Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Haranguing a Saint

Miss Shirley
Ever bum-rush a lunch lady in the name of news? I have and I sleep fine at night. But before you brain me with that cafeteria tray, understand this: I got mad respect for matriarchs, moms and even the occasional maven. So when I say I bum-rushed a lunch lady, please know I did nothing of the sort. Sure, I cornered Miss Shirley, hooked a microphone on her without really asking and told her I wasn't going to leave until she talked to my lens. But I did it with a smile! And wouldn't you know she softened a bit, relaxing just a fraction and uttering something humble. I smiled and nodded, despite the fact I couldn't hear a single word. The sun room was packed, you see, teeming with administrators, kitchen help and more than one millionaire's daughter. Between all the well wishes and privileged giggles, I couldn't hear myself stink, let alone hear how Miss Shirley was fending off my inquisition. That's when she started to cry. The mic I'd attached to her polyester lapel picked up her every syllable, but sixteen inches away, her words were lost in the adolescent din. So I nodded again, while silently praying I wasn't standing on her foot.        

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

An hour or so earlier, I pulled up to the fancy girls' boarding school, a cameraman on a mission. Seems a certain cafeteria worker had spent half a century doling out cakes, pies and wisdom to upscale offspring from around the globe. Miss Shirley's many friends were excited about her sesquicentennial and had conspired to honor her with a small ceremony - whether she liked it or not. that's where I come in - a pre-seasoned 'slinger eager to pay his station's respects. Trouble was, Miss Shirley was famously averse to hoopla. I was repeatedly warned any attempts on my part to pay homage would be met with stiff indifference - if not a highly-polished frying pan upside the head Sooo, while she mingled with her peeps in an inner room, I did my best to blend in with the lunch crowd. It was there, among the dinner trays and debutantes, that I planted my tripod. I gotta say though, standing there amid a sea of screeching fresh(wo)men, I felt a little less than invisible  

Maybe it was the hula shirt. 

Or maybe it wasn't, for once friends coerced Miss Shirley into the sun-room, I melted into the backdrop, determined to fill my destiny as fly on the wall. It wasn’t easy, as the moment the lunch lady in question spotted the newspaper photographer huddling in a corner, she froze. She stared, she grimaced she even attempted a little evil eye as her many admirers urged he to let loose with a few of those stories she was famous for. She did not. What can I say - some folk view a cameraman pointed their way as an otherworldly specter that should be examined only out of the corner of the eye. This makes it tough to document unencumbered, but when a hews shooter’s lunch is on the line he (or she) will do just about anything to get through the shoot. Thus, I didn’t really worry, as nothing short of Sharia Law was going to stop me from interviewing Miss Shirley. Actually, I’d won the match long before I cornered her with questions. Ten minutes in, the crowd convinced her to cut the cake. She did so and broke out in the first of her fleeting smiles. As she turned her head, she barely noticed the pesky news fella right there, or the fact that he too was finally smiling.

Kinda makes me feel bad I made her cry.

1 comment:

extvtog said...

Great story...fell in love with the woman after :90.