Some gifts end up being useful beyond the most obvious reasons.
It’s a fact that has always been true when it comes to newspapers.
Hold on a minute, I’ll get where I’m going.
Each Christmas, my brother Matthew always gets me a unique gift or two. One year it was a deck of “Friday the 13th” playing cards. Another time it was a special edition poster of the cult classic movie “The Monster Squad” autographed by the entire cast. Once it was tickets to see Guns N’ Roses at Wake Forest’s football stadium, still one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. He’s got an eye for gifts I’d appreciate.
And he was right on target again last year. He got me a one-year digital subscription to The New York Times, which also included a couple of days of print delivery, including Sundays.
As you might expect, I’m a newspaper junkie. I have been my whole life, going back to when I was a kid and my parents were daily Index-Journal subscribers. In those days the Index was an afternoon paper, and after school I’d periodically peek between the blinds out the front window of the den, looking for the delivery driver to come speeding up. (I say “speeding” because our paper deliverywoman for most of my childhood drove like a bat out of hell. I’m not sure her car had brakes.)
I was especially watchful for the Tuesday afternoon paper, which had the college football pick ‘em contest on one of the back pages. I never won that $25, but I dutifully mailed in my picks each week. I’m guessing loyalty to my beloved South Carolina Gamecocks probably cost me a contest or two.
Of course, I know better than most the digital infusion that has happened at almost all newspapers in the last decade. The chances are pretty good that, even with this very column, you likely came to it on a smartphone or tablet or laptop. You’re scrolling up and down the screen, not turning physical pages.
But, gosh, I still love an actual paper. Especially a Sunday or weekend edition. Ink on my fingertips, and all that stuff.
Which is why I was particularly pleased that the subscription gift from my brother last Christmas included the Sunday print edition of The New York Times. In a time when print pages have been trimmed at seemingly all newspapers, the Sunday NYT is still a big, fat offering. It weighs as much as a Thanksgiving turkey some weekends. I can’t come close to reading it all on a Sunday, and usually keep it on the living room coffee table well into the week, reading the ubiquitous features and essays and reviews as I can get to them.
Now as we all know, newspapers bring us, well, the news, but they also have many other practical functions. You can use them to wrap presents, or as filler to keep your Christmas tree ornaments from getting shattered in storage. You can use them to line your bird cage (my columns are especially good for that), or crumple them up to use as kindling to get a fire started.
And, as it turns out, they are still good for the occasional insect extermination.
If you’ve read this column for any length of time, you know my wife has an almost irrational fear of bugs. She once texted me and insisted I drive 20 miles home from covering a city council meeting just to kill a bug that was in the house.
And so it was recently that I was relaxing on a Sunday afternoon, reading the paper, when she hollered from the other room and called me in there to kill a roach. Now, some people call them “Palmetto Bugs” but I think they really only call them that when they’ve got company.
I folded up a section of my Sunday NYT and went in there and gave the offending insect a good whomp. The first whack didn’t do the trick. He was still kicking. I guess I should have added the business section, as well. As it was, the foreign news from Nepal wasn’t enough on the first swing. Eventually, though, the bug was vanquished.
Now, I’m guessing you’d never whomp a Palmetto Bug with your iPhone. Sometimes you need a real newspaper. All the news that’s fit to print...and kill.