Monday, April 8, 2013

THE PREFECT INTRODUCTION...OR MAYBE NOT

Time for another tale from my series that I call "Memories from a  43-Year Newspaper Career." This one is from The Morning News in Florence, S.C., my last stop before The Monitor -- my final stop before my impeding retirement on Apr. 30. OK, I am being self indulgent to a great degree in these posts but...Oh, what the heck.

Shortly after arriving at the Morning News in January 1998, Publisher Tom Marschel and I drove to nearby Hartsville to be part of a round-table discussion event put on by the Hartsville Chamber of Commerce. At that event, I met Richard Puffer, chief of public relations for one of the area's largest employers, Hartsville-based Sonoco Inc. When he came up to introduce himself, it was a chore to keep from falling into a fit of offensive, childish snickers since, as bold a day, his name tag read: "Dick Puffer." The story, however does not end here. In fact, this is just the build up.

Unbeknownst to me, about two years later, Puffer was transitioned from being PR chief at Sonoco to being the vice president for university relations at Coker College, a private college in Hartsville pretty much owned by the same family that controlled Sonoco.

Anyway, one morning I was sitting at an assistant city editor's desk in the Morning News newsroom when I picked up the phone to take a call the operator was transferring to me at that location. On the other end, a woman with a youngish sounding, voice with a pleasant southern drawl introduced herself as being with Sonoco in Hartsville. Since I did not recognize the name, I asked:

ME: So, what do you do at Sonoco?

HER: Oh, well, I guess you hadn't heard.

ME: Heard? Heard what?

Then, without her thinking one thing about how it would sound, came the proud announcement.

HER: I'm the new Dick Puffer.

I bit my lip and tried to control myself, but, as usual, just couldn't.

ME: Wow, with an introduction like that, I bet you get lots of dates.

There was a moment of silence, before I heard an outburst of laughter on the other end of the line.

HER: Guess I'd better start rephrasing that.

Ya think?