It's been nearly a month now since the suits slapped stickers on my unmarked news car and I'm STILL trying to get used to it. Don't get me wrong; I steered a succession of rolling billboards across the open newscape for many, many moons. But for the past few years, I've been the pilot of a quieter ride: an off-white hatchback with only a few scratches to distinguish it from a million other Mommy mobiles. It. Was. Liberating. No longer hassled in traffic, I could roll up on office buildings and imbroglios without ever letting anyone know a jackal of the Fourth Estate was chewing on the scenery. No more. Now, my once forgettable Ford has enough excitable adjectives etched onto its surface to qualify it for the pole at Pocono. So much for being aloof. Still, I've (re)learned a thing or two in my time behind the decorated wheel, mainly that volunteer firefighters bearing oversized flashlights are far more impressed with embossed lettering than they ever were at my encyclopedic knowledge of old Bullwinkle episodes.There are a few OTHER things to consider.
I'm not so much a reckless driver as I am an emotional one. Twenty years of running down deadlines with a genetic lead-foot will do that to a fella. Couple that with the fact that two high-speed interstates tattoo my home market and you get a pretty good idea why I prefer motoring about incognito. Now that a certain set of call letters adorn my every car door, I've tried to drive more like a gentleman and less like an escaped prisoner. Why, just the other day I edged off the eighty mile per hour mark when I realized the letters of my logos were sliding off the side panels.
Whether it's Metallica's Kill 'em All, some Kool Moe Dee or simply that new Katrina and the Waves track, you'd be wise to hold down the volume at red lights when your station's web address is splayed out in patriotic colors across your hood. Otherwise, you may have to explain to your superior why a news shooter who looks a lot like you was spotted singing along to The Phantom and the Opera soundtrack in mid-town traffic. And don't dare claim to be part of some cross-cultural music exchange program. My boss didn't buy that at all.
Now, I would NEVER pull my news unit under a shade tree and sack out on company time - especially now that it's wrapped in day-glo promises. But a station vehicle is more than a company car. It's a home on wheels. I have personally changed clothes, nodded off, dissected equipment and even held a seance or two in a news car - ALL in the line of duty. Okay, the seances were really just spontaneous events borne of tedium at hostage stand-offs. Whatever the case, I sure won't be as eager to host any mobile AVON parties now that the outside of my ride screams 'look over here!'.
It's human nature; you pull up to an idling news car at a stoplight and look over to see if a local celebrity is behind the wheel. Instead, you see me: a furry faced father of two hoarking down a burrito. This is good marketing? Yeah, it probably is. But I gotta tell ya, nothing will bring you out of a post-taco stupor like six set of eyes boring down on you from a primer-gray Chrysler idling beside you. And no matter how guilty I feel for not being that cute weather bunny everyone wants to see in public, I'm just not willing to cross-dress.