Friday, March 06, 2009

Screech of a Leach

Innoucuous Apartment FireHow is an apartment fire like a garden party? It’s not, really – but when you’ve kibbitzed near as many hulking remains as I have, the wine and cheese crowd seems a little stuffy. Perhaps I’m not giving these afernoon soirees enough credit; I’m sure you’ll find lovely people there. I just prefer my small talk with something smoldering in the background. Those who crash calamity with deadlines in mind know what I mean. Or maybe they don’t. Truth is, this silly gig has skewed whatever social norms I once embraced. Whereas once I marveled at that plume of smoke in the distance, I now curse it for delaying my edit plans, my lunchbreak, my afternoon interludes of quiet reflection. It’s kind of negative, I know – but at least I still know how to behave around the freshly bereft. For every huddled clump of hollow-eyed homeowners I’ve put on the tee-vee, there’s a hundred others I’ve left the eff alone. See, I’m a photog, not a complete KNOB. It ain’t always easy, but I’m doing my best to live the difference. Take the other day for example (please!): I didn’t put that skeevy guy in the blue blanket on the news and it wasn’t JUST because he was flashing me gang-signs. I’m not totally sure what he meant, but I have a feeling he wasn’t inviting me for a sit-down. A BEAT-down, perhaps...

So, now that we’ve established I’m a master of apathy with a penchant for distance, allow me assure you I ain’t alone. There are countless lenslingers in the news crew nation, rugged if not rumpled individuals who wouldn’t think of getting in your business - if the logo in their lives didn’t pretty much demand it. We’d much rather keep to ourselves… out there by the ditchbank, clustered just off the breakdown lane, bathing in the rejuvenating exhaust of a dozen haphazardly parked fire engines -You don’t think we’re discussing journalism out there, do you? Most likely the topic centers around some workaday abomination: the threat of furloughs, a competitor’s infideility, that rug the weekend sports goob has started to sport... you know, important stuff. Okay, not so important stuff, too. Like cinema hitmen chewing over minutia outside their victim’s door, journalists and first responders have the oddest conversations at the edge of other people’s darkest hours. C’mom, I can’t be the only schlub who’s had to dub in the sound of an idling firetruck over a particular piece of footage in which I questioned the efforts of some self-appointed TV genius... can I?

On second thought, keep your opinions to yourself. Just know that I’m more than willing to stand behind the bulk of my statements, should Saint Peter meet me in front of the pearly gates with a rolling transcript of my crime tape commentary. Sure, that crack about scanner code junkies and sheet metal enthusiasts was a little crass, but not once did I storm the porch of a new widow with details designed to ensure the procurement of tears. Trust me, those people are out there (or at least they were) but the vast majority of journalists I know would rather take a kick to the kidneys than grill the hapless or the bereaved. So much like the veteran traffic cop who cringes at the sound of breaking glass, most newsgatherers out there are all too human. We just have weird jobs; occasionally exciting occcupations that once felt revolutionary but now smack of laborious futility. Or maybe that’s just how I see it. Whichever the case, it’s a safe bet you’ll find me far more entertaining at the train wreck than at some stuffy, cheese-tray get-together. Trust me, I’ll understand completely if the invite never arrives.

Besides, I look lousy in a sun-dress...

1 comment:

Jim said...

Excellent post, we've all had those "edge of the disaster" conversations that are about anything BUT what's happening in front of us.

Myself, I've got plenty of time to catch up today, thanks to the cancellation of a planned ride along. The animal control guy loaded us up, headed out, and promptly peeled the lightbar off the truck on an overhead beam in the parking garage. "I've through here a thousand times," was all he could say.