Monday, September 27, 2010

I Know Why the Caged Clerk Sings...

Outside Bill Cosby at Bennett CollegeYou know that sequence in the local news where three random people pop up on screen and comment on the subject at hand? It’s the dreaded Man on the Street interview, of course, a newscast crutch favored by lazy reporters and producers who never leave their cubicles. Personally, I’d rather dry-clean my spleen than solicit the opinions of those too uncoordinated to avert my gaze, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. Take the other day, for example, when I was forced to loiter at the corner of ‘No Comment’ and ‘Back Off, Furball!’ for what felt like a lifetime. Okay, so it was only 45 minutes, but when you’re questioning pedestrians, time draws out like a blade.

Once upon a time of course, any self-respecting shooter could hide behind the glass while his /her prettier partner quizzed the homeless about nuclear proliferation, but NO MORE! Actually, I’ve been polling folks solo since Bush the Elder was throwing up on foreign dignitaries. Jeez, drop a few one-liners in the morning meeting and The Suits just assume you’re a people person. Truth is, I’d rather play Wooden Indian than Game Show Host, but when a handful of meaningless soundbites are all that stand between me and lunch, the bodies are gonna fall! Or at least pause in front of my lens long enough to hold forth on why the city won’t pinstripe the bike lanes, or how they feel about the new flavor of urinal cakes or some other such manure we foist upon a suspecting public.

Does that sound bitter? You’d be a little edgy too if you found yourself panhandling for points of view on such a regular basis. Worse yet, I’m pretty good at it! Maybe it’s hereditary. My father, a verbal wordsmith if there ever was one, could talk a junkie out of his fix. Me, I only got a fraction of his powers of persuasion, but two decades on the streets how to profile the garrulous, where to eye-gouge the reticent and when to simply let the logo do the talking. When all else fails, I can always fake a seizure and hoodwink some good Samaritan into weighing in on the pros and cons of using tasers in Sunday Schools. Sure, it’s politically incorrect, but when you’re eyeballing Goth Kids and Grannies for the very same reason, manners are the first thing to go.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a college kid in front of the toy helicopter kiosk that deserves my undivided attention and - if he’s lucky - a complimentary pretzel from that weirdo down the Mall.

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