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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Tacoma payoff odorless

I broke into a cold chill the other day at the sight of a large, unopened and unexplained package that someone had placed on my desk in the newsroom.

This makes me look like a complete sissy, I know. But in my defense there was something utterly scarifying about this box.

It bore a Tacoma address.

Some of you might recall that the last gift I received from that burg came from a Tacoma official who wanted to reward my sarcastic outpouring regarding his, ahem, aromatic city.

Some reward. Mingled with a mishmash of harmless civic trinkets was a bag of dark fertilizer that is actually made from what the Tacomites send off when they crank the ol’ toilet lever.

Silly me. I thought it was ground coffee.

It was only until I had my nose practically rooted in the rank granules that I realized the gift was outhouse, not Maxwell House.

So pardon me for wanting to slip into a hazmat suit and scan the new box with a black light for traces of motel room DNA – or worse.

A few minutes of slow, deep breathing calmed me down and jogged my memory.

Ah, yes …

The Bet.

Last February, I engaged in a cross-state wager with Peter Callaghan, a columnist with the Tacoma News Tribune.

Our bet was centered on the latest U.S. census numbers that would decide which city – Spokane or Tacoma – would wind up as Washington’s second-largest.

We won, of course.

Spokane is No. 2 while Tacoma must sell its No. 2.

Who says there’s no order in the universe?

The payoff, as I recall, was supposed to take place over lunch in Ellensburg at some future date. We were going to exchange municipal souvenirs, with the loser buying the grub.

It never happened, but don’t blame Callaghan.

He sent me an email months ago about setting something up. I promptly printed it out, stuck it somewhere and put it out of my mind.

Callaghan apparently got tired of waiting and decided to send me my “winnings.”

I carted the carton home and set it on my coffee table, where it remained in still-unopened condition for more than a week.

Sorry. I just couldn’t muster up the nerve to take a look-see.

You’ve heard of PTSD?

Therapists call my problem PTDS, as in “Post-Tacoma Deposit Syndrome.”

Then Wednesday morning I noticed the shipping label also had a “time sensitive material” notation.

What does that even mean?

For some reason, the image of Callaghan sending me Tacoma’s favorite pet popped into my mind.

How ridiculous. Like anybody’s gonna box up a live rat for shipping purposes.

Overcome with curiosity, I slit open the box and soon was examining what it held.

Here’s the list in order.

• A box of “Tacoma chocolates.”

(Could this be the latest offering from the Tagro industry?)

• A signed book of Tacoma-related political cartoons and observations from Web designer, self-proclaimed deep-thinker and itinerant cartoonist R.R. Anderson.

(I’m pretty sure some of it was created during an acid trip.)

• A rumpled, gray Tacoma News Tribune T-shirt imprinted with “Top 10 Reasons to work for the TNT.”

(Reason 4: “Run every Buttafuoco story available.” Gads, Callaghan, how long have you been holding onto this?”

• A yellowed copy of a Tacoma Reporter tabloid that proclaims Pierce County as the Northwest’s sex predator capital.

(No wonder Tacoma population figures are so close to ours.)

• A 1950 copy of “Washington Boasts.” This Tacoma-produced publication is filled with myriad so-called factual tidbits about the state.

(This from page 27: “Ask any citizen of Spokane what the Capitol of the world is and he will answer, straightforwardly, matter-of-factly, soberly, straight-facedly – and will believe it – when he says: Spokane.” Yeah? So what’s your point?)

• A Metronome Coffee sleeve with some kitschy lapel pins.

• A 1983 bottle of Coca-Cola that commemorates the Tacoma Dome.

(No surprise there. Everybody knows about Tacoma’s long-standing relationship with coke.)

Guess I had nothing to worry about. Callaghan paid off his bet with some clever and self-deprecating items about Washington’s third-biggest burg.

Nice try, Peter.

I’m still not eating the chocolates.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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