Last week I returned from a speaking engagement in Dallas, Texas to discover that several of our library branches had been flooded with anxious phone calls. (And by flooded I mean, "three or more.")
Some people thought I had been fired. Others thought I was dead.
Why? Because at the end of last week's column (with a headline featuring the words "killer squirrels") was the sentence, "Jamie LaRue is the late director of the Douglas Public Library District."
I'm tempted, of course, to foist off all the confusion on somebody else -- the News Press, for instance. "Killer squirrels?" "The late director?" Isn't this just exactly the kind of wild, unverified, sensationalistic journalism that has made so many tabloid publishers obscenely wealthy?
Not that I'd blame them.
But the truth is, I DID write an article that strongly suggested that I had been killed by vindictive squirrels. Moreover, I am myself responsible for the part about the "late director."
One of the things that I appreciate about the News Press is that they don't mess with my words. The entire content of my articles, with very rare exceptions, is solely attributable to me.
So I must resort to employing a Mark Twain quote I never imagined I'd have the chance to use: "The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Except for a small calcium deposit on my left tricep, and a torn chest muscle from an old bicycling accident, I'm in relatively fine fettle.
On the other hand, it is certainly true that like most executives of public institutions, I don't have a whole lot of job security. It was, I suppose, remotely possible that my board could have decided I wasn't demonstrating the kind of dignified demeanor they demanded of a director, and invited me to leave.
For those people who thought this was the case, my profound thanks. I appreciate your concern. As of this writing, I am still employed.
As for those of you who thought I was dead ... what can I say?
On the one hand, I guess it's mostly good news that people actually read even the italicized blurbs at the end of columns on page 10 of the newspaper.
On the other hand, if "killer squirrels" in the headline and "AAHGH!" in the second to last paragraph, and "the late director" in the final paragraph aren't enough to tip people off that -- pay close attention, now -- I was JOKING -- then I can only suggest that (1) although I again appreciate the concern, (2) these people need to get out more.
Incidentally, when I was in Texas, I was talking about the psychology of censorship. A flood of folks (by which I mean, "more than 15 people") spontaneously revealed to me their attempts to deal with patrons seeking to remove books from libraries. In almost all of these cases, the books in question were books I'd read myself, and struck me as funny.
One of the things I discovered in Texas was that there's a dearth of humor in the nation. People are far too quick to take offense, far too slow to laugh.
When I got back to Colorado, many of our staff and public were still chuckling about the killer squirrels of Colorado.
It was a great comfort to me.