That time I pissed off the publisher

Many years ago at the paper, I was in a meeting about reorganizing employee parking. I had always learned that you don’t mess with employee seating or parking arrangements, but I guess some people never learn.

As we talked about one possible change, I asked, “If it’s going to piss people off, why would we do it?”

“Excuse me?” Carl Mangum, our publisher, responded.

I don’t know why he was in the meeting. Maybe he also knew that you mess with employee parking at your peril. He was a Southerner gentleman, but I didn’t know him well. I was assistant managing editor for news so I didn’t have much contact with him.

“I said, ‘Why would we do this, if we know it will piss people off.”

Mangum looked straight at me, motioned with his arm at the other people sitting around the table, and said, “John, there are ladies present.”

It didn’t occur to me until that moment that “pissed off” was an objectionable phrase. I said, “Oh, sorry.”

Afterward, I went to my boss, Ben Bowers, to tell him what happened and ask what I should do. He told me to write him a note of apology, which I did.

I got the note back the next day. Mangum had written, “Forget it. I have.”