It isn’t often that I agree with seriously right-wing politicians. But today is an exception.
You see, Maine Governor Paul LePage told a group of school kids that newspapers are dangerous. And I have to agree with the Gov.
My concern doesn’t come from the fact that, like Governor LaPage, no newspaper has ever, or indeed would ever consider endorsing either of us for public office, although that’s true. No newspaper has ever endorsed him for so much as dog catcher. No newspaper has ever endorsed me either, but that’s less awkward since I’ve never run for public office. And he, ummm, has.
I’m pretty sure that a newspaper was never involved in an actual threat to LePage’s personal safety, though. I can’t say that I have remained personally unharmed, unmolested by the press. Because that would be a lie.
You see one morning I was held hostage by the Washington Post. I’m serious. I’ve never told the story before. It’s too traumatic. Too terrifying. Too humiliating.
It was a long time ago. So long ago that the Post was still a reasonably unbiased paper, before it became the tool of the neocons that control it now. So long ago that its investigative reporters still investigated politics and corruption and didn’t simply reprint GOP talking points. So long ago that the Post only cost a quarter.
The trauma haunts me to this day.
I was late to work that morning and flew through the Metro’s turnstile and down the escalator. Of course I’d just missed a train. But at least I had a moment to catch my breath and buy a newspaper.
I looked at my watch: 9:45. Shit. I had a 10 a.m. meeting.
I walked over to a newspaper vending box and inserted my last quarter, pulled down the door, took out a newspaper, and let the door go. They have a spring-loaded gizmo so they automatically close.
What happened next appeared dreamlike, in slow motion.
The door closed ever so slowly but inevitably. And just before the door’s final slam, the strap from my purse fell off of my shoulder and down; down to the inside of the machine’s door. The door closed with a slam, with my purse strap closed inside.
I was trapped. I couldn’t get my purse strap out of the machine. I couldn’t get the attention of the Metro guy because he was too far away, and I didn’t want to leave my purse unattended. I didn’t have another quarter to re-open the box.
Worse, I was alone, it was late morning by commuter standards. There were no other commuters in sight. No one was coming down the escalator. No one to rescue me. No knights in shining armor. Nobody even wearing a three piece suit.
So I started to laugh. The silliness of being held hostage by a newspaper vending machine made me laugh so hard that tears streamed down my face. I laughed so hard I snorted; I cackled. Had there been any children present they would have been terrified of me. I couldn’t breathe and began frantically trying to catch a stray bit of oxygen now and then.
After several minutes, a few people came down the escalator but they avoided me. Clearly they thought I was a lunatic. They bought papers from other machines because I was laughing too hard to ask them to please, please release me. Laughing too hard to explain just how funny life can be. Laughing too hard to explain just what I was laughing about.
Eventually, exhausted, I spied one lone man coming down the escalator, and asked him to please, please help me out. Please buy a paper because I really did need to get to work. He bought a paper, and I was freed.
When I finally got to work, I went into my meeting late. My makeup was smeared, and I looked like I’d been crying. Everybody was worried about me.
“What happened to you, Elyse?” They all asked. “Are you alright?”
Instead of starting to tell the story of what had happened, I immediately started laughing-crying again, so that it took a while for me to explain that I had been held for ransom by a Washington Post newspaper box. Not much work was done because everyone was too busy laughing.
“You’re the only person I know who has adventures everywhere they go,” said one of my co-workers.
“So, Elyse,” asked my boss, the head of the department, “how much ransom was paid for your release?”
He roared with laughter again.
So you see, Governor LePage is right: newspapers can in fact be dangerous. You never know what’s going to happen when you try to pick one up.