horrifying scream that raised Shannon's diabetic blood sugar to comatose levels. In retrospect, it was a scream of rage that was a culmination of events from the last few days. But, the removal of the towel from my head was the final trigger.

Shannon materialized in the bathroom like a puff of smoke, even before the end of my scream, to rescue me from the grips of whatever monster was dragging her mother into the hole of hell. The monster, turns out, was my glamorous publisher's blonde hair, which was now a balayage of streaks and stripes of green and blue, a look not to come in style for another 20 years. I looked like a parrot.

'Could this be some maniacal plot to drive me insane?' I wondered. I was too stunned to laugh, too stunned to cry. Shock would be a good word. However, my sympathetic daughter was of sane mind. Her reaction was to fall to the floor on her knees laughing so hard she nearly choked to death, tears streaming down her face, cheeks swelled red from laughter. In fact, so overwhelmed in her amusement at my misfortune, she had to give herself extra units of insulin in her morning shot. The price one has must pay to live the glamorous life of a publisher!

Stricken with fear that my hair would fall out if I brushed or blow-dried it I left it alone for a week. I lived with stripes of green and blue hair all week-long, single-handedly bringing back the afro and mohawk all in one fell swoop, not to mention a look twenty years before its time. Ah, the glamorous life of a publisher.

Did you know that wearing a black scrunchy in the pouring rain causes the dye to run, especially if you have blond highlights? Well, we know now.

Lessons learned:

  • Sawdust and velvet don't mix.

  • No Pillsbury products for the rest of my life.

  • Southwest returns lost luggage in two days.

  • Tough situations bring out your real friends.

  • The flu doesn't stop the mission.

  • Anyone can survive a drug-ring bust.

  • Learn Japanese.

  • Never wear scrunchies in pouring rain.
    The dye runs
    in highlighted hair.

  • Maintain your composure at all costs.

Yes indeed, I live the life of a glamorous publisher.