Monday, March 31, 2014

Read all about it

One of the things I love about being a reporter is you never really can predict what you'll be doing from day to day. The moment you think you've got your week nicely planned out, bam! Fire! Earthquake! Murder! There goes that feature you were going to write.

Case in point, I showed up to work this morning worried about how light on story ideas I was. Then the natural gas plant across the river exploded. Instant story. Instead of spending the day in the office making phone calls to bureaucrats I spent the day running between the newsroom and evacuee camp, checking in on the family whose journey I was documenting and getting updates from the public information officer.

Of course, I wasn't the only reporter there. Every news station around was there, plus radio and newspapers and the AP. Jostling for position during press conferences always reminds me of my internship in New York, where just about everything I covered involved a scrum of reporters shouting questions over the click of cameras. You know how in the movies the lawyer comes out of the courthouse or the disgraced CEO rushes from the building to his limo and there are a million reporters shoving cameras and microphones in his face? Yeah, it really is exactly like that if you have the misfortune of getting your 15 minutes of infamy in the media capital of the world. And now you know that's called a scrum.

I haven't seen that many cameras since I spent a week covering the heck out of the wildfire outside The Dalles this summer. Of course, the gas plant evacuee camp was a little more convenient to cover than the wildfire. It didn't involve having to borrow ugly yellow fireproof clothing from the command center that only comes in large man size (in all fairness, I was the only female journalist there out of about 20 anchors/photogs/cameramen/reporters. But still. I can't be the only woman to have ever shown up to cover a wildfire). They never let us get close enough to the fire to need fireproofing, but the color sure did attract the swarms of wasps that had been displaced by the fire. It's hard to concentrate on taking photos when you've got yellow jackets crawling all over you.

When I was at the evacuee camp today I eavesdropped on an adorable conversation between several of the little kids in the camp. It went something like this:

"I've been on two different TV stations today."
"Oh yeah, well I've been on the TV and the radio!"
"Three reporters interviewed me!"

And then the older ones shared tips with the younger ones about making sure they knew how to spell their name for the reporter and to tell him or her how old they are. One of the kids told me it was the best spring break he's ever had. I love how excited little kids get over being interviewed, or even just seeing a reporter walking by with a camera and notebook. I've had a child shout "Look, a paparazzi!" and point at me more than once when doing a story at an elementary school. Sorry kid, but unless Honey Boo Boo transfers your school you're not going to run into a real paparazzo any time soon.

I think the closest I ever came to being a legitimate paparazzo was during my turn at the New York Daily News. Most of my fellow interns had much more exciting celebrity encounters than I did, but they did send me to Spike Lee's house, where I spoke to his wife and gave her a note for him to call my editor, which he did. I spoke to Chita Rivera and Dionne Warwick at Lena Horne's funeral. And if politicians count as celebrities, I ambushed Mayor Bloomberg at Coney Island, Charlie Rangel at and elementary school and Raymond Kelly at a park dedication. Also, one time I arrived at a stakeout only to be informed by the photographer that Hugh Jackman had walked by just five minutes before. New York was, to say the least, a whole lot of life experience crammed into two months.

Small-town reporting is usually a little less exciting. Until the next crisis hits.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What would Freud say?

I don't usually sleepwalk (I think?) but the other night I discovered sleep running. I dreamed that I was in my bedroom when what I can only describe as a creepy ghost boy came through the wall at me. In my dream, I ran away from him. In real life, I woke up as I bounced off the frame of the door I was trying to run through with my eyes closed. I hope this doesn't become a thing.

It was creepier but less weird than a few nights before that, when I had a dream about helping a secret agent for the FBI clone a pig. It was really important to national security, apparently.

I don't know what that dream says about me. Dr. Freud would probably have some ideas. But if I was going to see a shrink I would see the "I think you're feeling sad because you just got divorced" type instead of the "You saw a dog in the inkblot test so let's talk about how the time you were three and your mom wouldn't let you have a puppy messed up the rest of your life" type. Technically, I've never seen a therapist. But when your father's one, it's basically free therapy for life. I didn't need to pay by the hour to know who moved my cheese and what color my parachute is.

The free therapy is the upside. The downside to having a dad as a therapist is that he tends to use real-life examples when he's talking to his clients. And I have a strong suspicion (and sometimes proof) that quite a bit of his source material comes from inside the family. Dad always assures my brothers that he says "one of my sons" to protect their identity, but considering some of his clients know I'm his only daughter, I don't think not using my name in the story really helps much. When I was a kid my classmates would usually tell me when my dad was their therapist, but now that I'm older that doesn't happen much and so I'm left wondering who in town knows about the time I ... well, never mind about that.

If a client comes in wondering how to deal with their children fighting or misbehaving, or if a teenager needs help dealing with sibling rivalry issues, my father is definitely not lacking in anecdotes. The other day I heard sibling defined as "your best friend and worst enemy rolled into one" and I've got to say that's pretty accurate. Lance, Logan, Cole and I are all pretty tight now but when we were growing up we definitely had our moments. A lot of them.

There was the time Logan got mad at Lance and I while we were babysitting the younger ones and yelled "Help! Call child protective services!" out the window in retaliation. That could have been bad.

There was the time I watched with unadulterated glee as Lance pushed one too many of mom's buttons on the way to school. She pulled the van to the side of the road, pointed at the door and commanded him to get out, then threw his backpack out after him, sending papers and books flying everywhere, and drove off as he stared at the receding minivan in utter shock.

There was the time when I was really unhappy about not being the only child anymore, and so I expressed my displeasure by writing all over the carpet with lipstick while Mom was feeding the baby.

There was all the times we were fighting and my parents made us sit on the couch and hold hands. It was a pretty effective method of punishment, because you can only try as hard as you possibly can to crush each others' hands for so long before you give up and start laughing instead.

And yet through all the tears and yelling and slamming doors and occasional punches thrown, we all turned out alright in the end. We made have made Mom cry a few times, wondering if various pairings of siblings would hate each other forever, but now we stay in close contact despite living in four different cities. Logan and Cole bonded over being on the tennis team together in high school. Lance had Logan over for pancake nights when they were both at BYU. And Lance and I may have had some pretty epic fights growing up, but I was the one who he took when he went engagement ring shopping and I was the first person in the family he called when he found out the gender of his baby.

Freud would probably say that's pretty messed up. I say that's family for you.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Crazy old cat lady

Last night when I got home from work I soon realized I had lost my cell phone and it wasn't in any of the usual places I set it.

My first thought was "I'll just call it."

My second thought was "Oh wait, I can't because that's the only phone in the apartment."

My third thought was "I'll just text someone and have them call it."

My fourth thought was "Oh wait ... again with the whole 'only phone in the household' thing."

My fifth thought was that I wished my mom was here to look for it, because only moms think to look in all the spots lost things hide, like in the middle of the floor or sitting on the bookshelf right where you left it.

There is nothing like having your own place to make you appreciate your mother. College was bad enough. I had to do my own laundry and sure, I cooked plenty when I was still living at home but it's not the same when it's a prerequisite for eating dinner every night instead of a hobby. But still, college involved roommates. At least occasionally you would come home from a long day and find chocolate chip cookies waiting or that someone had taken pity on you (or just gotten fed up) and done the dishes already even though it was your day.

When you have your own place, coming home to all the dishes done would be cause for concern that you were the victim of a burglar who assuaged their guilty conscience about stealing your laptop by doing some chores to make up for it.

Also, when you're home sick in college your mommy might not be there to make chicken noodle soup for you and take your temperature, but at least your roommates can spare a few pitying looks, check occasionally to make sure you're not dead, and if you have a really good one even offer to bring you a drink of water. This week when I was home sick from work I woke up to the realization that I could not fulfill my deep desire to not move from my bed all day while also fulfilling my desire not to die of dehydration. Somehow I survived.

Of course, the flip side of living alone is that even though there is no one around to worry about you, there is also no one around for you to worry about. No one to considerately leave hot water for on Sunday mornings, to try to find your pajamas in the dark so you don't wake them up. You don't have to worry that listening to music without headphones will disturb someone, or if you leave a pile of laundry on the living room floor when you go to bed that someone will trip on it during the night. No fighting over the temperature of the apartment or making small talk when you really just want to eat in contemplative silence. No one to judge you when you really just feel like listening to NSYNC  one night.

The danger of this lifestyle is if you don't get enough human interaction outside the apartment you'll basically just turn into a Neanderthal who can't remember what table manners are or whether it's socially acceptable to talk to yourself in public. Maybe that's why people become crazy old cat ladies. Were the cats an attempt at having someone around to make them feel self-conscious? That would explain why it would have to be cats, then. Nobody could be fooled into thinking a dog was judging them.

If I get a cat someday, don't judge me. I needed someone around to make me feel ashamed for wanting to listen to nineties music.