CLIFF’S EDGE: ‘I was born an absent-minded professor.’


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I’m not easily embarrassed, and that’s a good thing, given how likely I am to say and do embarrassing things.

I really outdid myself this week, however, and not only am I figuratively blushing in embarrassment today, but I owe an apology to any of you who may have read last week’s column.

Last week I wrote about our local street paper, “Real Change,” and an article I’d read in it regarding homelessness. I concluded with the information that there would be a program at the Burien Library on “Thursday, Nov. 29,” dealing with that topic and featuring some of those associated with “Real Change.”

I hope none of you waited until last night to attend the presentation. You see, Wednesday was Nov. 29, and that’s when the library presentation was. I hope you and a whole lot of others attended.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Burien resident Maureen Hoffmann attended, and you can read her recap here].

I didn’t make it.

It was yesterday a short time before I was planning to head to the library that it dawned on me that a couple of hours earlier I had dated a check Nov. 30. Something didn’t seem right about that, and I soon figured it out.

I wish some sharp-eyed reader had noticed the error last week, and I know there are sharp-eyed readers out there because they’ve caught me in other screw-ups.

But this was my fault alone, and, again, I apologize.

I could blame errors such as this on genetics. In my family we often alluded to the absent-mindedness of my father, who, like me, was a college professor for many years at a small school in Oregon.

The town it was in also was small town, and dad would walk to the campus in the morning and back home in the evening. The morning leg usually was direct. In the evening he most often would alter the route and walk through town.

It was customary that most evenings we would get phone calls at home with messages like, “Tell your dad he left his pipe at the barber shop.”

Or, “You can tell your dad he left his briefcase at the hardware store.”

Or, perhaps, “We have your dad’s hat at the bowling alley.”

His explanation? “I was born an absent-minded professor.”

I suspect that with me it’s not as much an absent mind, as it is overconfidence wrapped in carelessness.

I used to grade down the students in my journalism classes for any error in fact in what they wrote. I’ll hope none of them see this admission on my part.

As for the rest of you, I once more apologize for the error. I also regret having messed up my own schedule and not getting to the library program.

I suspect it was a good one.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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