Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Slinger Incognito

The NEW Unit 4Nearly a month after driving my old Ford Explorer to the edge and back, I’m still getting used to the new Unit Four. Sure it’s nice: the All-Wheel Dive, the sunroof, even the nifty radio controls on the steering wheel have made life on the street just a little more refined. Problem is, it doesn't f-e-e-l like a news car. Why should it? There's no police scanner noise crackling from the dashboard, it doesn't smell of old onion rings yet and so far not a single logo desecrates the door. Only a tiny number 4 in the corner of the windshield gives it any air of officialdom. Catch a glimpse of me in traffic and you'd never believe I was an Action News Man, though you might wonder what kind of Mens Cosmetics I sold. No doubt about it, my new hoopty is a tad emasculating.

See, ever since I've been chasing news, I've done so from behind the wheel of a highly-marked news unit. The look has changed over the years, of course, but the sticker scheme always involved some garishly rendered numeral and a false promise or two. Early on, I thought all those tacky slogans on the door gave me the right to drive like a terrorist - a policy I followed until I scored just about every kind of speeding ticket there was. Since then I've slowed my roll considerably, but I never realized how driving a glowing logomobile affected my approach until I went completely unmarked. For instance, I grew used to the stare of strangers at stoplights. I knew how to wheel my billboard into a small town gas station and empty it of all its inhabitants - without even trying. Yeah, I used to come screaming in to a ribbon-cutting parking lot like a runaway ambulance; now I mosey up to crime scenes with all the authority of a lost Soccer Mom.

I know what you photogs are saying: "Dude, quit yer bitchin! I'd give my buddy's best battery for an unmarked car!" I used to say the exact same thing. Still, my transition to stealth mode was rougher than I suspected. Maybe it's machismo, perhaps its the perk of parking where you want, but really now, it's just a matter of access versus anonymity, right? Right? Yeah, I'm not so sure, either. All I know is that two weeks into the clandestine life, I found myself eyeing packs of multi-colored Sharpies with no small amount of lust. But before I could check into rehab for ACW (Acute Logo Withdrawal), my 13 year old daughter saw my new ride for the first time and, being 13, passed immediate judgement: "Cool," she said "now you're undercover..." Suddenly a veil was lifted and I saw for the first time the logic of my snow white chariot. Undercover, eh? Yeah, I can dig that; it goes nicely with my aversion to logowear. Besides, now that I can slip in like a ninja instead of rolling up like some circus clown, I may just commit better journamalism -- and what, I ask you, is more important than that?

Well, being able to pick your nose at a stoplight without triggering any angry phone calls ranks right up there too...

8 comments:

Austin said...

The station I used to work for had obtained possession of a beat up old Econoline someone had be gracious enough to weld a 35' mast to, and the best part of it was, they never bothered to have the shameless vinyl made up for the sides of it. Every day I would drive around the white, unmarked live truck (which, by the way, made the live shot at the junior high VERY interesting). The funnest part of it, were the drunken homeless asking if that funny-looking thing on top was a ray-gun. I'd tell 'em I worked for the government, and I was spying on people.

turdpolisher said...

I'd give-up my babycam to be able to go knuckle deep for an itchy nose nugget!

Best of luck Double-0-Slinger.

Duff said...

My station doesn't have marked vehicles, and it definitely has its downsides Cops always shout at me whenever I roll up on a crime scene, chicks don't check me out nearly as much, and the neighbors don't notice how important I am. On the other hand, I don't have to have a stupid logo on my car. It goes both ways.

crookedpaw said...

All you need now is an "ankle cam" and some dark shades and you will be truly "under cover". Crookedpaw

Anonymous said...

Those freestyles make great news cars and are smaller then the full size suv's. I liked that one I drove.
-Matt W

Anonymous said...

You mean you really do pick your nose? I just called your station because I was lonely.

HP

Adam Butler said...

I found the specs on the Freestyle and I reckon you could fit at least two more hookers in the back of the new unit than you could in the Explorer.

everWhise said...

I wish there were a switch to flip to go from 'mobile marketing circus wagon' to Photojournalist James Bond faster than a producer can change their mind. I have seen and benefited from both aspects.

Unfortunately, my unit is due to be replaced this year. Mine is from the end of the tasteful 'logo on the door' era, the new ones are defiled with full body wraps that look more like ice cream trucks than news units. Even without graphics, the 14 antennas on the roof would not lend to covert ops, though.