Greg Peck: “White elephant” gift fits this bicycling editor

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Greg Peck
December 29, 2014

See the picture accompanying this blog? Attached to the back of my bike is the “white elephant” gift I got belatedly from Gazette reporter Neil Johnson. It was pretty funny, and given the creativity Neil puts into his stories, I knew something innovative awaited me.

The Gazette newsroom has been having early December parties for years that involve exchanges of “white elephant” gifts—cheap or homemade presents or unwanted items found in basements and “regifted.” The funnier, the better. It's a great way to have fun while spending little or no money.

Odd as you might find this, I've been working here 27 years, and this was the first such exchange I took part in. I learned that I was missing out on a lot of laughs.

However, the party was always on Thursday nights, when my son was visiting me as he was growing up. Later, I started playing racquetball with buddies on Thursday nights. Sometimes, I'd stop in at the gathering at a downtown bar after the gift exchange. Also holding me back: I was unsure I could think of gifts creative enough to match the wits of my coworkers.

This year, with the Janesville Athletic Club's racquetball courts now closed, I ran out of excuses. So I put my name in the hat and drew one out. I selected Jennifer Du Puis, our photo intern we all called Jenny. I oversee The Gazette newsroom's style guide, an online tutorial that explains, for example, whether we capitalize city attorney before the person's name (we do) and whether it's spelled Wal-Mart or Walmart (now always Wal-Mart). Jenny and I had been conversing about the style guide in her final weeks with us, so I knew just what to get her. I found an unused three-ring binder in my basement and printed out the entire style guide to send off with her. I had everyone in the newsroom sign their names to a “best wishes” cover sheet. Then I also tucked into the gift bag an unused coffee cup I stored away when I served as Sunday editor. The cup had the “sunrise” icon that once graced Page 1 of Sunday Gazettes.

Jenny was delighted with the gifts.

From reporter Andrea Behling, Local Editor Sid Schwartz, one of few newsroom deer hunters, got a framed photo with his mug superimposed over a hunter with old-time attire—along with some of the matching clothing.

Reporter Andrea Anderson is in a newsroom with two Andreas and two Andys. We also have an Ann and an Anna Marie. It can get confusing. Andrea Behling likes to be called “Andie,” and sometimes Andrea Anderson is mistakenly called “Andie,” much to her chagrin. So reporter Gina Duwe's gift to Andrea A. was a sign directing people to the desks and extension numbers of Andrea Anderson, Andrea Behling, Andy Reuter and Andy Beaumont. This hilarious sign now adorns Andrea A's desk.

Oh, and the “Don't run over me” sign in the photo above? Neil missed the party because of a family medical emergency, and he finally attached my gift to my bike when I pedaled to work Friday. Neil says he found everything he needed to build it in his garage. Maybe you've already seen the photo on social media. Ann Fiore took the photo Friday, and Neil promptly posted it to his Twitter account.

I thought about riding home with the sign attached, but it was too flexible and flimsy to survive even that mile-long ride. “It's a prototype,” Neil explained with a chuckle.

The sign is now sitting next to my desk. Maybe it will help you find me clear across the newsroom if you stop in to see me.

Speaking of bicycling, now that winterlike weather is returning, my rides have ended for the year. I finished 2014 with 172 round-trip rides to and from the office—far surpassing my goal of 150. That's 344 miles of exercise and 344 fewer miles on my car.

If we get a mild day in January before a big snow hits, maybe I'll get out the bike again. Just don't expect to see me riding with Neil's sign.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


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