Monday, November 01, 2004

Dreading the Election

By the Time the Candidate Emerges from Seclusion, I'll No Longer Care...

Ahhh, Election Day! There's no other twelve hour shift I'd rather spend making widgets than the day we put Democracy to the test. No matter where my news camera and I end up, it's usually an exercise in slow-motion.

There's the early morning polling place live shots where the only thing more annoying than the anchor banter in my earpiece are the steely-eyed Election Grannies clocking my every move - fearing I'll knock over one of the booths with my tripod and spill the popular vote all over the gymnasium floor.

A little later there's all the free-for-all stalk-fest of the local Congressman/Dog Catcher candidate casting his vote, when suddenly the guy in all those scathing campaign spots DOESN'T want to talk on camera. Instead, he just wants to look Presidential as he emerges from behind the voting curtain, hoping no cameras caught him fumbling with the 'Vote For Me' thingy seconds earlier.

Don't forget the noon live shot, a totally useless broadcast moment staged outside of the polling place in which well-coiffed reporters judge local turn-out by the number of people they spotted in their three minutes of being on-scene. Minus the ninety seconds they spent checking their look in the camera's lens reflection. Take that, Zogby!

It's much the same scene for the five and six o clock newscast, except by now the production staff back at the station is in full campaign swing, gorging on free pizza while the field crews spread Chap-Stick on a cracker and call it Dinner. Expect the cheesy anchor chick to add to the overall indigestion by recanting a cute story from her own polling place during cross-talk. Hey, it's not an election until the Anchor Queen votes!

Things really start popping when the polls begin closing around 7 pm, and all the live trucks break camp from the local gyms and churches to head straight for the posh ballrooms, where glassy-eyed constituents wear funny hats and huddle around TV screens. If you're lucky they want even notice you scarfing a few rubber chicken plates from the back tables.

Before the internet there was more to shoot at these overdressed gatherings, but the days of dry-erase boards and frantic bag-phone calls are long gone. Now there's little more to accomplish than check out the opposite sex and of course, go alive every fifteen minutes with continuing team smotherage of "Slogan Wars '04".

This being a Presidential Election, most of the focus will be on the ubiquitous wide-screen TV at campaign headquarters. At least try and switch the channel to that of your employer. The suits back at the shop will appreciate it and you may just start a turf war among the reporter-types. That's always good for a few laughs.

If you're unlucky enough to be camped out with a local candidate (as most of my breed will be), you don't even have to check the tally to see how your guy is doing. If all is well the assembled movers and shakers will meet you with warmth and revelry, but if your candidate's falling behind, expect accusatory stares and the occasional rude hand gesture. Before you know it, those who welcomed you in earlier with a hardy backslap will be eyeing you with icy disdain - as you document their last great hope's utter downfall. Not the time to get caught swiping a chicken plate.

Win or lose, it'll be a long evening. By the time the local candidate emerges from seclusion to accept his mandate or merely thank all his supporters, I'll no longer care - knowing only a half dozen more live shots and three morning show re-cuts stand between me and bedtime.

Did I mention I hate Election Day?

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