Friday, May 15, 2009

From Tucson To Virginia In 20 Hours

4am -- Wake up with mas o menos three hours sleep. Quickly get dressed and hustle off to KOLD with two bags in tow. I will run teleprompter for the AM newscast and get the Noon going before I have to duck out to catch the plane.

4:30am -- Arrive at KOLD. Swig a cup of coffee. Hop on the prompter.

5am -- Morning show begins. We have Late Breaking news on a murder on Tucson's south side, giving our AM producer a lead and taking at least some of the headache out of producing a fresh newscast by herself. Both she and I will remain in this booth for the next two hours.

6am -- One hour down. One to go. The easiest job in the control room is making my right arm numb. Caffeine is starting to kick in.

7am -- Morning show is complete. Hastily put together a news update for our digital subchannel before sliding into the Noon. Coffee effects are now full.

7:30am -- Several stories bubbling. Will the murder be my lead or will something else pop up, like GM telling dealers in Tucson they might lose their franchises?

8am -- Take another cup of coffee and add stories to the Noon. GM story looking more like a lead.

8:30am -- Scrounging around. Tempted to wait for more stories to develop and break.

9am -- I'm going with GM story. Murder... well... it's a murder. Doesn't matter to me when put up against hundreds of car dealers facing possible shutdown. Nothing on any fallout in Tucson yet. Another producer just in to help on the desk starts making some calls while I continue to sniff out stories.

9:30am -- Editorial meeting. Several possibilities on stories to run on right away. Coffee is making my stomach grumpy. It's not acid-neutralized. I remember those commercials for Kava Coffee ("Kava! Kava!") and hope I can stomach it.

9:50am -- Just got a new lead story. Tucson Citizen is shutting down, going online only. Desk gets crew and reporter set on it. I shuffle the rundown and kill out some ballast. The clock is running down. Fully wired on caffeine now.

10:15am -- Most writing is done. Trim some fat out of the newscast. Man, It's a great show and I'm going to have to scoot out before it's newstime, leaving it in the hands of another producer.

10:45am -- All is ready. I'm off to TIA.

11:00am -- Grumble at traffic congestion on I-10.

11:15am -- Find a spot at TIA's economy lot. Hike to the terminal.

11:30am -- Go through security. To my amazement, the metal rods in my arm do NOT set off the detector. But my computer bag warrants a closer search. TSA guy sweeps through it with five or six magic detection patches the size of a gun-cleaning patch. How ironic. All is well. I continue on to the gate.

11:45am -- Grab lunch.

12:00pm -- Wolf down a personal pizza while watching KOLD News 13 LIVE at Noon over the 'net. Nice show.

12:30pm -- Where's the plane? "It will be here in just a few minutes." It is.

12:35pm -- Announcement: this is a small plane, get it? Small. That carry-on will have to be checked.

1:05pm -- On the way to Salt Lake on a full commuter craft. Want to sleep but can't resist the irresistible force of the SkyMall catalog.

4:25pm -- Leg 1 complete. Just lost one hour in the skip across time zones. More losses to come. Sitting in departure area for next leg of the flight to Dulles. Not feeling too sleepy. Lunch effectively neutralized coffee. This flight looks full. But so far, so good.

5:00pm -- Waiting on the runway. Whole buncha flights lined up like a file of 1st Virginia soldiers marching off to battle.

5:05pm -- Is that the Olympic torch burning again over Salt Lake City? No, it's a refinery flame. Think of the money they could've saved with a little creative license.

6:00pm -- Should be sleeping, but enjoying couch potato bliss. Delta squeezed a dozen cable channels and a few CDs into a personal in-seat entertainment center. Daily Show and Cobert Report pass the time along with Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Primetime TV is a great abnormality for me. Part of myself wants to be producing a newscast.

7:30pm -- Sun setting out the window. Time passing at an accelerated rate. Clouds filling the sky as the light dies down. Air pockets shake us up. Boeing, McDonell, Bombardier, AirBus, etc. have yet to invent the mid-air shock absorber. Memories of this morning's coffee acid return. Kava! Kava!

9:30pm -- Engaged in a tight fight for the lead in the interactive trivia game with somebody up front. I win. Twice.

11pm -- Arrive to a nearly-empty Dulles. Discover the Avis counter is way off terminal. Shuttle bus pulls away from me as I rush up to it only to stop down the terminal road.

11:35am -- Decline offer to upgrade up to something bigger. Get behind wheel of Toyota. Say a prayer for the voyage, which is going to consume at least two more hours and 120 miles.

12:05am -- Sit parked in front of a toll booth on Virginia 28, trying to see if I have exact change. I don't. The basket doesn't accept dollar bills. No attendants are on duty. I get out and approach the car that has pulled in behind me. Without me asking, a kind lady is digging through her purse. She offers two quarters. "Just take it," she smiles, offering me the change as I offer the dollar. I accept the courtesy most graciously and thank God for looking out for me.

12:15am -- Another tollbooth? At least this one has an attendant.

12:20am -- This better be westbound I-66. Ugh, it's not. Get off and flip a U-turn. Finally, I'm on the right road. Where was the exit I was supposed to have taken in the first place? It sure wasn't on the Google directions I printed.

12:45am -- Into the darkness I venture. I would enjoy the beautiful scenery and green of Virginia if I could see it. Hands are wrapped tight around the steering wheel with the radio helping me stay awake. I can do this.

1:20am -- Up on a hill, three crosses are lit by floodlights in the night sky as I approach I-81 southbound. I make the connection with no trouble.

1:45am -- Hang in there. We're getting there.

2am -- At last. Harrisonburg. Check in. Dial home. Crash. Sleep... for only three hours or so.

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