"Good news - a couple's getting married in the Magistrate's Office at 2:30."
Grumbling a bit, I dropped the phone in my lap and did the math. I wasn't exactly sure where the civil magistrate's office was, but I had a feeling it didn't have a drive-thru window. The courthouse it must be in was a few blocks away, the streets choked with Friday afternoon traffic. More importantly, my main epic of the day, a minute-thirty look at last minute shopping that was due to premiere at six, was uh, stuck in development. So I ditched my plans to find a street vendor and dropped Unit 4 into Drive instead. City pigeons dove for cover as I peeled out of the florist's parking lot and into a crowded turning lane. Sitting there under the light, I felt my blood pressure rise as it sat. on. RED.
The bus parking lane outside the Courthouse was empty so I glided right in and parked up by the newpaper boxes. Wedging my El Ocho placard in the winshield, I hopped out, popped the hatchback and grabbed my Fancycam and wireless microphone, leaving my tripod and a pile of pocket change behind. I made it three feet up the sidewalk when a small car pulled up, front left window rolling down to reveal a smiling woman with a box of Krispe Kremes and a weirdly bearded Joe Killian behind the wheel. It was one of those odd, disposable moments in your day, a cinematic vignette in which interesting people make ill-timed cameos, but I was under the proverbial gun so I declined the donuts and turned to scurry up the long sidewalk. 2:25 blared the sign atop the old JP building: 'still time', I thought as I ran up the wheelchair ramp.
That's when I saw them...
Lips pierced, elbows inked, glares seething... I'm not saying the swath of citizenry funnelling into the courthouse door was less noble than most, but if Jerry Springer ever runs out of audience members, I got the hook up. Worst of all, these people were in my damned way and nothing short of ordinance would clear the way. So I did what any self-respecting photog would do: I pantomimed self importance by grabbing the attention of the dead-eyed attendant by pointing to the logo on my fancycam. At first I thought I'd found a fan, a glimmer of light making her gaze look almost lifelike. But then she conferred with her heavily-credentialed superior, whose facial expressions ranged from "You can't be here!" to "Who gives a #%@^?". I got the latter and was forced to fume as a guy in a Slipknot t-shirt in front of me dug day old roaches out of his pants pocket.
When finally the denizens of misery made it through the line, I gingerly placed my camera on the conveyor belt, along with the wireless microphone and my wallet. This did not set well with the basket lady, a stark enforcer of x-ray etiquette. "PLACE YOUR ITEMS IN THE BASKET!" I did so - with a death-stare straight out of Shawshank. Another mistake. She must have used some hand motion to call for back-up, for though I never heard her mutter a word, two beefy sisters were waiting for me on the other side of the metal detector. One held a wand; the other a Master's Degree in kidney punches. Never breaking their gaze, I stepped through and raise my arms, my inner ear listening intentlyfor the clank of my camera exiting the X-ray machine. That's when the twins moved for the kind of thorough wanding you usually have to drive out of state for...
"Over here, Sir."
Another linebacker in a skirt wasved me over to the other end of the conveyor belt. She had her hand on my camera, a clear violation of the International Photog Creed. But after the slap and tickle I'd received from the Kidney Twins, I was just happy to see my rig with its innards intact. I instinctively reached for it, but she of the sloped shoulders recoiled, demanding I turn the 'camera' ON for her, so she could sign off on the fact that it wasn't a flamethrower in disguise. Perhaps she was afraid I might light up a sleeping bailiff. I have been known to out 'em on tee-vee. Once she saw a dull blue light pour from the eyecup, she released her hold, for who would rig a fake camera with a real viewfinder? I didn't dare ask, for yonder clock on marble wall read 2:28 and I still didn't know where the civil magistrate's office is...so I inquired.
Tactical error, for while the bearish bailiff had mapped the location of the snack machine on every floor, he hadn't yet figured out where the magistrate's office wuz. He could only advise me to take the elevator down to the information desk, where one of his colleague's would be more than happy to delay me further. Instead I chose to look around, spotted a sign with the words CIVIL MAGISTRATE pointing me upstairs. Knowing the elevators would be stuffed full of accused humanity reluctantly acending to their dates with justice, I bee-lined through the stairwell doors and dug deep for the first few steps. Two flights later, I was a good deal more sluggish, a father of two under hard deadline and heavy glass. By the time I burst through the inner office in question, I was dizzy, disheveled and a bit winded.
As for the bridal party, they couldn't have been nicer. Once I caught my breath, the groom nodded to the judge, who kicked into officiating without further adieu. As the young couple traded vows, I stood and watched through my viewfinder, realizing that - mad dash or not, it was still the easiest wedding I'd ever shot. Afterwards, I told the young married couple as much and after inquiring why the TV station was so interested in their matrimony, asked if I'd take a picture of the whole wedding party. I obliged, knowing it was the least I could do, since chances are the footage I'd clawed my way to the top for would most likely, never air.