Ribbon cuttings don't usually pack alot of peril, discounting of course death by boredom. But today I was anything but lulled to sleep as a late afternoon thunderhead parked itself directly over the rent-a-tent I was sharing with a hundred or so nervous strangers. I forget why we were all there exactly; it was one of those obligatory back-patting sessions that looks good on a corporate calendar but makes for abysmal television. Thus, I wasn't too concerned about the keyote speaker's motivation as I steered Unit Four toward my last shoot of the day. I was too busy studying the engorged stormfront forming over my North Greensboro destination.
When I arrived, I found I wasn't the only lenslinger glancing skyward. WFMY's Steve Hofbauer was already on scene, eyeballing the darkening horizon and shaking his head at the idea of joining an oblivious throng of business people under a tent in the middle of what was most certainly about to be a gully-washer. But like myself, Scott don't call the shots. Instead, he hits his mark (every time!) and if that means braving nature's wrath amid a sea of power suits, so be it. Besides, Steve's a big strapping dude with a winning grin. If God Almighty was gonna strike a photog dead, surely it would be that little surly guy in the Hawaiian shirt, right?
Don't answer that. Just know that halfway through the opening remarks the pregnant clouds' collective water broke, unleashing a summertime deluge that triggered flashbacks in three out of four Vietnam Veterans sitting on the back row. Even an ex-peacetime squid like myself couldn't stop scanning the crowd, wondering which audience member was most likely to stampede over the nearest cameraman - should our thin covering shirk its berth and take flight over the Greater Piedmont Googleplex. Eyeing a row of hardhatted fellas by the shelter's edge, I analyzed their footwear and wondered what a steel-toe'd workboot might feel like when pressed against my face. Not so hot, I'm guessing...
In the end, no one stepped on my beard. In fact, the podium jockeys did little more than laugh off the steady thunderclaps, the sideways rainbands, and the way El Ocho's cameraman was texting his Last Will and Testament into a beat-up cell phone. In an effort to further stoke the crowd's imagination, one nespaper photographer kept triggering his flash, sending white-hot strobes ricocheting off the dancing canvas and reminding everyone of the more unfortunate episodes of Rescue 911. Mercifully, most of the speakers cut their witticisms short and together the panel lunged for the pile of giant scissors. As they finally sliced the cermonial sash, I looked down and realized I was standing in three inches of roiling rainwater, right beside a loudspeaker plugged in to a fully submerged power strip.
That's well worth thirty seconds of forgettable TV, don't ya think?