Ten Best: Things to do while the boss is away

by Brian Clarey

Keep it under control When Charles Womack, publisher of YES! Weekly, left town last week to spend some time with one of his other business concerns, our sister paper The Outer Banks Sentinel, it was not exactly the same thing as your parents going out of town for a week but there were some similarities. But first and foremost in our minds was that we had to put out a good paper in his absence. If we didn’t, then, like a parent who returned from a vacation to find a house in complete disarray (possibly from an open-house party) he would surely be disappointed.

Take lots of phone messages Publishers of alt-weeklies get a lot of phone calls. A lot of them. Some are more important than others, of course, but all need to be recorded on Post-its or those pink “While You Were Out” message pads and affixed to the itinerant publisher’s door. Be sure to get the name, the day of the call, and for God’s sake, get the phone number down right.

Go on vacation We could always do what staff writer Amy Kingsley chose to – cash in some of our own vacation days. But if everybody did that, the paper would be a little thin this week. Not that we resent Ms. Kingsley’s time out of the office. Really. Must be nice to just take a powder while the rest of us are in here humping it and the phone is ringing off the hook.

Wing it Just because the Boss Man is out of town doesn’t mean that the steady stream of situational decision-making takes a pause. Things happen all the time around here, and we can’t go running to the phone to call the boss for every little thing that comes up. So I do what comes naturally: Assess the situation, weigh the options and then pull the trigger. Bang bang.

Telecommute Actually we do this all the time, what with the obscure location of our offices and the price of a tank of gasoline these days. And a day out of the office breaks the routine, inviting chance meetings and rare opportunities. I knocked out a couple of the pieces in this issue at the Green Bean last week. And I was faced with a whole new set of lunch choices.

Throw pencils into the ceiling tiles Most of the kids in the office are too young to remember the 1986 Tom Hanks/Jackie Gleason picture Nothing in Common where Hanks is a young ad wizard who fires himself up before big presentations by flinging pencils into the ceiling of his Chicago office. So they don’t know I’m stealing a line from the movie when I stick one up there with a quick backhand wrist flip and say, “I’m Batman.”

The rare case of Jordan Green If you’re Jordan Green, it’s just business as usual when the cat’s away. He’s been diligently reporting, writing and filing just like he always does. The guy’s like some kind of journalism monk.

Play video games We’ve got a small stand of arcade consoles in the break room of our offices with a good assortment of video games from the Golden Age. Because of this I am better now at Donkey Kong than I was in 1983 and I don’t care who you are, I will kick your ass at Joust. Others in the office prefer online gaming endeavors like puzzles, poker and solitaire. A little advice: Watch out for that solitaire, man. It’s like crack.

Surf the internet When you work in media it’s always important to keep abreast of what’s happening on the internets whether your boss is in town or not. Most of us read several newspapers a day, keep track of a modest blog roll and do whatever else we can to stay informed. We also need to periodically check in with the smartasses over at Gawker, our MySpace accounts, whatever’s happening on YouTube and the dirt from Perez Hilton (before he goes down in big, flaming flames).

Make up for squandered time The fact of the matter is that a weekly paper is a task-oriented business – there are X amount of things that need to be done for each issue before it hits the streets, and the paper doesn’t care if the boss is out of town or you’re trying to reach your personal best high score in Defender. It’s all got to get done before press time Monday night – hell, high water, all of that. That’s why I’m sitting here at my home desk writing this installment of Ten Best as the clock approaches midnight: to make up for all that time I spent screwing around this week. Charles, you coming back soon?