Having just helped Weaver decimate a Chinese buffet, I rolled up to my afternoon shoot fat, dumb and groggy. Good thing I was early. The two chartered buses I was assigned to follow were still idling outside the courthouse, their human cargo still milling about. Pulling in behind the bus, I threw Unit 4 into Park, sank back in the seat and paid for staying up so late the night before. Through the windshield, I watched the students, candidates and other policy wonks slowly board the bus. But the picture grew fuzzy as my eyes relaxed. Soon, I was no longer loitering in a parked news car; I was drifting off to that seductive place down by the shore of slumber and consciousness. FA-WITTT! With a jolt I awoke, the hiss of the bus’s air brakes still filling all my senses. Blinking away the sleep, I was relieved to see its pudgy driver still hitching his belt by the door as a few stragglers did what stragglers do. Closing my eyes again, I once again sought repose, smug with knowledge those same loud brakes would wake me again when the driver did decide to pull away…
I was wrong, for when I next opened my eyes, the buses and the people in them were nowhere to be seen. I cranked the key on instinct and achieved a screeching state of re-ignition. Backing off, I dropped it into Drive and hit the gas, nearly clipping a row of newspaper boxes that had mysteriously jumped into my path. As the stop light ahead went yellow, I fell in behind a UPS truck and followed it left, scanning the rearview for any police cars that might be pulling out of their headquarters behind me. Seeing no light-bar silhouettes, I looked ahead to see a brown wall with angry red lights rushing toward the windshield. I hit the brakes and jerked the wheel to the right, turning on the wipers by accident. The dusty blades smeared a brittle bug carcass across the glass and I had to hit the fluid doohickey to clear the view. Ahead, the white rounded top of the tour bus appeared in the distance, just a sliver of it visible over the roofs of the dozen cars between us. With a heavy sigh I maneuvered my way past traffic marveling at how quickly a stolen catnap could morph into an old episode of Mannix.
Sixty seconds later, I drafted into the shadow of the second charter bus. Not sure exactly where it was going, I let off the gas, knowing only it was in search of substandard housing. It being East Greensboro, that could have been just about anywhere and I correctly guessed it would turn down Martin Luther King drive before the first turn signal started flashing. Once on MLK, the first bus pulled over to the curb and when the second bus fell in line I followed. The next ten minutes were a clinic in cameraman land tactics. Grabbing my camera and tripod, I made a beeline for the bus door, recording shots of the passengers as they disembarked. Spotting the tour leader, I chatted her up while attaching a microphone to her lapel. A few soundbites later I took it back and assumed my position back by the front of the bus. I chilled there with my sticks until the bus rumbled past; is ass-end taking up much of my screen. As it grew smaller I tweaked my focus and for not the first time wondered what I might be doing these days, had I only followed my teachers advice and applied myself back in middle school.