Margaret Carroll, RIP
When I started at the Herald in 1992, I worked on the Clipper news desk, which back then opened for business at 5 a.m. Not only was that an obscenely early hour to be trying to make sense of copy from Reuters and Agence France Press, but there were just three of us (later, four) to get the whole paper off the floor by 10:30 a.m. So it was pretty much the Job from Hell.
Or it should have been. In fact, I've never laughed harder or longer than I did on that shift, and the biggest reason was Maggie Carroll, who sat across from me and kept up a nonstop stream of hilarious vituperation against past bosses, present bosses, future bosses, avaricious corporate swine, corrupt political swine, banks, cafeteria chicken of suspicious origin, bratty children in restaurants, Hurricane Andrew (which took the roof of her house), other people's dogs, space aliens, idiots she passed on the freeway coming into work and other random targets. One morning back when Postal Service workers were slaughtering their colleagues with impressive regularity, we arrived at work to find a memo saying that if anyone in the building ever went nuts and took hostages, we should call security and speak the code phrase, "The lights are getting dimmer near my desk." From then on, whenever Maggie spotted a boss she hated (that is, any and all of them) walking into the newsroom, or when the SII pulled one of its frequent kamikaze dives, or even a headline didn't fit, she'd cackle ominously and murmur to me, "The lights are getting dimmer!''
For all that, Maggie was one of the kindest people I've ever known. I'd only been on the job three weeks or so when I had a minor hassle with the bank that was refinancing my house. The cash necessary at closing was going to be $5,000 more than the bank had said, and I only had three hours to round it up. Maggie -- remember, she'd only known me three weeks -- offered to run down to the credit union and pull $5,000 out of her account for me on the spot. Soon after that, I was amazed and yet somehow not surprised at all when she took over the care of an ex-husband she'd barely seen in 15 years who came down with brain cancer. (Inevitably with Maggie, there was a darkly funny backstory: She got involved when the ex-husband's girlfriend, who thought a little bit of terminal brain cancer was no excuse for a diminished libido, called her for sex tips.)
Maggie was a barrel of sardonic laughs and a splendid friend. I count myself so, so very lucky to have known her. And I'm missing her already.