Corner Column

By Phil Major
Posted 3/17/21

Like a moment frozen in time, the hand-operated perpetual calendar reads March 18.


March 18 would have been the last time we held an in-person news meeting.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Corner Column


Like a moment frozen in time, the hand-operated perpetual calendar reads March 18.

The unusual device belongs to Monitor writer, John Arbter, and sits on a window sill, behind the desk he once used when he made his weekly sojourns from his country home to our office.

He faithfully changed it each week as he took part in the weekly news meeting. I think that on those rare occasions he came in at other times he would sometimes update it as well.

March 18 would have been the last time we held an in-person news meeting.

The next week we switched to an internet conference using Zoom and have been doing so ever since.

It was at that time that the world as we knew it began to change drastically, minute by minute, hour by hour. There were days when things changed so dramatically that it became difficult to discern which way was up.

And now those seconds, minutes, days, weeks and months have added up to a solid year that none of us will ever forget but most would just as soon flush from our memories.

I wouldn’t want to even begin to try to measure just how bad it has been. Our year was tragic enough, and I’m certain there are many others who have had it much worse.

As I suspected, there was a story behind the acquisition of this perpetual calendar that John picked up in his travels with the U.S. Navy. I’ll leave it to him if he wants to share more.

Our only connection is that, for more than a year, we could mark our Wednesdays by John’s changing of the perpetual calendar.

And then it, like much of the world, just stopped. John was not here, like clockwork, to update it.

He was “here” in the sense that, through an internet portal we could see his pixels, hear his voice and communicate effectively what was upcoming in the news business.

It has served us well, but it’s just not the same.

As the pandemic has reached through an entire year, we have learned more and more every day just what has been lost. Those personal connections which mean so much have largely had to fall by the wayside.

Some have taken a damn-the-torpedoes approach and shunned medical science in favor of face-to-face. Others, like educators, have had to soldier on, with little choice about their circumstances.

And the risk-takers aren’t necessarily those who fall outside the most vulnerable categories. Was it a lack of discipline? Did they just tire of the new normal? Did they rely on bad information?

Unfortunately, some have paid with their lives, including our loved ones.

In a business that is built upon personal relationships, it has been tough for us to pull back. When you wake up each morning with the question, “Will I be risking my life today?” it puts an entirely different spin on your day.

Even for those who have always asked that question, like law enforcement and fire personnel, this has thrown one more challenge into the mix.

Who could have predicted that on March 18, 2020, the pandemic would still be creating such havoc in our lives a year later? The vaccines give us some hope that in a few more months we can truly look at this in the rear view mirror, and John can once again keep the calendar on track.

Stay safe out there, and don’t let the recent progress go to waste.