The curmudgeon and the copy editor
Patricia C. Foley is a copy editor for Automotive News.
When I got to Automotive News about 15 years ago, Jack Teahen and I hit it off right away. We had some things in common: Irish backgrounds; experience at the Detroit Free Press; a fondness for grammar, punctuation and syntax; and the reputation of being just a bit curmudgeonly. Who, me?
We worked together a lot -- on sales stories and tables and on the editorial page.
We loved to discuss and sometimes debate the details of a story and just about everything else. Once in a while someone overhearing our vigorous exchanges might have thought we were arguing, but that was just how Jack and I talked to each other sometimes. There was always a great deal of respect and affection.
There was a subject, though, that Jack and I always disagreed about, and that was when spring begins. After a cold Michigan winter, it's more than idle chatter. Jack said it was spring when it had been warm for a few weeks. I went with the calendar, pointing out that the transition from winter to summer might contain a bit of both. The argument was never resolved, of course.
So several years ago, Jack began presenting me with an "Ode to Foleyspring" -- or Pholeyspring or Pholleyspring -- once a year.
They were not great poems. The rhymes were occasionally brilliant, more often tortured. To make the words work, he called me, variously, Mrs. Foley, Patricia, Pat, Patty, Patsy, Tricia and, once, Trixie. Here are a few sample verses (from various odes):
And a zing, zing, zing.
What's that you say?
The girl's deluded.
Just see the trees,
They're still denuded.
The groundhog stands
With Pat on this.
"Dumb stupid beast,"
We hear Jack hiss.
Yes, spring will come, you may be sure,
Still winter's blasts we must endure.
Stiff upper lips we all must have
And coat those lips with no-chap salve.
And now we wait
For March two-one
To see who's right
And who'd undone
And I wait, too,
Amid the flak.
My heart's with Pat;
My dough's on Jack.
You get the idea. He signed them "Anon." They were hokey but funny pieces, and I loved them. Jack didn't stop writing them when he retired. In fact, last year, he wrote two. He must have forgotten the first when he penned the second. Come March two-one, I'm going to be so glad I have it.