I love being on TV, because Betsy and I have things in common and one of them is our all-encompassing vanity. But it was tough going this morning (KARE-11, local NBC affiliate), what with the escaped boa constrictor and the deaths and the manhunt and all.
Being on TV is, to use the technical term, a crapshoot. You show up knowing anything can happen (see: “Breaking news, stay tuned!” because apparently news does break now and then, and you should stay tuned) that might bump you. That’s a drag, sure, but I totally get stepping aside on the off chance that reporting the state-wide manhunt for a cop-turned-thief-turned-fugitive is slightly (slightly!) more important than letting the local hack show up and plug her silly-ass book.
But it definitely shouldn’t be up to me to decide what news makes me bump-worthy, because of my consuming selfishness. There is definitely news I would not bump myself for. For instance, last year I was promoting UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE, and the president had an announcement. I love democracy and I also love announcements, so I was on board. However, the TV station had already covered the actual announcement, but wanted to show where the announcement had been made. So they bumped me to show footage of an empty podium. For someone like me, full of equal parts vanity and crippling insecurity, that was a toughie. “History was made at this empty podium!” the producer rhapsodized, “three hours ago!” Argh.
So now, when I’m in the green room (the room they stash people prior to having them on the air, and did you know it’s almost never green? truth!) I always pay attention to what’s on the news show I’m about to be on. This might seem obvious, but often they have the television in the green room off, or tuned to a rerun of ”In the Heat of the Night”. Sometimes the person about to go on TV does not like to hear the anchor say, “Coming up after this, John Smith is going to show us how you can build your own sailboat out of dental floss and empty 7-Up cans” because they start freaking out about not bringing enough dental floss for the demo. “Don’t change the channel!” they’ll shriek, which some people (me) find annoying (me) and then feel compelled (also me) to make an unhelpful comment (“Why don’t you drink a few more 7-Ups and relax already? And this is ironic, but I have chocolate in my teeth from bolting that candy bar, shut up, I know it’s only 9:00 a.m., can I borrow some dental floss?”).
So sometimes it’s tricky, watching the program you’re about to be on so you can figure out if you’re gonna be bumped. Yesterday, Officer Bradley Young allegedly robbed a restaurant and stole a pickup truck for his escape. Cue the de rigueur high speed chase and manhunt, which was still going on fifteen minutes before my TV segment. Also, this was all happening in the county where our cabin is. “Don’t hole up in my cabin, Bradley Young,” I warned the television, “but if you do, stock the fridge before you flee. And maybe check the basement to makes sure none of the pipes are leaking.”
So right then I figured, I’m gonna get bumped. And that’s fair, because, as above, promoting fiction takes a back seat to warning the public an armed cop is roaming the countryside, possibly preparing to hole up in my cabin. As a member of the public, I’m interested in news of that sort. So I mentally prepared myself for the “we’re so sorry, we’ll have to bump you” talk. It always works out fine, because they not only make sure to have you back on as soon as possible, they feel guilty about bumping you so sometimes they give you an extra minute or two for your segment which, pre-bump, you would not have had. Bump me, baby! Oooh, yeah, you know how I like it.
Then I heard about the boa constrictor deaths. While Bradley Young roamed the state, a boa escaped from the urban zoo it was incarcerated in, made his way to an upstairs apartment, and killed a five year-old and a seven year-old. Which is so awful in so many ways it’s staggering. So I’m staring, horrified, at the screen, when the sound guy comes back, mikes me, and says, “Okay, you’re up next!”
I…what? No. What? No! Don’t make me follow that! How can I follow that?
Yep, I went on. I was not bumped. Because nothing cheers people up more in the face of senseless death and tragedy than listening to me babble about vampires and designer shoes. So I’ve decided that the only thing odder than getting bumped so viewers can look at an empty podium is when I don’t get bumped.
I have no idea why I just told you this weird, sad story. I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep. I suspect tonight I’ll dream about Bradley Young wrestling a boa constrictor for the keys to my cabin. Anyway, Undead and Unsure is out now. So…there’s that.