I don't get
introspective often. It's not what you come here for. The cocky
persona, the swagger I adopt when I strap on my babycam are more
necessity than really me. It's just easier to witness the low points in
so many lives through cynically colored glasses.
But Gustav has given me pause. Five years ago, the best meteorologists could give us with any measure of certainty was a three day forecast. That gave fools like me, who rush headlong into the teeth of stroms, little time to reflect on what might be. Three days was just enough time to throw some clothes in a bag, gas up the sat truck and make it to the coast to watch the surf roll in.
Now, with five-day projections, my brethren and I get to sweat the details. While storm virgins around the station jockey for position to nab a spot on the beach, I've had a knot in my gut for three days.
From the time Gussy flared up, I've had a bad feeling about this one. Twenty years chasing these damn things has taught me to trust my instinct. He may not be another Katrina, but Gustav ain't gonna be pretty.
Storm coverage is never easy. Three, four, five days eating sandy food from a celophane bag. It's long hours, mind-warping stress, and adrenaline rushes you'll never find in any amusement park. It's sugar highs, and big crashes. It's arguments with the house boys, and props to the crew who are the only ones who really know what it took to get the coverage on the air. It's a time for newsies to prove what they're made of. And it's no place to take chances.
Two nights ago the Missus told me she didn't want me to go. No fussing. No arguing. Just a simple statement.
In some homes that might go without notice. At the turdpolisher ranch, it was the first time she's ever said that. It hit home hard. She knows I have to. She'd never reallly try to keep me home. And she knows too well I'd be miserable chasing fallen limbs around Cap City instead of in the thick of the battle. Still, part of me wants to be left behind.
It's not the dry assignment in the State Office of Emergency Preparedness I want. (X-Ray Ted's whiney ass will be comfy and well fed.) It's not that I loathe sleeping on the sat truck floor, a raging case of swamp ass, sand in my teeth, or seaweed in my shorts. It's what these little excursions into absurdity do to my family.
For the past twenty years, every time the suits turned the crank on the hype generator, my wife has put on a brave face, and kissed me good-bye at the door, not really sure when I was coming back. She's been left to keep life normal at home without me.
As much as I worry about everyone back home while I'm wind surfing with a satellite dish, I cannot imagine what I'm putting them through.
Just once I might like to be left behind . . . Probably not. But when winds are raging outside, it's a lot nicer curling up to the STW than a smelly news crew.
Love ya, Gail. See ya when I get back.
Rick Portier is a television news photographer in Baton Rouge. For more of his unique stories and interesting rants see his personal blog at http://turdpolisher.blogspot.com/