After we walked through a couple of hallways and found ourselves right smack in the middle of the news station’s set, my first impression was one of folding out. Sets are designed to be seen from exactly one side and when seen from any other vantage your brain has to realign itself in cranial space so you can piece together what you’re used to seeing with what you’re currently seeing.
It’s all very weird and metaphysical. Luckily the body simply translates it to a very mild vertigo that goes away in about 3.5 seconds.
Also: news stations are messy. It’s not like empty-fast-food-bags-and-soda-cans messy, it’s that there are so many wires of so many colors and cameras and parts and clipboards and gear and it’s all just seemingly lying around. And you don’t know the names of any of it. So it seems messy though I’m sure it’s about as organized as it can be.(1)
We walked through the main set, through the Saturday set, and through some other set to the very back of the station. The walls were warehouse-industrial. The ceiling with exposed ductwork. Sheets of plywood leaned against the walls. In one corner a camera. At the other end of the hypotenuse, the set we’d seen on the 6 o’clock news.
There was the chair. A folding chair beside it. A rug. A table. A plant. The rest was plywood.
Ashley and I waited towards the back for our turn in the chair. While we waited someone informed us that the camera was broadcasting live to the station’s website. So really before we even knew it, strangers out there may have already seen us.
My mind reeled. This is the boggling thing about television: The people we watch on it every day are experts in seeming unwatched, while the rest of us are keenly, obviously and starkly aware of it. This unearths all manner of heretofore hidden tics and mannerisms, especially of the face. I’d resolved before we left to keep my face in check, and here I’d been watched without ever knowing it.
However, my sense of betrayal was outweighed by my desire to mess with the audience. I wanted to peek around the corner of the camera. Or like pick my nose or something.
But I didn’t.
I few minutes after we arrived, the evening anchorman(2) came back to talk to Ashley. At first I thought he was just saying hey. Ashley told him pretty much right away that she thinks he’s awesome and the conversation turned casual so fast I zoned out for a bit.(3)
When I came to I realized that the dude was sort-of pre-interviewing Ashley. He already knew her name, but now he was asking about her story.
“Which type of transplant did you have?”
“Why did you need new lungs?”
“And cystic fibrosis just kills the lungs over time?”
“How long has it been since your transplant?”
“Any problems over those three-and-a-half years?”
“Do you know anything about your donor?”
“Would you like to?”(4)
He took zero in the way of notes. I was impressed.
After he left is was our turn in the chair. Ashley took the seat of honor and I sat in the folding chair. A some point the lady from Life Connection told us that she’d put us during this time period specifically because of the live segment they’d planned to do. Ashley and I approved of this choice since we’re both obviously so good-looking.
She and I chatted for a while. There was a small tv just behind my field of vision. It was tuned to the CBS station, but no sound was coming out. Once 11PM hit and the news actually started, Ashley began to panic mildly. She seemed fine until you looked at her hands, which were shaking so fast I was surprised I could see them.
And then the weather came on. And then the anchorman came back. And then some sullen camera-dude stepped behind the camera. Someone told Ashley to turn her mike on.
Next thing you know, we’re live. Not from New York and not on Saturday night, but live as live.
She did spectacularly.(5) The anchorman asked his questions, which of course he already knew the answers to from the pre-interview, and Ashley answered him as though she’d done this a million times. She’s funny that way: she gets weirdly nervous about some everyday speech-acts, but then things like this that make most people blanch and puke she handles like a pro.
She even managed to plug an event her student organization is doing this weekend.
Afterwards we got to hang out with most of the evening news crew, each of whom told her that she did really, really well. When it was over we headed home and watched ourselves on the DVR.
Hollywood will be calling any time now, I’m sure of it.
- My own personal experience w/r/t wires both in the home and a gigs is that, like 80s hair, there’s no real controlling them. You just hope for the best.
- Not Ron Burgundy.
- I may or may not have been considering scratching my ass in front of the camera.
- At this last question I sort of envisioned an Oprah-type moment in which they bring her donor’s family out from stage left or somewhere and everyone is surprised and tearful thank yous are given all around.
- Still can’t find the video online. Grr…