The other week I was sitting at the table before dinner minding my own business and perusing the pages of The Free Press, a stellar midcoast Maine newspaper that was the first to carry my column when, all of a sudden.…

What’s that? Okay. Maybe I wasn’t so much “perusing the paper” as I was reading my own column.

Why was I reading my own column? My wife asks that question all the time. She is under the impression that I actually write the column so I have nothing to gain by reading it.

Well yes, sometimes I write it and sometimes it just kind of goes off on its own and seems to write itself. Occasionally I write without my tin foil hat and the subject matter veers off in one direction and then another and I just let it. This brings up all kinds of philosophical questions about self-identity, language and consciousness not the least of which is “who is that speaking to me from inside my head?”

There is a good deal to gain reading my own column. First, by the time the piece is published, I have usually forgotten what it was all about. Perhaps my short term memory is failing but I am delighted to find the column was submitted on time, is fairly coherent and written in English.

Next I read it because it has a completely different feeling on the printed page than it does on my computer. It’s a result of “newspaper magic.” The newspaper gives it an air of authority and does a good job obscuring the fact that I am just an ordinary guy. Don’t be fooled: I may have a high tolerance for re-writing and looking up how to spell common words but just like you, I fall asleep in church and sometimes can’t remember how to get to the liquor store.

Frequently I find that errors I made have been corrected by the editor or proufreader which makes me look really good. Then again, on occasion I will make an obscure reference or intentional typo to spice up a sentence only to find it adjusted making it grammatically correct but turning into a ho-hum sentence; just in case you wonder why some of my sentences are ho-hum.

But that is not what this column is about.

I was just saying that I had opened the paper and on the page opposite my column was a weekly feature called “from Offshore” by fellow writer Eva Murray. Her piece was titled “The First Lesson of First Aid.” I often read Ms. Murray’s columns and it’s not because my wife makes me do it; it’s because the writing is insightful, poignant and entertaining. But mostly, truth be told, I read her columns because every so often they are a little bit wacky. She does live on an island. In this case I read the first few sentences of the Murray column and decided to come back to it just as soon as I finished checking if my own column was any good.

Apparently Eva Murray wasn’t having any of that. As I sat there self-absorbed, I was taken totally by surprise when all of a sudden, her column burst into flame. The fire started under the fold and advanced brushfire style: not word by word but by taking complete sentences at a time. By the time the paper hit the floor and was doused with some fast footwork, the last third of her column was reduced to ashes. It was interesting that the flames stopped short of the line that read “call 9-1-1 where you can.”

My good wife always lights candles for dinner. Sometimes she manages to light a votive almost under my nose while I’m absorbed reading the paper. Such was the case but after the accusations and name calling we had a pretty good laugh as we always do whenever we come close to destroying our home and entire lifestyle. I quickly went back and read as much of the Murray column as was left because I didn’t want to risk it rekindling if I let too much time pass.

I should be so blessed that someday my own columns suddenly burst into flame. More inflammable topics may help. In the meantime I won’t be leaving the Murray column once I start it. And to keep that offshore island voodoo at bay, I might keep a glass of water handy anytime I read the paper.