Ask me to name my most feared assignment and I won’t cite the late night drive-by, won’t mention multiple murders or scribble a list of hurricane names. No, my worst case scenario is a lot more bloodcurdling than that. For the one shoot that strikes dread in the crusty heart of this lenslinger is … The Budget Meeting. Be it county, city or haughty suburb - there’s no place I’d choose to loiter at less than a contentious summit of low-level politicos. I’d rather chase cadaver dogs into the woods. Even the old ones that pass gas when they run. That would still be better than choking on the noxious fumes that stain the ceiling tiles of your local County Commissioner Chambers. Sure, it’s odorless, tasteless and otherwise invisible. But something inside those musty halls makes the clock hands slow to a creep, causes my calf muscles to ache and gets me mulling over the upside of a good ole fashioned lobotomy. I know it sounds extreme, but sit through enough line-item reviews and all manners of madness will run through your skull. That is, before you forget your name completely.
The only solace is, you rarely suffer alone. Take yesterday in Wentworth -where I peered through the haze of egocentric blather to lock eyes with a doppelganger of sorts. He was the only familiar face in the jam-packed galley, but I didn’t know his name. That’s damn rude of me too, since we’ve both made hollow chit-chat at countless camera conventions over the years. But as I studied his lack of expression, his chosen moniker escaped me. That’s okay for I could feel his pulse from across the room. It came in low and slow and I began to realize my cross-town competitor was hibernating on his feet. Sure, he was functioning on some physical level, propped up on his side of the hall as some blowhard with a chintzy necktie placated his constituents ... but his gaze was as empty as the vaulted chambers were full.
Pulling back from my own viewfinder, I stopped to admire the chrome on his thousand yard stare. That’s when the head Commissioner began railing on ‘The Media’, taking a local newspaper reporter to task for coloring his words. Scanning the room for said offender, he came up empty, settling instead on your truly and his trusty Sony - neither of which penned the article in question. “You people in the press should be ashamed of yourself”, he said as he bore a hole into my lens. I just smiled weakly and tried my best to flip him off with my mind. It didn’t work; he just babbled on with the self-satisfaction of a small market news anchor watching hid first promo. Ignoring a few snickers from the crowd, I looked over at my semi-conscious colleague for support,. He just stood and stared, but he blinked back his own message in photog Morse Code…
‘Kill Me’, I think it was. I’ll have to ask him for sure at the next train wreck.