I quit my job a year ago because I had to pee


I used to joke that the word “salary” was Latin for “free.” But it was no joke when I was working 50, 60 and sometimes 70 hours per week at the job I had for 10 1/2 years.

Today is the first anniversary of my freedom. One year ago yesterday was my last day as the supervisor/editor/manager of a small group of newspapers owned by a multimillion-dollar newspaper company. That job also included sometimes being a trainer, photographer, reporter, building manager, supply keeper, record keeper, fundraiser, public speaker and paper delivery person.

Oh, it didn’t start that way. I was hired by said multimillion-dollar newspaper company to manage three newspapers – a weekly, a bimonthly and a monthly. The job wasn’t hard and I loved teaching new journalists things like how to work a beat, localize national news, handle the always awkward and sometimes painful “victim interview,” and how to cover accident and crime scenes.

My supervisor hired me, she said, because the minute she read my résumé she knew I was the one that would make the papers better than they were before. She also once confided in me that she almost had to sit on her hands while interviewing me so she wouldn’t appear as excited as she was by my ideas and passion for news.

But it wasn’t all that long into the job that The Boss began to block me. I would tell my people how to do something and she would go behind my back and tell them otherwise, even when she and I agreed on the course of action beforehand. She also wouldn’t let me run things the way we had agreed I would. Maybe that should have been my first clue that at some point this job was going to go terribly wrong.

Or maybe I should have gotten a clue when less than a year into my employment, I had to have emergency back surgery. Two days later, when I got home from the hospital, a reporter brought me a CD with stories on it and instructions from The Boss that they needed to be edited. I did as I was told, but I was heavily medicated and even a week later couldn’t tell you what I had read.

A second emergency surgery two years later brought the same results. My hours, which I had been told would never be more than 45 a week at the extreme, began to increase before and after my hospitalization. And yes, I took phone calls, answered emails and edited stories just a day or two after that operation as well.

The three papers became four, and I ended up with responsibility for three weekly papers and one monthly, and four websites. Five-day weeks were extremely rare; I often worked six or all seven. No raise in pay. No extra benefits. In fact, I even was told when I could take my vacation, when I was allowed to take it at all.

The following years brought other disappointments – being told to come in when I was sick, not being given any time off after the death of my beloved dog, many more hours on the job over the agreed upon 45 per week. It also brought rude and nasty comments from The Boss about my weight and the weight of some of my staff members, never mind that The Boss weighed more than we did. Other inappropriate comments were made as well.

There was a 10 percent cut in my pay, followed within months with another 5 percent cut that extended to all employees. People began to leave and were not replaced. Oh, their jobs didn’t go away; they just got parceled out to others. And being the sole person on salary meant I could work as many hours as the company and The Boss wished.

Things really fell apart when we moved from an old, drafty, leaky building into much smaller quarters. We went from four bathrooms – two for the men and two for the women – to only one that would be used by all 25 of our employees, even though the city ordinance said you had to have one bathroom per 15 employees. When we asked before the move how we were going to get by with one bathroom, The Boss said, “I guess we’ll get friendly with our neighbors.” But our neighbors in the business park weren’t always there, and who wants to go to another nearby business to go?

Not long after moving into the new space, the toilet started clogging up. All. The. Time. Repairs had to be made that included replacing lines and other parts of the system. Sometimes, the toilet would be out for days over the course of several months. We all had to get in our cars and drive to the nearest McDonald’s or Target to go to the bathroom during the workday.

Sometimes, we would carpool to a public bathroom. If someone was leaving to go, he or she would announce it and take others along. I’ll never forget the day that I and one of my reporters left the building together and headed to the nearby Burger King, only to find signs on their restroom doors saying they were temporarily out of order. We would have laughed harder, but we really had to go.

Even when the toilet was working, you’d often have to stand in the hallway, legs crossed, praying you wouldn’t soil yourself while someone was in there for what seemed like forever. Or you would run back and forth from your seat to the bathroom door sometimes four or five times to check and see if it was open. Sometimes, when it was quiet and you could hear the door open throughout the building, multiple employees would rush toward the bathroom, resulting in awkward games of who had to go the most.

It wasn’t like I planned to stay so long at the job and be mistreated, but time has a way of getting away from you. And being an optimist, I always thought it would get better. The readers and my employees were the reasons I stayed, and some weeks were pretty great. But as time went on, they didn’t outweigh the bad.

When The Boss left and was replaced by a wonderful manager, we all got a bit of a reprieve. But when he started getting the shaft from the company, he headed out of there. I had to take on most of his duties, and got treated even worse. When I was ordered to come in one day while I was in the emergency room with a 103-degree temperature, I knew I had to leave.

Becoming a freelance writer has been as hard as it has been wonderful. It’s difficult sometimes to motivate myself. The pay is lower than I expected and I’m working more than I planned to in order to get it. I have to do without a lot of things to which I was accustomed. But I get to stay home with my shepherd if she is ill. I can stay home when I’m sick and not be harassed by anyone. I can work in my pajamas all day if I want to.

The funny thing is, I didn’t budget for or think about the added expense of the amount of toilet paper I go through these days, which is a lot more when you’re using your own bathroom almost 24/7. On the other hand, I get to go anytime I want.

Football just isn’t the same without Peyton Manning


I fell in love with football during my college years. Coincidentally, it was also during my college years that I first met Peyton Manning.

Oh, it isn’t like we’re friends or anything. I doubt he would remember my name if you asked him. But I did run into him a few times over my years of covering news.

He is a generous man, kind and polite, and he’s funny. The many things he does for charity, you likely don’t often hear about. He has helped many, many people and has never asked for credit.

During his days at the University of Tennessee, you could see that he had skills and promise. Next thing you know, he was the quarterback for my home team, the Indianapolis Colts.

He developed those skills over time, and my love of the game also developed. I enjoy the intricacies of football, the designs of the plays, the finesse that is sometimes required. I love the cheering, the face painting, the roar of the crowd. I don’t love how dangerous the game has gotten, and I have great disdain for those players who seem intent on hurting others and who even appear to enjoy it. That certainly isn’t what football is supposed to be about.

My friends know something of my great love of The Sheriff, who retired earlier this year after playing 18 seasons in the National Football League and winning a second Super Bowl ring.

And I watched each of those seasons, cheering on Peyton and the Colts from whatever state I was living at the time. I clearly remember “watching” games with my dad over the telephone from my living room and from various sports bars after I had given up watching television in 2008. We would call each other back and forth throughout games to yell, “Did you see that pass?” or “Can you believe they scored again?”

We were on the phone (me in a hotel bar outside Seattle, my dad at home in Indiana) on Feb. 4, 2007, when Peyton and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Peyton’s first Super Bowl win. I cried. And my dad sounded emotional, too, as we cheered and shouted across the miles during the last minutes of the game and the first few minutes after the game.

I wept when Peyton was injured and had to sit out an entire season. I cried again when I learned that he would be leaving the Colts, who I felt treated him unfairly in his waning years. My dad and I have never agreed on that, so we just don’t talk about it.

I “followed” Peyton to the Denver Broncos and they became my team for the next few years. I cheered mightily when he won his fifth Most Valuable Player award in his second year with them in 2013. (Among his many accolades, he was the first, and so far only, player to win five MVP awards in the NFL.) I still feel bitter about how the Colts treated Peyton and will likely not cheer for them again.

I have screamed myself hoarse at actual games, and possibly been too rowdy in a number of public places where I watched “my” Peyton play.

When the Seattle Seahawks drubbed the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, I was in a sports bar outside Seattle, the lone person wearing an orange No. 18 jersey in a sea of blue and green. I was horrified by Peyton’s performance and the results of the game. I sat silently with tears streaming down my face at the end.

And although we were cheering for opposing teams, others in the bar respected my love of the game, my quarterback and my team. A woman who sat beside me during the game, an obvious Seahawks fan, went across the street to the Mrs. Fields after the game and brought me fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies to ease my heartache. I will always remember that moment – one fan truly caring for another no matter that we supported opposite teams.

But I am having a problem watching football this season. I can’t seem to muster any passion for the games. Gone, at least for now, is the trash talking, the shouting at the screen, the standing up and sitting down from the couch while my dad sits in his recliner nearby. This is the second season in which we can finally watch together in the same location, but I find I can’t pay attention during the games, and I feel like there is no team left for which to cheer. I long to hear the familiar call of “Omaha!” just one more time.

Did I love the game all those years or did I love Peyton? I guess time will tell.