By the time the dog and pony show ended, my station cell phone flashed '3 Missed Calls'. I answered two of them on the walk back to the car, juggling my camera, sticks and light like a TV stevedore. Back at the truck, I dumped my tools on the back bumper, popped open the back window and rooted through the guts of my truck for a decent Sharpie. Not finding one, I settled for a broken pencil, using the chewed-on implement to scratch two words on my shoot-disc's label: 'Mayor's Presser'. Water torture's more like it, I thought - stashing the rest of my gear into Unit 4's back catacombs. That's when a passerby stopped to ask why all the TV trucks were parked outside City Hall. 'The Mayor had a bowel movement', I cracked as I climbed behind the wheel. The man just wrinkled his nose and chased his briefcase down the street.
Ten minutes later, I almost had a movement of my own. It happened near the beginning of 'Rag and Bones', one of my favorite tracks from The White Stripes' new aural manifesto, Icky Thump. Man, I've been trying to melt that whole disc ever since I bought it - playing it over and over again in my news unit's cockpit while I engaged in the fiercest of white boy steering wheel drum solos. It was during one of these spontaneous displays of rhythm-deficit that my right hand lightly brushed the cell phone holster hanging off my lap. Something about the concave contour of that molded plastic caused a frayed synapse to fire deep within my head and a millisecond later I screamed liek the mother from those Home Aloen movies. Reaching down to the floorboard with my oen free hand, I felt around for what I was quite positive was already a lump of smoking circuitry on the Interstate.
I killed the Stripes, for I was no longer in the mood to have my face rocked. Instead, I hung my head and entered an intense period of immediate mourning. That phone was my life. Attached to my side every waking moment, the damn thing rings four hundred times a day - mostly whenever my camera is rolling. Inside its expansive brain lived an ever growing list of digits - one-touch combinations to friends, contacts and the occasional bookie. A cornucopia of goofy photos filled its gleaming gallery. How I'd live without I didn't know, let alone what I'd tell the boss. See, I'd misplaced a phone before, lost in battle while covering a blizzard on the wrong side of High Point. When I first noticed that phone was gone, I reached into my live truck and dialed its phone number. The wino who answered refused to bring back the shiny new phone he'd found, but he did offer to exchange it for a bottle of Mad Dog and two packs of Kools. I had neither and after a few choice words, severed the line - never to hear from my inebriated friend again.
I vowed that day never to lose another phone. To do so was just so ... bush league. After all, I keep track of far pricier equipment than a lousy flip-phone every day. Surely I could hold onto something as vital, as humdrum, as ubiquitous as my little electronic leash. Besides, I loved my new phone. It had a juke-box's worth of ring-tones, took fuzzy pictures and jittery videos, even reminded me every time my voice mail in-box exceeds three dozen unheard messages. Compared to my very first company phone - two cans and a string in a leather pouch, my current station-owned cell phone was the stuff of science fiction. And now I'd lost this wondrous doohickey because of a smart-ass remark and an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. Pulling into the El Ocho's parking lot, I steeled myself for the Chief's reaction. How I would convince him of my fervent dedication to equipment retention, I did not know - but as I closed the door on Unit 4, I was newly resolved to try. That's when I noticed the damn thing wedged between the bumper and the hatchback lid.
Hmmmm ... What was I talkin' about?