When I left the world of full-time newspaper employment to enter retirement, I left, as all workers do, with a box of things I’d taken from my desk.
It was a fairly stereotypical load. There were books, pictures of my wife, pens, some small Christmas decorations I stored in a drawer between seasons.
And a mug.
It’s a white mug with the seal of the University of Missouri on one side. I bought it 25 years ago out of a catalog, in the days before the internet. I was just starting the job at a Massachusetts newspaper, and I wanted something to remind me of my college days in Missouri.
So far, I’ve done a pretty lousy job of being retired. I’m writing this column. I’m writing a column for a local internet news source. I’m doing 12 hours a week of local talk radio, where the show’s local political focus means I seldom have to discuss Donald Trump — unless it is in the doomed, offhand way people discuss the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
Still, all the work I’m doing in retirement, added all together, does not equal the 40-to-60-hour weeks I’ve worked for the past 35 years. I still put in plenty of time, but I write a lot at home and can work in slippers and jeans if I want. I can even smoke at my desk, the way I could when I was working my first newspaper job.
I drank out of that mug every day back in the old newsroom, and it was the only beverage container I ever used. I drank coffee out of that mug — and tea and soda — and I filled it with water and added fizzy cold-cure tablets when I had the flu. I never rinsed it, either, though once every six months or so, I’d take it home, fill it with bleach and water, and let it soak until its inside was white again.
Oh, we were slaves together, that mug and I. Slaves to deadlines and lunch breaks, the start of the shift and the ending of the shift, and overtime.
I was going to break it and throw away the pieces, seeing as it seemed to belong only to work, but I couldn’t. After all, I’m retired, and no one is breaking me and throwing away the pieces — at least not yet. Besides, I couldn’t forget all the times I’d banged out a story on deadline and then sat back in my chair and reached for that mug to take a sip of coffee while I read the story of a stabbing one last time before filing. The mug, it seemed to me, had earned some kind of rest.
Remember, I worked my shifts in the newsroom, but the mug was there 24 hours a day — on my days off, in the dark after the night shift clocked out, during those weeklong stretches of my vacations and once for two months while I recovered from knee surgery. In between, I filled and refilled it with bad newsroom coffee I drank for the caffeine and not for the taste.
So, I took the little mug home, and it got a really good bath and was stowed in a kitchen cabinet with not just other mugs but the dainty china cups from which my wife drinks tea.
It gets good coffee now, and sometimes, in the evening, it gets coffee with just a little whiskey, and it’s washed every time it’s used. Like me, it’s semi-retired, and though it still works every now and then, it spends a lot of time just resting, remembering murder nights and house fire days.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.