Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfecting the Improbable

"It’s no good - plenty of signal but I can’t lock it in."

Garrett didn’t answer, just folded his cell phone and reached into the live truck. Fat-fingering three toggle switches at once, he killed power to the transmitter, IFB and compressor. The sound of rushing air overhead told everyone around that Channel 3 was striking camp, even before the bright yellow van’s telescopic antenna began to slowly dip. That everyone included the good folks from Action News 11, who were parked just across the church’s parking lot. Garrett thought he saw his competitor’s profile glance upward before Darby ever noticed. But then again his partner was busy with his own cell phone, reading aloud lines from a skinny notebook he’d been scribbling in all day. The bored producer on the other end was still typing when Darby noticed the bearded photog killing switches and stashing gear.

"What up, Gee?" he asked from under his regionally famous bangs.

"Can’t get a signal out. Sputnik says its no-go." Garrett glanced at his watch and cursed. 4:37 - not much time to change locations and do all he had to do. "Call the suits and tell ’em we’re headed back. You can front it from the set."

"Yeah, that’s gonna happen," Darby muttered to his designer tie as he dialed the executive producer’s desk. By then Garret had exited the van, coiling up cable and doing some muttering of his own. When he stuck his head back inside, his mood only darkened at his partner’s news.

"They want us to go the Hospital. Go live outside the E.R. Maybe get some sound with the victim’s family." Darby gathered his stuff together, bracing himself for the impending expulsion.

"Are they high? It’ll take fifteen minutes just to get there! When am I supposed to edit the five o clock? What moron’s gonna gamble his whole B-block for a freakin’ live shot?" The indignant questions continued, but Darby couldn’t hear much after Garrett slammed the van’s side door shut and stomped off. Four seconds later, the driver’s side door swung open and the rhetoric resumed.

"Don’t these boneheads know we ain’t got a chopper?" Garrett asked the dashboard as he bent over the steering wheel and cranked the key hard. Dropping it into reverse, the shaggy shooter goosed the gas pedal and minded the van’s massive blind spot, all while raising perfectly logical and perfectly hopeless objections to the News Gods’ latest whim. Darby could only grin his paid-for grin and bear it. Nobody could out-drive, out-shoot or out-bitch the crusty lifer beside him and Darby knew better than to interrupt. Besides, last time G. Lee was on a tear - he learned a brand new word for testicle.

Nine minutes later the bright yellow van wheeled into the Emergency Room parking lot. A pudgy guard in a tiny booth inhaled sharply, drawing the shack’s flimsy walls inward. Before he could grab his clipboard, Garrett had commandeered the last spot marked ‘Visitor’ - wedging his boxy broadcast van into a spot better suited for a Toyota pick-up. Squeezing out of the driver’s-side door, a scruffy fellow flung open unseen compartments and began plugging in cables. The guard scribbled down the yellow van’s license plate number as the driver bellowed something to his better dressed passenger. Checking the faded clock face inside the sunburned shack, the guard marked down the time … 4:46.

"Those yaks would rather have a live shot in their show than a soundbite from ole Osama! Whoever sold them all those damn live trucks must a been workin’ on commission only..."

G. Lee’s soliloquy didn’t slow him down none. As he tore into his familiar refrain, he spooled out cable, set up his sticks and powered up the truck’s laptop. Darby meanwhile mumbled the lines he was scheduled to deliver to the Channel 3 faithful - cloaked details of a church trip gone tragic. But before that could happen, he and G. Lee had to erect their field studio, edit their video and feed it back to the station. Darby was confident it could all happen - provided Garrett’s head didn’t explode first.

"Just once, I’d like to run their ass ‘round God’s creation, all so some schmuck with store-bought cheekbones can stand in front of an empty damn building!"

By now Garrett was repeating himself. Finally he quieted down a bit as he huddled over the live truck’s laptop and opened up a timeline. 4:52 shone in one corner of the screen, but to him it may have well as been hieroglyphics. With one hand on the XD deck’s control knob and the other one tap-dancing over the keyboard, G. Lee sliced footage, layered sound and filled in sixty three seconds of cutaways and close-ups. Darby put on some powder and sprayed his hair, cupping the can’s emission with his hands - lest any particles float off and disturb the grumbling hippie currently bending time in cyberspace.

‘Blue suit’. The guard jotted down those two words as he watched the better-dressed man emerge from the yellow van and stand in front of the camera perched outside. At three minutes before the hour, the technician type hopped out and began wrestling with a wobbly light-stand. As he did, Blue Suit gestured to his ear and said something that apparently angered the other - for the bearded figure tossed down an extension cord and stomped to the back of the truck. Grabbing at something inside, the lesser-shorn of the two yelled back to his partner, who returned the thought with a series of vague hand gestures. This seemed to infuriate the cameraman, as he bolted out from behind the van and ran straight toward Blue Suit. Just when the guard thought fisticuffs were imminent, the bearded figure dropped to his knees and began grappling with the heavy cables draped across his tripod.

That’s when he reached for the remote control and turned on the small TV wedged into a corner of the booth. White noise and static gave way to the familiar face of Channel 3’s main anchor. As the silver-templed gentleman intoned the details of another tragic accident a graphic over his shoulder turned to a picture of Blue Suit, standing straight and nodding solemnly. Through his window, the guard could see the same blue suited young man rock back and forth on his heels across the parking lot - as his poor helper tried to strangle the octopus of cable at his feet. Just when the guard thought the octopus might come out the winner, the man stood up, beaten and defeated but leaning into the camera. About that time, the floating box behind the handsome anchor on the TV screen grew bigger and bigger until Blue Suit began to speak.

"It's quiet now, but just hours ago this was a chaotic scene as..."

The guard tried to pay attention at first, as the young man in the blue suit yammered on about some family members being distraught and all, but then he remembered Judge Judy was on, and he switched over without a second thought. He did however keep an eye on the weathered cameraman in the distance, who was kicking at the gravel, smoking a cigarette and pouring leftover grievances into his cell phone.


photogguy said...

DUDE! Have you watched one of my tirades? 'Cause you're dead on with how I sound when the crap is hitting the fan, right up to where my grumping starts to settle down when I begin repeating myself.

An outstanding read.

in-gun-ear said...

Have you been ease dropping on us in Engineering lately for materal?? Sounds like last week!!

turdpolisher said...

A new 4-letter word for testicle? I wanna be just like G.Lee when I grow up.

Oreo said...

Y'know, when I read that I had this picture of a vertically and follicly challenged photog with a Cajun accent. It seems 'Polisher and 'Slinger are the epitome of the photog lifer.