He’d rather face the riots than the phone calls.

Just another quiet little riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Photo Source: Living History Project
Just another quiet little riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Photo Source: Living History Project

IN THIS CURRENT SEASON of political activity, a newspaper reporter’s memory from a political gathering of another day:

Chicago.

Hot.

Humid.

August, 1968.

Democratic National Convention.

Cheers, speeches, confetti, balloons, bunting inside the International Amphitheatre.

Rioting, fixed bayonets, clubs, tanks, arrests, troops and police in the streets, in the park. Rocks thrown. Food thrown. Jeers. Anti-war chants: Hell no, we won’t go . . .

Stink bombs inside the hotel.

Smelly circumstances, on several levels.

The reporter worked throughout the day.

Then most of the night.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

Had to file stories for morning and evening editions of his newspaper.

Deadlines wait for no scribe.

Finally, in the wee hours, relative calm was established.

Time out.

Whew!

The reporter had time for maybe a couple of hours of sleep before he had to get back to work.

Asked the hotel front desk for a wake-up call.

Please.

And now perchance to sleep.

Ah, sleep.

If only for a little while.

Sleep, blessed be thy name.

Reporter staggered to bed.

Exhausted, he dropped into deep, deep restorative slumber.

Caution: Might oversleep, miss his next deadline.

Didn’t care.

Sleep was all that mattered.

News would have to wait for sleep.

Is two hours of sleep too much to ask?

Hotel room phone rang. Jangled him semi-awake.

Has two hours gone by already?

How could it be?

Hello.

Man asked: Is amber there?

No.

Back to sleep.

Phone jangled again.

Hello.

Is Amber there?

No.

Struggled to get back to sleep.

Maybe mumbled a naughty word or two.

Wasn’t he entitled?

Phone rang again.

Annoyed, he gruffly said hello.

Is Amber there?

No.

Reporter slammed the phone receiver down.

Hard.

Maybe broke it.

Would the hotel charge him extra for phone damage?

Wouldn’t look good on his company expense account.

The editor would frown. Utter a naughty word or two.

Worse, probably.

Trouble getting back to sleep.

Finally, managed to drift off.

Sleep.

Ah, sleep.

Phone rang for the fourth time.

Or was it the fifth?

Lost count.

Rrrrrriiiiinnnnggggggggggggg!

Rrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggggggggg!

Hello.

Is Amber there?

No, she left about ten minutes ago.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author of The Ladies in the Pink Hats and My Johnny.

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  • Don Newbury

    Similar story, EXCEPT instead of leaving, Amber herself calls, saying: “This is Amber. Have I had any calls?”….

    • Roger Summers

      Funny.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    On stories this big and with everything there is to write about, inside the hall and out on the streets, sleep is a nuisance. Thank God for pads, pens, typewriters, and No Doz. I’m sure you had to call your stories in and dictate them over the phone to Joe Titus, who was the greatest editor/re-write man I ever worked with.

    • Roger Summers

      Actually, no, Caleb. I have been known to drive a hard bargain. Since I was a contributing editor at the time and thus part of newsroom management, I was not paid overtime. And since I knew I would be working almost around the clock, I insisted that I be permitted to type my stories for the afternoon paper during the night and then send them by Western Union so I could at least get a couple of hours of sleep. Otherwise, I would have to wait for a rewrite guy or gal to arrive at the newspaper office so I could dictate my stories. My editor begrudgingly said all right and the paper’s bean counter grumbled. But I did it. Besides, I had a S-T credit card since I traveled so much for the paper so there was not much they could do about it. I learned early in the newspaper business to be a tough negotiator. Works well in everyday life, too.

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