Whether we're interviewing public officials, average joes or other sources; following police scanners; making or taking phone calls; or doing any of the myriad other tasks involved in newspapering, most Dispatch editorial employees are regularly concerned with people - and, by extension, the human condition. Seeking to provide readers with insight into the work we do (and perhaps entertain them a bit), Life & Arts today shares a sampling of anecdotes from 2012.
A newsroom ranks among those workplaces where a certain adage holds true most days: Never a dull moment.
Whether we're interviewing public officials, average joes or other sources; following police scanners; making or taking phone calls; or doing any of the myriad other tasks involved in newspapering, most Dispatch editorial employees are regularly concerned with people - and, by extension, the human condition.
As a result, we experience our share of memorable moments, conversations and stories.
Some are funny; some are heartwarming. Others are sad, curious, maybe even scary.
Seeking to provide readers with insight into the work we do (and perhaps entertain them a bit), Life & Arts today shares a sampling of anecdotes from 2012.
Together, the tales underscore the great beauty of our business.
When she returned a phone call this month from a reader, Food Editor Robin Davis reached the reader's husband.
"She's not here," he told her. "She's at the beauty parlor getting one of those permanent waves you ladies get."
"Could I leave my name and number with you?" Davis asked.
After giving him the information, Davis offered a parting thought: "Make sure you tell your wife how beautiful she is when she gets home."
"I tell her that every day," he said.Name game
The big man with gold-capped teeth and tattoo-covered skin glowered down at Reporter Ken Gordon.
Gordon was covering a car-audio competition at Columbus Motor Speedway, and the man was taking part as Sodda Pop Kid - a name he had stenciled on his car and tattooed around his neck.
Having interviewed the man for a story, Gordon needed to know his real name.
So he asked.
"Everybody knows me as Sodda Pop Kid," the man said menacingly. "My mom calls me Sodda Pop Kid."
Gordon gulped but persisted: "What's on your birth certificate?"
To his relief, Sodda Pop Kid said: "Donald Wilson."Lucky charm
During a Reds-Indians series in June, Reporter Jim Massie - whose beats include the Columbus Clippers - stopped in the Cleveland clubhouse to talk to rookie third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
Chisenhall had begun the 2011 and '12 seasons with the Clippers, and was trying to gain the attention of the Cleveland brass, with the hope of staying in the big leagues this time.
The two spoke for a few minutes about his expectations, with him playing it pretty close to the vest.
On his way out, Massie dropped a "Why don't you get three hits tonight?" as a goodbye - and Chisenhall waved him off with a smile.
The game started with Chisenhall batting ninth. In the second inning, he hit a two-run home run into the upper deck in right field. He tripled in the fourth inning and scored a run. In the sixth, he singled and drove in Johnny Damon from second base. He batted one more time in the eighth and lined out.
After the game, the clubhouse opened to reporters.Chisenhall was sitting in front of his locker and taking off his shoes as a few reporters approached.
He looked up to see Massie.
Stone-faced, he asked: "You want to stay at my place tonight?"
Then he laughed.Phone friend
A longtime regular caller to the Sports Department has developed a special connection this year with Copy Editor Jeff Williams.
When she doesn't reach him directly, Ruth always asks for Williams - who has learned her age (60-something), weight (he isn't telling), residence (ditto) and other personal information.
She might call to ask about a Cincinnati Reds score or talk about Ohio State, but she seems mostly to be seeking a friendly voice at the other end of the line.
Williams has been talking so routinely to Ruth, she probably knows as much about him as he does about her. (She loves OSU; he loves LSU. She likes to eat at Ponderosa; he favors anyplace else. She is fond of a cockatiel named Birtie; he is partial to a mutt named Shula.)
The regular exchanges have left others in the Sports Department surmising that, when Ruth one day passes, she will leave Williams the millions they imagine her having.
His colleagues can only hope, of course, that he is generous enough to share.Egg-ravated witness
While covering an Easter egg hunt at Howard Community Center on the Northeast Side, Photographer Eric Albrecht learned that hard work doesn't necessarily pay.
After shooting the action from various angles, he thought he'd found the perfect opportunity to capture the spirit of the hunt.
Organizers had hidden several golden eggs, which would yield bicycles for several lucky children.
Having spotted one of the eggs lodged in a tree, Albrecht positioned himself nearby - hoping to record the emotion of the boy or girl who discovered it.
A woman sitting nearby asked what he was doing.
He explained, only to watch her retrieve the golden egg.
He asked why she would take an egg intended for a child. She said her granddaughter was getting the egg even if she didn't find it.
Frustrated by the incident, Albrecht took several photos of her slipping away into the crowd.
One still hangs in his office locker.Arbor ardor
On the morning of Dec. 13, the day after Reporter Jim Weiker profiled a North Side couple with 39 Christmas trees, a woman called the newsroom to report that she had even more trees at home.
In fact, she had 167 trees - or four times as many as the subjects of his story.
"Yes, it's a sickness," Barbara Hardesty joked more recently.
The 51-year-old Gahanna resident, whose Internet search found no one with more decorated trees, has long enjoyed Christmas decorating.
She recalls baby-sitting to help her single mother buy a tree for the holidays.And, until a few years ago, she decorated more than 50 Christmas trees in her home.
Then, last year, a bout with cancer prompted her to elevate her game dramatically.
"I was just beginning chemo, and it was just a way-of-life therapy," she said. "I figured, if I could do 100 trees last year, it would prove I beat cancer and cancer didn't beat me. Last year, I did 113. So, this year, I thought, 'Well, I'll do 130,' and I couldn't stop."
She started hanging the ornaments at the start of October and finished in early November.All but one of the trees (a 10-footer) are artificial and stored in the attic and crawl space.
Her drive to decorate each tree with a different theme has taken her down some unusual paths.
"I have a Dr Pepper tree for our son who loves Dr Pepper," she said. "I have one with salt and pepper shakers on it, and one with outhouses on it with little rolls of toilet paper I made."
Next year, Hardesty said, she is likely to decorate even more.
"I'll beat my record just to make sure no one else does."Scanner chatter
With scanners running in the newsroom 24/7, an appreciation for the challenges of the police officers, medical personnel and others involved in responding to calls for help is easily gained.
• A medic in an ambulance talking to a hospital: "We are transporting a 20-something who is literally so drunk that she can't stand up. . . . She is being transported comfortably - comfortably covered in vomit."
• A real-estate agent in Bexley reports that a man in his 60s has been harassing female agents during open houses. The man rides a purple bike and says he "wants to butter people and put them in an oven."
• A police dispatcher relays the gist of several calls from the Scioto Mile: "This knucklehead is 5 feet 9, about 190 pounds and riding a white bike completely naked."
The dispatcher then advises everyone to be on the lookout for him.
An officer responds: "Haven't seen him."
Dispatcher: "I was hoping, since it was a naked guy on a bike, you might have noticed him."
Officer: "Well, let's not get too ambitious."
• A guy calls 911 for help because, he says, his girlfriend has bitten off one of his fingers.
• A wife calls 911 to report that her husband has fallen off the toilet and is stuck between the toilet and the wall.
• A paramedic reports a woman with a broken nose and lacerations on her face: "She just left a Christmas party, had at least five drinks and fell flat on her face when she stepped off the curb."Flight insight
In the week after summer storms had knocked out power to much of the area, a caller to the Features Department wanted to know the status of her flight out of Port Columbus.
Administrative assistant Vicki Elliston explained to the caller that she had dialed the newspaper, not the airport.
"I thought The Dispatch would know whether the flight was delayed," she said.
Elliston told her that the paper isn't the best source for such information, then suggested that the woman call the airline for which she had bought her ticket or go online to find what she wanted to know.
"I don't have the number or a computer," she replied.
Elliston asked for her flight number, the airline and other pertinent details; then searched online to discover that the flight was not only a go but also on time.
Without missing a beat, Elliston added: "You should get there at least two hours in advance of the flight."
"Are the traffic lights working?" the caller asked.
Elliston told her that she wasn't sure about any specific lights - "but if you come to one that isn't working on the way to the airport," she said, "you should treat it as a four-way stop and proceed carefully."
After the call ended, an editor who had overheard part of the conversation wondered aloud: "Was that a relative?"Misdirected call
Each September , two Dispatch administrative assistants make a slew of calls to central Ohio restaurants to verify information for our Dining Guide.
Many of the establishments are ethnic places owned by people whose first language isn't English - which, understandably, leads to communication problems.
During one call to a Mexican restaurant, the woman who answered the phone was struggling to understand why The Dispatch was calling.
After trying unsuccessfully to explain, Vicki Elliston asked whether someone there spoke English.
The woman put a man on the line to whom Elliston again explained the reason for her call.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," the man said. "I am just a customer waiting in line to get food."Say what?
Journalists get paid to ask smart questions, but sometimes a dumb one finds its way into an interview.
Columnist Joe Blundo managed at least two this year:
• To Bicentennial Dolciato, so named because she was born the year that the United States celebrated its bicentennial (1976): "What year were you born?"
Dolciato just smiled and answered.
• To John Hill, who was demonstrating a $2 million Bugatti Veyron, a car so fancy that the leather on its seats comes only from cows with no bug bites: "Where are the cup holders?"
Hill pointed out that no one eats or drinks in a car that costs $2 million.Spring fever
Unfailingly each year, Special Sections Editor Becky Kover is reminded at work that spring has arrived: Her phone starts ringing more than usual.
With a phone number just one digit different from that of the Columbus Clippers, she finds herself fielding questions about ticket prices, home dates and the like.
Her favorite: Is it dime-a-dog night?Golden moldy
A caller to the newsroom in September had a food-safety question - and, it turned out, a firm idea of the answer she wanted to hear.
She had read somewhere recently, she told Food Editor Robin Davis, that brick cheese with a little mold on it can be eaten if the mold is cut off.
She explained that she had a 32-ounce container of yogurt, with several spoonfuls remaining, that had two spots of mold near the top.Because cheese and yogurt are made of the same ingredients, she wondered, could she clear the mold and still eat the yogurt?
Davis gave her bottom-line advice: "When in doubt, throw it out."
The caller persisted, noting that she really didn't want to discard the yogurt.
Davis repeated her advice.
The caller asked again, in a slightly different way.
Concerned that she was making little headway, Davis told the caller that, if she wanted a second opinion, she might try the U.S. Department of Agriculture food-safety hot line.
The woman quickly asked for the number.Fore warning
At the Memorial Tournament in early June, organizers designated an area for the media to capture video of players on the driving range that wasn't behind the players, as in years past, but to one side and down from where they practiced.
As Carrie Wise of The Dispatch looked through her camera viewfinder, focusing on Tiger Woods on the far side of the range, she didn't see Rory Sabbatini arrive.
Sabbatini chipped a ball in her direction, landing it about a foot away.
Hearing the ball drop, Wise looked up to see him smiling.
A creative way to say hello?
Maybe, but Wise took it as a warning.
She picked up her camera and tripod, and moved several feet back.Pilots' liftoff
On assignment in September, Reporter Kevin Joy arrived at the Webster Hall nightclub in New York to find a line snaking down the block.
During a trip to profile Twenty One Pilots, a Columbus electronic rock-pop duo, Joy assumed that the crowd was waiting for a concert by Dragonette - an established Canadian synth-pop act playing in the upstairs ballroom.
His hunch was wrong.
Two black-clad passers-by approached, with one asking: "Is this crowd waiting on Dragonette?"
A beefy bouncer, pointing to a Twenty One Pilots poster taped to an adjacent fence, looked over.
"The line is for those guys," he said, noting the adjoining Webster Hall basement where the two central Ohio unknowns were about to make their debut.Helping hand
While leaving the Dispatch building a few months ago, Photographer Brooke LaValley noticed an older woman having trouble with a newspaper vending machine just outside the door on S. 3rd Street.
Not having time to figure out the problem, LaValley asked the woman to step inside, where she could find a paper for her.
LaValley got a newspaper and was set to wish her well when the woman, indicating that her cane was still in her car, asked for help back to the car.
LaValley happily obliged.
The woman thanked her for her kindness. Once in the car, she suggested that LaValley say hello to her husband.
LaValley leaned down and said hello - to a former senator and astronaut, John Glenn.
She was equally thrilled to have met and helped Annie Glenn.Tasty treat?
The stomach of politics reporter Joe Hallett growled as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in mid-August for ice cream at Tom's Ice Cream Bowl.
A pool reporter for the campaign event at the Zanesville landmark, Hallett was responsible for reporting Romney's every move and word to the media horde outside.
Portman quietly approached, pulled a hand from behind his back and gave Hallett a Columbus Blue Jackets ball cap.
"Eat it," he said.
With the other hand, he offered a bottle of Montgomery Inn barbecue sauce, saying, "This will make it taste better."
About four months earlier, Hallett had predicted in a column that Romney would choose Portman as his running mate or, he said, "I'll eat my hat."
Days before the Zanesville stop, however, Romney had picked U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Fortunately, Dispatch policy compelled Hallett to donate the hat (and the barbecue sauce) to charity.