Happenstance connects odd events to ponder and amuse

Duane Dailey

If it weren’t for happenstance, my life would be less amusing. When things happen in unexpected ways, I wonder why.

When philosophers think on the “meaning of life” amazing theories come forth. I’m waiting for a “come forth.”

Months ago my wall clock went kablooey. A new AA battery didn’t fix it. It’s a modern device: Easier to replace than repair.

I should go buy a new one. But my Scottish genes wouldn’t allow that. I knew one would show up in a thrift store. Saturday, I found it at the Salvation Army store.

I had to assume it would work. But, I knew a dollar invested could pay off more than any dollar lottery ticket.

That afternoon at home I found the needed AA battery, inserted it in the back of the clock, turned it over. The second hand was ticking away! Pay off.

Then I saw the time on the clock. It was four minutes ‘til two o’clock. I checked my Timex wristwatch. The real time was only two minutes ‘til two o’clock. Am I good at timing? I moved the big hand ahead two minutes. Whew! Not only a money saver but a labor saver.

That sounds amazing, right? Wait ‘til you hear this next one.

My job this week is to teach regional Extension specialists at “In-Service Education.” In this ISE, I’ll encourage writing. I’ll ask them to write for local newspapers.

I’d just begun mulling my lesson: “Why write?”

Some background for this happenstance: I read many more book reviews than I read books. Weekly I get book reviews from the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times brings me a fat tabloid of book reviews on Sunday.

I’d subscribed to “The New York Review of Books.” The 50 tabloid pages brought far too many ideas to ponder. I couldn’t keep up.

I let that high-price subscription expire. It’s that Scot gene at work again.

However the NYRB missed me. At first they sent renewal offers at full price. Then I began getting deals. They really missed me! Oh, so much love. Finally, they gave me a special six-month deal, adding a blank journal book as a prize. I fell for it. I bought.

Saturday, my first issue arrived. It carries a review of a new book by Philip Roth. He has written many best-selling novels. The title “Why Write?” How’s that for happenstance?

The novelist quit writing sexually provocative novels such as “Portnoy’s Complaint.” The last 10 years or so, he wrote no novels, only non-fiction. That’s more my speed.

Regional specialists will hear a quote or two from Roth. He helps explain the difference between writing — which I do — and public relations — which I don’t do.

Roth reinforces my bias. Journalism is about telling what real people do.

PR, in my mind, is the original fake news. University administrators think they need Public Relations. PR writers I notice are paid a whole lot more than journalism writers.

So, administrators’ PR writers tell how good administrators are. They try to tell readers “We are good for you.”

I prefer the old way. Just tell what MU does. Let the people tell us, if we are any good for them.

Administrators tend to travel a lot to listening sessions amongst the people. But, too often those meetings are just bureaucratic fluff talk. But, there’s woeful little listening to people.

I keep missing the listening part. Happenstance works against me.

Newspaper readers have a firewall, protecting them. News editors filter out PR. They hit delete on stories of bureaucratic jargon.

The polite term editors use for those stories is “PR puke.” I like their attitude. Although I would never use such crude assessment of administrators.

I am pleased to see our new top Mizzou leaders being listeners. They also know truth and tell it.

Share your truth at duanedailey7@gmail.com or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203.

(Duane Dailey has been listening to agricultural issues through his coverage of Missouri’s farm economy for more than 55 years as a reporter for the University of Missouri Extension program).