So, I was assigned to cover a meeting last week and when I got there, I realized I didn’t have a notebook.  

End of the world, right? 

Five years ago, maybe. Five years ago, showing up at a meeting, event or downtown rumble would have sent me into panic mode. I would have frantically dialed the newspaper’s Emergency Notebook Hotline and screamed into the phone at the nice lady who staffs it.

“CODE 11!” I would have shrieked. “Auburn City Hall! Words are flying like small arms fire out here and I’ve got no pad! I repeat, reporter under fire with no pad! Calm down, Mimi, we’ve trained for this!” 

Mimi then would have dispatched the chopper from the Sun Journal roof and bare seconds later, a sack of notebooks would have been dropped on my location, along with a bundle of pens and rubber bands, for some reason. 

What I mean to impart through this completely plausible dramatization is that there was a time when the pen and pad of paper were extremely important in my profession. The humble reporter’s notebook, slim enough to slide into a back pocket, used to be my best friend. My partner in crime. My lover. 

OK, maybe not my lover. That would just be weird. 

Point is, I used to rely so heavily on the notebook for reporting news, I had more stash locations than a professional dope runner. 

In the car? They were everywhere: under the seats, jammed into the glove compartment and stuffed above the visors to the point where notebooks would rain down onto my lap whenever the sun was out. 

At home? Yeah, bruh. Notebooks all over the place. In the tool box, you’d find nothing but pens and notebooks in place of hammers, screw drivers and drill bits. If you wanted a spoon out of the silverware drawer,  you’d have to dig through a mile of notebooks to get it. My mattress was stuffed with notebooks instead of feathers. If you wanted to take a shower. … 

Wait, why are you showering at my house again? 

I had a lot of notebooks, is what I’m saying. They were as ubiquitous in my world as loose change, shoes or crack pipes in yours. 

After the Horror at City Hall last week, I came home and looked around. My supply of notebooks had dwindled dramatically, but instead of reacting with panic, I kind of shrugged and decided to give Mimi the night off. 

Who needs a ratty old notebook, anyway, when you’ve got Evernote at your fingertips, three different audio recorders on your phone and even a spiffy web application to transcribe your recordings?

The only thing I’ve been using notebooks for as of late is drawing appropriate caricatures of editors and spontaneous tic-tac-toe games on the street. 

It saddens me in a way. It makes me feel like that fiend Jackie Paper who, when he no longer needed his boyhood pal Puff, left the dragon to die of loneliness and starvation in a cave. It’s always bothered me that the Paper punk was never brought up on charges for this. 

So when I got home, I searched until I found the wee supply of notebooks leftover from the olden days. I held the notebooks close. I sniffed them, caressed them, drew an inappropriate caricature of a mean editor (you know who you are) just for old times’ sake. 

Then I snatched them open in anticipation of old memories scribbled in ink from back in the days of dinosaurs and notebooks. What joy! What excitement! 

What vast white space. With all but a very few exceptions, the notebooks were nothing but blank pages.  

In one notebook, every page was virginal save for the very first page upon which “the installation has detected that the following disks have unmounted partitions” was scrawled. 

In a second notebook, the only words written were: “Frosty is crankin’, Ian’s asleep. The lines already are a couple dozen deep.”  

All of which makes me suspect that my notebooks have developed their own artificial intelligence and are conspiring to write really bad poetry. 

The third notebook, the one that really haunts me, is inhabited by two simple words standing alone in a vast world of whiteness. 

The two words: “Do it!” 

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been real tempted to call Mimi at the hotline because this feels like it constitutes an emergency. If my notebooks have become self-aware enough to write poetry, God alone knows what is implied in the “Do it!” command. 

And if my notebooks are out to get me, who can blame them? When dazzling new technology came along, I cast those pads aside in the same indifferent way I cast aside paperback novels in favor of Kindle books. The same way I hauled those vinyl albums to a dark corner of the basement and replaced them all with a digital music collection. 

Whatever those notebooks have in mind for me, like that twit Jackie Paper before me, I probably have it coming. 

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