So I was just standing there, feverishly scribbling every utterance of the County Commissioners into my notebook Tuesday afternoon, when I was stopped dead in my tracks.
"Is there anyone here from The Carroll County Sun?" Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy Jr. asked in the middle of his State of the County speech.
Instinctively -- and obviously with no knowledge of what I was about to get myself into -- I raised my hand, thinking we'd just get done with this little game and get back to discussions of budget deficits, educational priorities or open government.
Instead, the next few minutes broke down into a discussion of The Sun (our parent company) and its handy electronic message system.
Specifically, my employer and I were being awarded the first-ever, soon-to-be-coveted ElmerLippy Paper Doll Award.
Wow. I've always thought that as a journalist, with the possible exception of the Pulitzer, no other merit could possibly come close to the Paper Doll.
It's a cute little cardboard award, and, Lippy insisted, it was given with only the best of intentions. The Sun's message system, he said, is one way our company saves paper. And the purpose of the award is to recognize any organization in Carroll County that shows how we all can use less paper and,consequently, be a little kinder to the environment.
Needless to say, I was overcome with emotion -- read "embarrassed as hell" -- when Lippy and the 150 or so others in the room stared at me.
I'm sure they had only envy and respect in their eyes, but try telling that to someone who is used to asking the questions, watching the proceedings or staying in the background.
As a reporter, I'm not comfortable being in the news -- no matter how short a time it is I spend there.
But, hey, I guess I'll chalk the Paper Doll up to just another difficult concession to my pursuit of truth, justice and meeting a deadline once in a while.
I'll also chalk the Paper Doll up to a really positive sign coming from the commissioners.
After all, one ofthe great truisms of life as a reporter is the sifting through of thousands of press releases, hundreds of policy statements and countless pages of studies that are generated at the County Office Building over the course of a couple of months.
What Lippy is trying to say with the new award, I think, is "Hey, let's cut down on that paper blizzard."
Hey, that's a great idea. Just consider this: One copyingmachine in the County Office Building is used for more than 1.5 million copies a year.
That's million, with an M. That's 3,000 reams of paper, most of which eventually ends up in the dump.
And Lippy is sickened by it.
But while I respect what he is trying to do, I wonder why he chose us at The Carroll County Sun for the Doll's first home.
After all, the message system is often our lifeline -- to editors, to photographers, to the latest gossip about fellow reporters.I don't know what we'd do if we had to (I shudder at the thought) send all of our correspondence through the mail.
While I doubt the message system was instituted with the express intention of saving paper, I guess that it does cut down on The Sun's very own paper blizzard.
But I never figured that, because of it, I would end up spending an otherwise routine afternoon earning respect and adulation from high county government officials.
Now if I could only be so luckywith my editors.