Best of times occurs in sharing interesting news

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Charles Dickens could really cover all the bases. Just consider how the English writer started his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote in his story about the French Revolution. That was just the beginning. He managed in one long sentence to draw distinctions between good and evil, wisdom and folly and light and darkness. Wow.

I mention this not so much to enumerate famous phrases in literature that leave me as a writer envious and embittered. For openers, it was Dickens, again, who wrote “Marley was dead to begin with.” Rather, I want to illustrate a paradox about one of my tasks as a newspaper editor: to review the many news releases I receive. Depending on the content, I feel as though it’s either the best of times or the worst of times.

It’s the very best of times when I receive news about Grand Valley entrepreneurs and enterprises I can share with readers. That’s a not-so-subtle hint, by the way. If you’re reading this and operate a business that’s hired employees, introduced new products or services or scheduled special events, then for crying out loud please let me know. My e-mail address appears at the end of this column.

While I’m at it, could I ask another favor? Could you let me know in a timely manner? The further in advance the better. Even in an age of the internet and websites, there’s not a lot I can do to thoroughly publicize events that occur within hours of the time releases arrive in my e-mail inbox. Yet it seems as though that’s increasingly the kind of advance notice I receive — which is to say little at all. Spoiler alert: Those releases often end up in the virtual trash can on my computer desktop. I end up frustrated I couldn’t use them. You end up without any coverage. That makes it the worst of times. Or should I say the worst of timing?

I also endure the worst of times in reviewing the growing pile of content I receive about politics. These aren’t what I’d call news releases. When it’s all politics all the time, is it really newsworthy anymore that somebody disagrees with somebody else or what they’re doing? Send me news about somebody who’s eager to set aside petty political differences to consider what’s best for the citizenry of this country and then actually accomplish something, and I’ll snap to attention. Pronto.

My aim today, though, isn’t to complain about my lot in life. Not counting a recent skiing accident in which I bonked my helmeted head hard enough to lose consciousness, there’s not a lot to complain about. For the most part, I’ve been blessed, and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful, in fact, I wasn’t hurt worse on the slopes — although I’d hoped at one point I might be like the John Travolta character in the movie “Phenomenon” and become a genius in the process. Then again, he died at the end of the film.

So let’s return, shall we, to yet another of those best of times when it comes to news releases. And that’s when I receive content that’s especially interesting and maybe even a bit offbeat. It’s as much fun as finding Easter eggs.

The only problem is that it’s difficult to allocate space for such items in a newspaper I strive to maintain as all local all the time. But that’s why God made newspaper columns. In celebration of the best of times, here’s a sampling of some of the interesting and offbeat news releases I’ve received:

The latest results of the Delta Dental Tooth Fairy Index indicate children receive slightly less cash. Based on a poll of more than 1,000 parents with children ages 6 to 12, children received on average $4.13 from the tooth fairy, down 11 percent from a year ago. For those who think this is so much falderal, consider the Tooth Fairy Index has served as a reliable economic indicator in tracking with the movement of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index for 12 of the past 14 years.

Here’s something for bosses and human resource managers to ponder — perhaps while they lie awake at night. According to a study of retail workers in the United Kingdom, one in 10 employees has fantasized about killing his or her supervisor. Fortunately, a remedy could be available. A separate study led by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada found that employees given the opportunity to stick pins in a voodoo doll of their bosses reported lower levels of hostility. It turns out workers didn’t want to physically hurt their bosses so much as enjoy the experience their feelings were validated.

If they won’t do it for themselves, maybe Colorado employees would consider taking more time off to improve the economy. According to a report from AAA, 52 percent of Colorado employees have unused vacation days — accounting, in fact, for a total of 12.2 million vacation days at the end of the year. That unused time has significant economic potential: If Coloradans were to take every vacation day allotted to them, it would generate an overall economic effect of $3.1 billion.

Perhaps some of those employees would lend their unused vacation days to me. Now that’s what I’d call the best of times.