On the problem of determining sanity

Charlie Smith was the over-night assistant city editor at the Sun-Times in Chicago when I worked there…. you know, a while back. Charlie came in just after midnight and baby sat Chicago until the next morning, mostly with darn little to do. It was a just-in-case kind of slot. There was a single desk assistant too, sometimes me, to go to the library and make beat calls and that. Not much happened.

So Charlie read books. He bought them used and went through several every week.

One night he called my attention to the book he was reading and pointed out that a previous reader had underlined every line — every single line on every page — with a ruler and pencil. I admired. And Charlie told me that he had concluded that the person was insane. I agreed. Charlie was a wise man, and my boss.

A little later I noticed across the desk that Charlie was erasing the underlines, all of them.

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