People still take personal ownership of their newspaper. I was reminded of that during a recent trip to my Toyota service center.

As I sat in Greentree Toyota's service department in Brookfield, an older man came over and started thumbing through my paper. He did say "excuse me" as he started to walk off with a section.

But then he was surprised when I said, "Excuse me, sir. But that's my paper. I brought it in here with me. You're welcome to it when I'm done."

What is it about seeing a newspaper in a public space? When we're killing time waiting for our car to be repaired or our laundry to wash, we gravitate to reading material, and a newspaper, found on a table or a chair, seems to become public property.

As a reporter, I am delighted when someone wants to read our paper. Be it The Spectrum or The News-Times, I am only too happy to share it with them. Yet I am always taken by surprise at the proprietary nature that accompanies readership.

My recent Greentree experience brought back a memory from when I was first writing for The News-Times 10 years ago. I helped do a weekly page for New Milford and was very proud of the page when it came out.

As I sat at my local laundromat waiting for my wash to dry one afternoon back then, I read the paper with great relish. I not only had "my" page, but I also had two news articles in the edition.

I would send them to my friend on the West Coast. Wouldn't she be proud.

Suddenly, I heard a tearing sound. A man had walked up to the chair by me -- where I had piled my already read newspaper sections -- and tore the corner off "my" page.

I must have looked shocked as I swung around.

"Was that your paper?" he asked apologetically. "I needed a bookmark."

Now there's nothing sacrosanct about a newspaper article, I realize. But maybe there's something great in the way we all take ownership of a newspaper when we see one.

Having had newspapers in my possession on those two occasions has invited interactions and conversations with people I otherwise would not have met. Both men were very nice, very polite and funny.

I must admit that, while I am excited about electronic publication of newspapers and enjoy reading online, I hope we never lose the communal ownership that so many of us feel for the printed pages of a newspaper... or miss out on those personal interactions their presence can bring.

Contact Susan Tuz

at stuz@newstimes.com

or 860-355-7322.