Not too far from where I live is a Dunkin’ Donuts. I rarely eat donuts these days. I find them too sweet and, more importantly, too fattening. Needless to say, like many Americans who work at sedentary jobs, weight is a problem. I’m a bit more than a tad overweight.
Regardless, there are times when I crave donuts — maybe twice a year. My wife takes the position that I eat them so rarely, if I have a few, it will do me no harm. Of course, that is the argument I give whenever I want to eat something that I know isn’t good for me.
The problem is compounded by the donuts being sugar coated — take a bite and the sugar is everywhere — over the keyboard, on my fingers, on my shirt, even on my black cat! Which brings back memories.
I wish I could say the memories are fond memories, but they aren’t. They are memories of when I first started freelancing and worked on paper. What a nightmare the combination of coffee, donuts, and paper was. Especially the jelly donuts that had a tendency to leak out the opposite side from that I was biting. I still remember trying to catch the jelly before it hit the manuscript only to also knock over my coffee cup (that was in the days when I drank coffee, before I wised up and began drinking only green tea).
There it was — manuscript that I had to return to the client quickly coated with a brown stain topped with red jelly and a dissolved sugar coating that could no longer be simply brushed off. And because the manuscript was in a pile, the brown stain was rapidly making its way through the stack.
As you probably have guessed, I never did get repeat work from that client. But I did learn a valuable lesson: donuts and editing didn’t mix when editing on paper.
I rapidly transitioned from editing on paper to editing onscreen. In fact, the transition was complete within 6 months of my beginning freelancing. I admit that fear of recurring jelly catastrophes was one motivating factor to my transition to onscreen editing only, although the major reason was that in those days very few editors were willing to edit onscreen and my doing so enabled me to get more work and charge more, something I considered a winning combination.
But the transition didn’t solve the problem. In those days, too, I was in great physical shape and didn’t worry about extra pounds (30 years later, I worry about everything I eat), so I could indulge my donut cravings with abandon. But the jelly donuts didn’t cooperate. I’d bite in one and out would come the jelly from the opposite end — kerplunk on my keyboard. It didn’t take long for the jelly to become like a superglue and keep keys from working.
Cleaning those old keyboards was virtually impossible so I did the next best thing: I bought a large quantity of keyboards at wholesale so I could junk a sticky keyboard. Given the choice, I’d scrap the keyboard before I’d give up my donuts. Of course, coffee and soda spills also occasionally happened, but at least no manuscripts were getting destroyed — just keyboards.
I finally had to rethink my priorities when the manufacturer of my favorite keyboards went out of business (Do you remember Gateway Computer’s programmable keyboards?) and I couldn’t buy any more of them. Sure there were other keyboards but these were special because they were programmable.
Eventually I gave up eating donuts while working. I still like a cup of tea, but I haven’t spilled any tea on my keyboard in a couple of decades. But then came last week and I had that craving for a donut. Should I give in to it? Should I just take a break from work and eat it away from my keyboard? Should I gamble and continue working while enjoying a donut or two?
My questions got me thinking about the overriding question: Should editors eat donuts? Let’s face it, donuts aren’t particularly healthy, especially not for an old-timer like me. And no matter how carefully one eats a donut, some of it will end up on the keyboard. Besides eating while working is a distraction. Concentration is broken with each bite and it is so very easy to put sticky fingers on the keys.
After due consideration, I have come to the conclusion that an editor like me should not eat donuts while working, and probably not at all. There just isn’t an upside other than the fleeting sensation of sensory satisfaction. Having thought that, however, didn’t stop me from lusting after a sweet. (I think it was just an excuse to stop reading about hematology!) So I decided to poll the family and see what advice the family would give.
Alas, the “family” these days is my wife, my dog, and my cat. My dog almost never speaks and I haven’t got telepathy mastered, so she didn’t give an opinion. My cat was sleeping and protested at being disturbed. No advice there. That left my wife. In her case, action spoke louder than words — she gave me a donut.
I took the hint, ate the donut, drank some tea, lamented having eaten the donut as it repeated for what seemed an eternity, and swore an oath that there would be no donuts in my future. And to demonstrate the firmness of my decision, I threw away the coupon for free donuts.
I wonder how long my resolve will last.
Richard Adin, An American Editor