You know, I really wanted to write something about Winnenden the day it happened, but I just couldn’t.
It was just so senseless, so incredibly mindless, and too close to home somehow.
I was working that day – I work in TV news – and as the wires in their ceaseless, droning regularity upped the numbers over six hours first from two, then to five, to nine, to 11, to 14, to 15, to 16, to 17, then back down to 16, I remained, as usual and as is expected, cooly distant to it all. Doing my job without thinking about the people involved, whether it’s a school shooting or another boiler-plate Baghdad bombing, plane crash or 100-storey buildings collapsing into smoke and ash: just chasing after pictures, relaying info to colleagues and staying on top of it all to help make sure our shows were getting out OK.
Until exactly 1455, when about 20 seconds of video came across of a woman – maybe 50, 55 – seen from a long shot, her hands on her face as she’s breaking down in tears, buckling at the knees as a man turns to support her, another beside her at a cellphone perhaps trying to get information, then the next shot from another angle a little later of paramedics escorting the distraught woman to a safe area.
We’re all supposed to remain so professional. So on the job. We have to treat the pictures for their value and their content without being affected by them, but as I was phoning to offer them to the editor of the news exchanges as is my job, for the first time in nine years on the desk my voice was actually breaking.
As I saw those pictures come in I was suddenly flooded with thoughts that I could very easily have been the one standing there, that it could have been my kid in that school, that my wife as a high school teacher could just as easily have been one of the teachers there, that I could one day be the one to get the call that would pretty much destroy the foundation of my life in this foreign outpost.
This in a work culture of passionate indifference, where maintaining a balance between commitment and dedication to the timely distribution of the facts must be balanced by a cool disengagement to their enormity.
I wasn’t the only one to have trouble keeping an iron gaze.
The chief of police talking to reporters in Winnenden that day stood and gave his statements in measured tones, but his eyes flooded wet when he said, “…we’re naturally doing everything we can to support the parents at this time, but I’ve been over there among them and I have to tell you, it’s damn hard to look them straight in the eye.”
I allowed myself to imagine how the parents must be feeling. It was fleeting, but it caught me off guard. We’re all human, we can’t stop feelings, but like a surgeon with Tourette’s Syndrome, we have to be able to keep them switched off or be unable to function.
In the end I posted something frivolous about Obama chicken fingers which received dozens of comments, but somehow regret it.
With unemployment in what’s left of the world’s leading economy rising to its highest level in 25 years today, a lot of people are going to suffer as the tidal wave aftermath of Wall Street’s latest greed bubble washes over the rest of the world.
But losing your job isn’t bad news for everyone.
Take the case of my friend and fellow Canadian Douglas in London. We met in Hong Kong in late 1995 when he was being hired for a new weekly show at the station where I was working. Because they the management twits picked Douglas instead of me to host the new programme, I first saw him as a rival, but after a couple of days on the desk with him I soon got over myself, and we’ve been tight ever since.
Douglas has had a real Hong Kong career. He first worked in radio, then TV, then switched for the big bucks of public relations ’til he – quite understandably – couldn’t stand the stench of all the bullshit any longer, then went back to TV.
About two years ago, he got a job producing for a world-famous provider of television business news in London. I remember how excited he sounded on the phone from Hong Kong about landing the position, how he was finally getting out of this “small town” and hitting the big leagues to work on what’s happening in the heart of old world finance.
But like all expats who’ve already paid the price once for leaving home and establishing another one overseas, in moving to London he had to pay all over again, because in the meantime he’d built up such a good life over a dozen years in Hong Kong.
Douglas had good friends, a loving, long-term partner, a comfortable home, even a rag-top car in a city where driving is a luxury often associated with the very wealthy. And let’s face it: as a successful, white, middle-aged gay man in Hong Kong he was still a hot commodity. In London he’s as common as the man on the platform waiting for the 8:15.
So when Douglas told me yesterday that a show he’d been working on had been cancelled and he’d taken the buy-out they were offering him and his colleagues, I said to him: Fantastic!
Getting bought out is the best news he’s had to deal with in ages. Wu Hu! He can now take the cash, travel a bit, visit family back in Canada for a while before taking up a standing offer to return to the station where we met way back in the mid-nineties.
It’ll be the third time in a decade he’s gone back to them, but that’s OK. It not only demonstrates how highly they value his skills, it shows all of us how important it is never to burn your bridges and to remember who your friends are.
And instead of moaning about another dreary London morning, he’ll once again be able to enjoy breakfast on the terrace in the middle of February amid lush greenery, warm breezes and maybe even the sight of a passing cockatoo before heading out into the sunshine.
As they noted on the page announcing the winners, the personal blog category was especially competitive. Based on the number of votes cast, even the fourth-place finisher would have won had that blog been slotted in other categories.
Thanks to all who voted for this blog, and once again to Indeterminacy for the nomination.
So even though by now in news-cycle time it’s archival material, I just have to get this off my chest before recovering from writing a bit about the Germany Expat Blogger meetup in Bremen.
Because this interview with Sarah Palin by Katie Couric took place not long before the 30 of us were converging on Bremen, where the entire weekend we were all trying NOT to talk about Sarah Palin. Holding our breath, changing the subject, inventing goofy, nonsense adjectives, anything, ANYTHING but talk of Sarah Palin.
As Jack Cafferty’s intro says, there’s a reason the McCain camp has been keeping Palin away from the press.
A high school debating team third-stringer would have come to the interview better prepared to answer that question. And Wolf Blitzer tries to come to her rescue? He should be pulled off the desk for defending such a trash performance.
Also known as Chez Pazienza, the former CNN sluggo and award-winning producer turned autobiographical author turned Huffington Post poster turned full-time Dad is great at telling it straight, with links that are always worth going to.