We got word last night that a former colleague had passed away unexpectedly.
There are two kinds of people in my life: Those who have worked the copy desk on Election Night with me, and those who haven’t.
Roger was in the former category. If you aren’t, you’ll never understand why that’s important.
I met Roger near the end of my first year in the classroom. For nine months, I’d been struggling to do some good in a completely corrupt school district, to no avail, and I was exhausted. Burned out and living miles from anyone I knew, I felt alone and adrift.
Then I walked into the newsroom one May evening, and Roger — in typical Roger fashion — went out of his way to make me feel welcome. He showed me around, asked me questions, joked with me, and just generally included me. It was the first time in ages that I’d felt as if I fit in somewhere. I don’t think Roger ever knew how much I needed that.
Journalists are a different breed, and the ones who stay up past midnight, putting the paper to bed are — to paraphrase Orwell — “more different than others.” We are the grammar geeks, the designers, the adrenaline junkies. We work the hours no one else wants, and we love it. We get on each other’s nerves. We yell at each other. But between headlines and frustrations, we learn each other’s quirks, concern ourselves with each other’s lives, and entertain each other with outrageous humor that keeps us sane in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.
It’s that last bit I’ll remember most when I think of Roger.
Some of the laughs we shared aren’t fit for public consumption. (That Monica Lewinsky emoticon we invented, for instance.) Others wouldn’t be funny to anybody outside the newsroom. But then there’s this. And this.
And most of all, this.
For better or worse, I will never, ever be able to hear “Mr. Roboto” without thinking of Roger, and I will never be able to think of Roger without hearing “Mr. Roboto” somewhere in the back of my mind.
Somewhere, Roger is enjoying that last fact way more than he’s got any right to.
I already miss him.