Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Left Behind

FetusCamIf you’ve never pulled away from the shoulder of the road only to notice your tripod diminishing in the rearview mirror, you ain’t chased news long enough. If you had, you’d know that for every tool, there is a hiding spot. Me, I’ve lost, forgotten and misplaced more gizmos than that shaky clerk at Radio Shack. What do you expect to happen when you put a flighty writer type in charge of actual recording equipment? Don’t get me wrong: I’m buttoned up. But the act of inventory goes against my wayward nature, so I have to constantly remind myself not to leave a trail of television across the Greater Piedmont Googolplex. Most times I manage fine, but interrupt my rhythm and I’ll quickly turn my powers of attention elsewhere. SQUIRREL! Hmm? What was I talking about? Oh, right: creative gear dispersal. It doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it leaves a mark. Take Monday, when I raised the act of unpreparedness to the level of performance art.

It started early (as these things will), when my partner of the day Charles Ewing sidled up to me in the newsroom and said we were late for an unimportant meeting. Couldn’t he see I was regaling my fellow photogs with tales of my four days off? Apparently not, which is why I broke off mid-syllable and went to my gather my gear. Inside my camera locker, I found a familiar rig. I grabbed the fancycam and didn’t think to look around. It was a move I’d come to regret all day. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s get to this meeting. It was an unremarkable summit on Fourth Street in Greensboro. I shrugged off Charles’ offer of directions as we headed downtown. Once we got there, I realized my adopted hometown numbered their streets in sporadic fashion and I was forced to reach all the way to the windshield-mounted GPS. Charles only chuckled, as this was not his maiden voyage on the Good Ship Lenslinger.

A few minutes later, we pulled into port. Actually, it was a county-owned parking lot, an apron of asphalt with marked parking and threatening signs. Picking out the prettiest one, I threw my unmarked car into Park and tossed a logo in the windshield. We got out and I gathered my gear, all while telling Charles how the day before, I’d sucked forest floor for a good ten minutes after half a hamburger failed to fuel me through nine miles of mountain bike trail. I was just getting to the part where I left my body when we turned toward the building in question, two video hit men schlepping toward their mark while engaged in the most of trivial chit-chats. Kinda like those guys in Pulp Fiction - but with A LOT less killing. Though to be fair, Charles probably wanted to throttle me - or at least he soon would. First though, we had to get inside, no easy feat considering the first four doors we tried were locked.

Eventually, we found a door equipped with a candy like button and once Charles pushed it, a female voice told us to wait. We did, until the door before us clicked open and we let ourselves inside. That’s where we found the owner of the voice, a portly receptionist with all the charm of a two truck driver. Hefting a thumb toward a staircase, she directed us to the basement, where our quarry waited unaware. That changed a moment later, when a PR lady looked up from her mind-crushing boredom and noticed a news crew about to enter the room. Apparently, this would not do, as she jumped up like her seat was on fire and ushered us back in the hall. She and Charles spoke as I raised my tripod to scarecrow level and sized up the light seeping from under the door. You ever drag half a TV station into a heated meeting already in progress? If you like dirty looks, I’d highly recommend it. Otherwise...

Hold your breath. Maybe then, you won’t choke on the disdain aimed your way by those charming policy wonks who wish not to be featured on the evening news. Me, I held my head high as I slunk to the rear of the room. As for Charles, he found a seat quickly, all the better to direct the panel’s attention to the furry photog making a racket in the back. But the pop and click of my tripod plate was nothing compared to the cuss I uttered when I turned the camera on and tried to hit RECORD. Nothing happened and for the first time in four days, I looked at the side of my camera. There, where two SD cards normally nestled, sat two empty slots. Suddenly, I remembered being told they were gonna use my gear while I was away. Apparently, they had and as a result I was now trapped in a kind of subterranean hell with absolutely no way to record all that fire and brimstone. That’s when I shot Charles a look, pantomimed my predicament and started the long walk back to the car, where I hoped I’d find an extra card or two.

Eventually, I did and made it back downstairs in time to document the closing seconds of the meeting we had to wrap a minute and a half of TV around. Charles gave me a funny look when I walked back in. He told me later he didn’t think I’d return. Truth is, I didn’t really want to, but knowing I had to salvage something from our morning, I trudged onward until the meeting ended and we cornered our prey of the day for an one-on-one interview. As Charles began coaxing soundbites from our nervous guest, I silently congratulated myself for saving the day. Sure, I pulled a few rookie moves before noon this day, but it would take more than mere neglect to unhinge a lenslinger of my vintage...

That’s about the time my only charged camera battery died.

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