A few thoughts on a cold Sunday

Damn, it’s cold out this morning. Probably some black ice on some of Floyd County’s secondary roads. Think I will wait until the thermometer hits 40 or so today (the forecast calls for a high of 44) before venturing out to pick up wife Amy’s meds.

If the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg is correct — and that is always a big “if” — the high might be in the lower 50s on Thursday with partly sunny weather.

Busy week coming up. School board meeting to cover on Monday, supervisor on Tuesday, possible basketball photo coverage on Wednesday and Thursday, and taking Amy to Carilion Friday for a post-op evaluation on her back surgery last March.

An email from an old friend still covering the White House and Congress for a newspaper chain asked if I was still working.

“Any chance I get,” I said. I told him I still work as a contract reporter and photographer for The Floyd Press, and other Lee Enterprises newspapers when asked, shoot video for cable news services, run a political news website and do odd photo jobs for others.

“What are you now?” he asked. “About 70 or so?”

“Actually, 73,” I said.

“If I was your age, I’d be retired,” he said. “What don’t you retire and take it easy?”

“And do what? I’m doing about the only thing I can do,” I said. “Cover news and take photos for news. These things are what I do and who I am. Besides, if I quit working, we don’t eat. The pandemic has cut into income like a meat cleaver.”

“Know what you mean,” he said. “I still have to take unpaid leave once a quarter. At least it’s not forced early retirement.”

In any profession one might love, the words “forced early retirement” is just another way of saying “laid off” or “retired.”

I was laid off by The National Association of Realtors in 1992 when they cut the political divisions from four to two and my position as Vice President for Political Programs was eliminated. I had contributed to the reorganization plan that eliminated my job, so I was prepared and had another job lined up, even with six months of pay and benefits. It was nice to have two paychecks but only one job for half-a-year.

Fired a few times, especially in my hot-headed, younger days, but somehow was out of work for — at most — less than a week. When The Roanoke Times fired me in 1969 for not telling them I had dropped out of college, which meant I would not be able to obtain a degree in a previously agreed time period,” I was given two-weeks notice on a Friday, but flew out to St. Louis the following Monday and had a new job (for $55 more a week in pay) by that afternoon.

Those were “the good old days” as a newspaperman when a folder of clips and a portfolio of pictures would bring a job offer with just a single interview. Not now.

The COVD-19 pandemic has wiped out a lot of small businesses. My income is down 85 percent a month because many things I normally cover are suspended, postponed, or canceled outright. A video job covering FloydFest last summer disappeared when the Festival was dropped this year. So was The Galax Fiddlers Convention, where I shot news video for a North Carolina television station, the Annual Carroll County Flea Market/Gun show, and other such events disappeared. Most could be back this summer if the pandemic allows.

High school sports are sporadic. Spring athletics bit the dust last year, along with fall programs like football, volleyball, and wrestling. A shortened basketball season that started later than expected in late December was put on hold after an outbreak of COVID-19 positive tests following a Floyd County High School Buffaloes game against the Bobcats in Radford.

I will gladly live without income if being paid means putting a high school student or anyone else in harm’s way because of a pandemic. Their health is far more important.

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