Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Stupidest Fear Ever

I'm afraid of a lot of things. Almost everything. There's little point in reiterating the same obvious things everyone else is afraid of, too, so I won't beat that dead horse.

I have a special fear. Possibly I'm the only person on earth who's retarded enough to be plagued with it.

This morning I was watching part of the "Today Show" with Al Roker and Ann Curry. The past couple of weeks they have been running a contest in which viewers send in a videotape to try to win a spot as the show's "News Anchor of the Day." Today they eliminated one finalist and now they are down to two. The two remaining guys are kinda funny. Each day the contestants have to participate in some sort of newscasting challenge, and today they were recruited to deliver part of Al's job: weathercasting.

When the two men stood up against the greenscreen which would eventually bear the day's forecast, I started to quake. Suddenly I remembered the series of recurring dreams--nightmares, actually--that I had some years ago.

I dreamed that I had a job at a small TV station in (drumroll, please!) one of the Dakotas. My job involved (what else?) writing and editing and maybe a little graphic design. In the dream I drove a white pickup truck and arrived at the building, which was in the middle of flat dusty nowhere. I was dressed in sloppy casual clothes--since mine was behind-the-scenes work, every day was like a casual Friday.

I walked in the door of the sparse, white and small building and the receptionist practically leapt onto me. "Quick! You have to go in the back and get dressed right now! [Name of normal weathercaster] is sick and can't come in! We're on air in five minutes! You have to do the forecast! Hurry!"

I turn to ice in a panic. This is one of the things I've been most afraid of my entire life. I can't go on air! I will certainly lose my job! Not only have I never been in front of one of those green screens, but I also would have no clue how to point at the right things or how to not turn my back to the camera. I would be mixing up east and west and doing everything backwards. Also, how would I know what to say if I hadn't been studying the material beforehand? I always study and memorize things first! Would I get to be looking at a screen in front of me to help me out, or would I have to wing it? Even worse is the thing that bothers me the most: despite a whole lifetime of watching weathercasts and listening to the jargon, I HAVE NEVER UNDERSTOOD anything in a weather broadcast. Night after night, year after year, I have always felt like one of the dumb cats in a Gary Larson cartoon, who only hears "Blah blah blah, Ginger" when its owner talks to it. What are they actually saying? What language is this? What do all those stupid little arrows mean? What are the green patches? What is that thing that seems to look like half of a cog floating across the US map? What are those moving color blobs, clouds? What are "lows" and "highs"? And, most perplexing to me--what the hell is a "front"? They're always saying, "Here comes a front!" As if someone saw a car coming and said, "Here comes a radiator grille." How do they know it's not just the "back" of something else? Why isn't there such a thing as a "back"?

Anyway in my dream I go change and people in the newsroom are egging me on. They are people who definitely know much more about how to do this than I do, but they won't let me out of it. I put on some dumb skirt outfit that looks like hell, and they crank up the map and put me in front of it. My blood sinks to my feet and I'm sure I'm going to faint.

Then I wake up! Oh, thank God for saving me from having to see myself blow it entirely in front of all the (10) people in one of the Dakotas! The humiliation and failure would be too great.

So on this morning's show, the two gentlemen each had a turn at delivering the weather. I was intensely interested in whether they would be able to pull it off. And, actually, they gave me great solace, because they really didn't do such a good job! Hey, not everyone is a natural at weathercasting, afterall! One guy kept turning his back to the camera and walking across the weather map so viewers couldn't see the map. He was perfectly dyslexic and was trying to read a sheaf of copy at the same time he was demonstrating with his hands (of course, the one hand was busy holding the copy). All of this was further complicated by the practical jokes that the studio was playing--projecting silly stuff on the green screen, such as a smiling animated airplane looking as though it was going to crash into the guy, or a jungle monkey doing a stupid dance. The casters, of course, were required to announce whatever was being broadcast, including the plane and monkey. One of the guys was amusing when he broadcast something else that was featured on the show that day--the world's largest pot of cheese fondue. "Up to the north here in New England, we have a giant pot of cheese. If only we could have some pots of cheese over here in the Rockies."

Anyway, for a split second I felt much better about the dreams I'd had. But in a way, seeing these "applicants" just reinforced my fear. I felt better about the idea that, after all, perhaps I wasn't the only person who would find spontaneous weathercasting challenging and humiliating. On the other hand, it just went to prove that the fear of widely-broadcast failure is indeed realistic.



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