After eleven days off, I wasn't sure I'd remember how to push minutia through a tube. But mere minutes after planting my camera outside a busy department store, I realized - like dirty looks from women who didn't do their hair before venturing out to return those oven mitts - those news-gathering callouses weren't gonna fade any time soon. For instance...
I can still profile with extreme prejudice. You would too if persuading strangers to yammer on camera were part of your daily duties. So if I accost you in a crowded parking lot, be honored! I let the last weirdos pass without so much as a game of slap and tickle! Now tell me, what brings you to the syphilis clinic, Senator?
I can still think on my feet. Today, certified gajillionaire Jerry Neal escorted me around his palatial estate. It was awkward at first, until we realized we both knew Jerry Bledsoe and Phil Morgan. From there, we gabbed like old friends, despite our differences in age and income. Maybe he'll come mountain biking with us!
I can still remember when crossing county lines felt like a lo-o-ong way to go to fill forty seconds of airtime. Now I'll crisscross the entire region six times for one close-up of an eggplant that resembles Martin Van Buren. Make that seven if the lady who grew it speaks with an odd accent. Throw in a funny wig and I'll go well past eight.
I can still tell who used my gear while I was gone simply by examining the physical evidence. Viewfinder out of whack? Must be that shortsighted sports shooter down the hall. Shutter speed cranked to the high heavens? Film school student at twelve o clock. The faint smell of Egg McMuffins and desperation? I'm lookin' at you, morning crew!
I can still recall a time when chasing scanner blather felt like a really important thing to do. It was the dawn of the nineties and I was high on acid wash jeans and Jane's Addiction. These days, everything has changed except my musical tastes and while the siren's song doesn't thrill me like it used to, I still can't meet a screaming fire engine on the street without mumbling curses and giving chase.
But I'm working on it..