I was sitting at my desk the other day, wondering what in the world I might blog about next, when a conversation between a nightside reporter and a photographer caught my ever so jaded attention.
"Hey, we got a find something else," the reporter said with more than a little disappointment in his voice, "the murder didn't work out."
"Really? What happened?"
"Turns out it's natural causes."
"Dude, that SUCKS!"
About that time they noticed me staring from across the cubicle. "What?" they asked in near unison.
"Nothing, nothing..." I sputtered as they turned back to figure out what they'd now pursue in the name of news. But I could only smile as I scribbled the phrase in a worn notebook. 'The murder didn't work out.' Five simple words that would strike most people as incredibly callous; a declarative sentence that wouldn't raise the first eyebrow in a working newsroom. In fact, I wouldn't have given the remark a second thought, had I not recently dedicated myself to collecting such oddities of the trade.
It's not that my friends and colleagues are unfeeling. Quite the opposite, actually. But when the trials and tragedies of a region are your daily commodity, you quickly adopt a shorthand to beter manage the never-ending influx of salacious suffering. Like Slick Willy Clinton, we know how to compartmentalize. Each week I find myself uttering profanity-free yet unthinkable exchanges that I wouldn't dare repeat around my children.
"Hey, remember last summer, when that kid died in the hole? The Mom's on the phone. She wants to talk." OR "Yo, turn the live truck around. The old folk's home ain't on fire after all. Seems some grandpa just likes to pull the alarm when they don't serve jello." OR "Why do I care if a plane's comin' in on half an engine? My Easter Egg piece airs in thirty minutes!" OR "Hey dude, we can't do Mexican after all. Some jerk stabbed his wife in Burlington and the suits are goin' nuts!"
Most of the time, I don't notice the unusual verbage inherent in news-gathering. But then I'll visit some hushed cubicle farm, where the overdressed denizens speak in whispers cloaked in political correctness. Only then do I realize that my line of work isn't nearly as normal as I assume it to be and that, for better or worse, I'm damn lucky to have found my calling at an early age. Now if you'll pardon me, the Sheriff's gonna announce charges on some shady childcare center. Can you believe that? I mean, who schedules a press conference at four o clock in the afternoon anyway?