Ocean City Today

Getting out of sorts

By Stewart Dobson | Aug 03, 2017



printed 08/04/2017


It hasn’t been a good week because of …

Starting from the beginning, I’m preparing to lay out pages early Thursday a.m. at home, as I usually do, and I get this idea: even though each of our stories is numbered and arranged in that order on an Excel spreadsheet, it would be helpful to sort these stories by length.

That way, I would be able to scan my story log quickly, find the right story, with the right length, and then mark the page layout accordingly.  That would be so much easier.

Excel is cool like that. You can do amazing things, such as sort an entire spreadsheet by alphabetical or numerical order, from top to bottom or bottom to top, you can even do both, if you give one precedence over the other.

You also can type in various formulas to do math automatically, which is a big help to me, as I’m one of those people who is still impressed by a sales clerk who can make change without having to peek at the readout on the cash register.

“That will be 59 cents, plus 3 cents tax out of $5. Sixty-two cents is your total and that’s $4.38 back to you.”

Roll over Einstein and give Archimedes the news! We have a real mathematician here.

But all I say is, “Really?” because I’m dazzled by the swiftness, the velocity even, of her calculation, and because it would take me a good 15 minutes to sort it out. Maybe.

“Let’s see,” I would say to the customer. “The price is 59 cents, there’s 5 percent tax on that … 5 percent of 59 cents is … uh … okay, 10 percent of 59 cents is 5.9 cents, divided by two is … is (scribble, scribble) 2.95 cents. Okay, 59 cents plus 2.95 cents is … no, wait, that can’t be right. Ok, just forget it. It’s free.”

This is why I do most of my work using words, which makes saying “Really?” after someone hands me change about as dumb as Anthony Scarimucci saying, “I’m in this for the long haul.”

It’s not good to say “Really?” to a cashier who’s been dealing with insufferable, demanding, indecisive — “I’d like the chicken, no, wait, a hot dog, no, wait, pizza — people for the past 12 hours.

“What do you mean, ‘Really?” You accusing me of something? How about I kick your bony … so hard you’ll be able to use your hip pockets for ear muffs this winter?”

“No, all I meant was you make great change.”

“You’re an idiot.”

Which beings me back to Excel and my bad week.

I sorted the stories, got them all nicely ordered and proceeded to do a wonderful job of laying out the paper.

Except …

The thing about sorting is you have to sort everything. Missing a column, specifically the one that contains the identifying number of every little thing that goes in the paper, means those numbers aren’t going anywhere while everything else moves around like a hobo on a freight train.

I failed to catch that until I got a phone call.

“Story 42 looks like it really might be story 106, while 106 could be 45, and 57 is really 73, which is …

Later on, down in accounting I am advised on how to sort spreadsheet data properly.

“Look,” she said, “It’s as easy as making change.”

As I said, not a good week.


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