Been a while since I had a column blow up in front of me, but what I heard Tuesday morning was a real notebook-closer.
I was sitting in the living room of this nice lady in Haddon Township, N.J. an hour into her crying the blues over the end of the ACME's delivery service. A real shame, no way you slice it.
She's 77, a retired teacher, and she's got severe arthritis, which makes it impossible to stand in an aisle, let alone shop for her meats and cheeses and frozen peas. Add cancer to that. Bad stuff.
I'm taking notes, nodding, picturing the lede. I'd called ACME HQ, which got me to a flak in Boise, who was good, and told me how the economy made the service hard to continue, and how they were trying to reach out to shut-ins who'd complained, find them alternatives.
Only the alternative they'd suggested was too expensive, a courier service, and its trucks weren't refrigerated.
Already I knew how I was going to end the piece. A man on the phone had told my disabled pensioner that 66 percent of ACME customers actually preferred ordering online then dropping by to get their already-bagged groceries, and how my column's subject told him, "I hope you never get old."
Then came the moment of truth.
"What are you going to do now?" I asked her. What happens May 25 when ACME's service ends?
"I guess I'll use ShopRite," she said.
ShopRite? I didn't know ShopRite delivered. End of column.
So, a nice big hole awaited me in the Thursday paper. At least it did until I discovered that Pete Dunne, the Bard of Birding, had just spent 24 hours criss-crossing the Garden State, flying on caffeine and listening for the tweets and warbles of the avian class in a one-man World Series of Birding marathon. Bird is the word.