reporting

“It’s Been Fun”

This is a weekend for traveling.

More than 5 billion Americans will jump into their cars and drive to some destination so they can watch a parade, wave a flag, buy an inflatable Angry Bird™ balloon manufactured in China, and drink too much. I am doing all four things right now so my estimation of the number of American drivers might be a little off.

The recession is beyond us, according to Triple A, aka AAA not to be confused with AA or ABC. Gas prices are down, the three As declared, and promptly forgot to tell all the gas stations in my hometown since yesterday I spent $55 to fill up my Toyota Camry when it still had one-quarter of gas in the tank. But apparently, I will use all that “extra” money to buy me some entertainment in the form of restaurants, furniture rental stores and dollar stores.

I am using my savings to buy these at the Dollar Tree:

Snap-on feather hair extensions are extremely useful when the chemicals contained inside them cause one to lose 75% of one’s hair.

Mine will be red, white and blue.

The people-travel-on-holidays is a news story in the NY Post, and I am all too familiar with these non news stories that a reporter is forced to write to fill news holes on a long holiday weekend.

In Memorial Days of yore, I would be a lucky American non-traveler holed up in a cubicle on a Saturday covering four events that would eventually lead me down the path of obtaining an MLS so I would never have to interview people at the annual soap box derby ever again.

So. . . why are you at the soap box derby?

My daughter is racing.

Awesome. Grrl power. . . I’m sorry I said that. Um. So, what do you like about the soap box derby?

The fact my daughter is in it.

Yes, great stuff. Let me make sure I’ve quoted you accurately.

By the way the winner of the race “likes to race” and “enjoys the competition part.”

You’re welcome.

Then I would rush over to the annual wheat festival 20 minutes away to report on festive wheat. The ole’ timey wheat thresher would ole-timely thresh, and people would consume switzle–a concoction of vinegar, sugar, water and ginger–and vomit profusely.

Here is a direct quote from an news article I wrote about it:

“It’s been fun,” said one of the organizers. “We chose this weekend because of the weather and because it would be a patriotic weekend.”

Where the fuck is my Pulitzer?

Then I would write a story about oxygen being required for people to breathe, and inevitably someone would stick the inflatable parade balloon somewhere it should never be, and I would write about that when I did my police calls, and I would call it a day.

But this year, I’m free, people.

I’m free to join the 399,000 or 4 billion other drivers on the road to more happiness or more nowhere.

If only I can kick my switzle habit, I’ll be home free.

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Easter Egg Funk

Now that I have a two-year-old, I have been hounded with questions about whether I’m taking my son to an Easter egg hunt.

(Full disclosure: No one has asked me this)

The short answer is no.

The long answer is F*** no.

I might have mentioned I once worked as a newspaper reporter. Thank you. Oh, wait you weren’t applauding. I thought maybe you were applauding.

I was a serious journalist, and that is why I covered the annual Easter egg hunt at the local park. I asked some tough questions like “Why are you here?” “Do you think you’ll find an egg?” and “Is there a bridge nearby? I’d like to jump off it.”

It begins all nice and egg-free. The kids appear human as do the parents.

But as soon as the air horn sounds, it quickly devolves into something resembling a Black Friday stampede for the cheapest electric egg cooker.

Eggvidence:

"Screw the conch, I want me some eggs!"

Parents, who have already staked a position by an easily visible egg, pounce upon it like a pack of jackals, spraying their urine and feces freely to ward off intruders.

Okay, maybe not that, but they yell really loud and basically push two-year-olds out of the way. Once their grubby snot-nosed child picks it up (always snot-nosed, always dripping, always the child I end up having to interview at the end of the 3-second bloodbath, always manages to get snot on me), they move onto the next egg, bawking orders like chickens if chickens could bawk orders, and just generally making the Easter Bunny weep hot tears.

There should be a limit to how many eggs one can grab (correct amount is 1) and how many times one can bellow “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! Right here!!! Right here!!! Get it!!!!  GET IT!!!!!” (correct amount is never)

Even after reading this, you feel you must subject your offspring to an early taste of dashed hopes and despondency, please follow these tips:

  • Bring eggs with you. At the start of the hunt, put them in your child’s basket and say “Let’s go home.”
  • Watch or read something uplifting to restore your faith in humanity.
  • Enter a profession that will never make you cover an Easter egg hunt. One day you will find yourself writing sentences like these: “Thousands of children and parents packed the park. Many held plastic bags and baskets to load with eggs.”
  • Weep hot tears.

Reason #473 Why I’m No Longer a Reporter

I used to be a news reporter. Click this for one of my most compelling stories.

I kind of looked like this:

The Mona Lisa

When you are a reporter, you are at the whim of your editors. It’s really great. Like this one time when an editor sent me to a standoff in the middle of the night.

I was pretty thrilled when I got a call at 11 p.m. from an assistant night editor explaining that a man was in his house with a handgun and a standoff was in progress on some county road in the middle of nowhere, but that they were unable to get any information from the sheriff’s dispatch, and would I mind driving there and checking things out. It really wasn’t a request.

I got into my car and drove to the dark road, parking next to a few TV news vans. No law enforcement was in sight apart from the empty sheriff deputy cars parked in the driveway. The house was set back from the road and trees obscured its view.

I got out of the car and approached a newscaster, asking first for his autograph and then if he knew what was going on. He didn’t.

I called the newspaper back telling the assistant night editor that no one was around except for TV broadcasters who knew nothing.

“You can’t see any deputies?” she asked.

“Nope.”

“Okay, hold tight. We have about a half-hour until deadline. See what you can get and call back.”

I didn’t quite know what to do so I stood in the same spot and looked at a house I couldn’t see.

The cell phone rang.

“Anything yet?”  she asked.

“Nope.”

I could hear her talking to someone in the background. She got back on the phone, sighed, and asked if I could go up to the door, knock and see what was going on.

What a fabulous idea! Why didn’t I think of that? I could just see it in my head. I’ll walk up the darkened driveway, bang on the screen door:

“Hello? Hi. Yes, you with the gun, I’m from The  . . . and we have a really tight deadline so we need to speed things up here. If I could first just get your name?”

“Could you spell that?”

“Great, um. .  so what are you feeling right now?”

“Sir, I’m having a little trouble understanding you with the sobbing. Could you say that again?”

“Oh you’re depressed. Yeah that’s not very descriptive. Could you say why you’re depressed?”

“How do you spell her name?”

“Do you have a contact number for her. I’d really like to get her side in this. Sir if you could just keep that gun pointed at your head, not at me.”

Easy, right? But for some reason my feet stayed on the road.

“Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to do that,” I told the assistant editor.

“I didn’t think so,” she said. “Just stick tight until deadline and you can go home.”

So I did. I stood in the same spot, looking at a house I couldn’t see, waiting out the minutes. Nothing happened and I drove home.

I found out the next day, the man wasn’t even at the house.