Stuff Happens

Here’s one of those subjects no publisher likes to talk about, but every audience member wants to hear about…

There isn’t a single publisher in existence who wants to be late delivering their books—yet inevitably, every publisher ends up shipping something after its promise-date. The reasons for being late are many and varied. I’ll let other companies speak for themselves, but here are the two major reasons some Library of American Comics projects are delayed: [1] we run into unexpected difficulties finding key material, meaning we have to go to secondary sources to search out missing strips and [2] paraphrasing Sparky Schulz’s far-famed beagle, “Good grief, we’re only human!”

In short, sometimes Stuff Happens.

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The most recent Stuff that Happened to me was the rare October nor’easter that struck the East Coast on Saturday the 29th. As late as the 11:00 PM local weather forecasts on the Friday before the storm, we were told to expect the snow to start falling around 8:00 PM Saturday—au contraire! Around here the pasty, heavy white flakes started falling just after 3:30 in the afternoon; by 4:30 PM the roads and sidewalks were white and greasy (a friend, driving home with her family around this time, got into a moderately serious car accident as another driver was traveling much too fast, skidded through a stop sign, into the intersection, and then zonked—whammo!—into her car. No major injuries, but both cars were totaled).

By 7:30 PM, electricity went out in my home…and didn’t come back for about three days.

It was an interesting experience, but not one I’d care to repeat anytime soon. No heat, no hot water, no way to cook food, the only illumination coming from sunlight during the day, flashlights or my Coleman lantern at night. That was the situation inside – outside was even freakier.

When I stepped outside Sunday morning, it was like a bomb had gone off in the neighborhood. The thick snow had landed on tree branches that often had not finished shedding their leaves, adding pounds of extra weight. Add to that increasingly-high winds as the storm wound down, and it meant many trees simply couldn’t stand the burden. Huge branches had crashed to earth – or smashed down onto power lines, either getting tangled in them or causing them to snap altogether. A thin white pine in my front yard had cracked in two roughly sixty percent of the way up its trunk; I could see the individual interior wood fibers at the point of the break, looking almost like sheaves of paper.

Taking to the streets revealed an even more chaotic situation. Whole malls and shopping centers—normally bustling on a Sunday—were without power, doors locked, parking lots empty. Traffic lights were dark, making certain intersections an adventure to navigate. In each instance, the few gas stations open for business had cars backed up for more than a quarter-mile, drivers waiting to fill not just their vehicles, but also containers they would use to fuel snow blowers or generators. The other places that appeared to be jam-packed were fast food outlets – the ones that were open had no available parking spots, with cars snaking around the block, impatiently waiting to reach the drive-thrus.

 

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I stopped at a local supermarket. The interior of the building appeared dark, but its doors were open, cars were in the parking lot, and customers were trickling in and out. I entered and found minimal lighting, but the scanners and cash registers functioning. The frozen food and deli sections had been blocked off—no power meant establishments like this one would be taking a sizeable loss, since thawing frozen food would be a total loss. “Eerie” is not too strong a word to describe the scene…and I’m told this was one of the lucky supermarkets. Some reportedly could not power their check-out stations, but opened for business on a cash-only basis, with extra employees on hand to manually record the SKU numbers of purchases in the hope (likely a vain one) of maintaining inventory control.

All in all it was almost the way Sherwood Schwartz wrote it, fifty years ago: “No phone, no lights, no motor car/Not a single lux-ur-ee…”

And of course, for me, the storm and its aftermath meant I lost a whole batch of time during which I expected to be able to work on LOAC projects. Will any of our books ship late as a result of my storm-tossed adventure? This time we dodged the bullet, in part because I worked at warp-speed to try to catch up once my electricity was restored in the middle of the following week. (Well, I worked at warp-speed after I grabbed my first shave and hot shower in far too long!)

But in a small outfit like LOAC, sometimes we have to accept the limitations imposed on our staff that are beyond anyone’s control, and hope that our loyal readers will understand that, sometimes, Stuff Happens.

 

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