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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I guess it had to happen

My desk here at work is a mess of memories and the mundane. Pictures dating back five years line the little cube. There's one of me and JB standing in front of a tank in the desert. There's me and Mrs. Otis at the altar. There's Fries comforting me after the Clemson Tigers embarrased Mizzou in Death Valley. Mug shots of some of the most important criminals in my life are taped around my computer monitor. The high school principal who lost his job after I reported about his perscription drug crimes. The dermatologist who lost his medical license after I spent a year digging into his background of child molestation. Oh, yeah, and the bankrobber who made "Your mom" jokes at me when the cops pulled him out of his spider hole.

Just above one of the mugshots is a quote from D.C. Mayor Marion Barry: "First, it was not a strip bar, it was an erotic club. And second, what can I say? I'm a night owl."

Lt. Death Head, the skull pez dispenser, sits upright on the edge of the cube, looking over the mess. I never really know what I meant for him to symbolize, but the sometimes ugly nature of my job seemed to fit in with his persona. I can't decide if I want to take him with me when I leave here on Friday.

I picked up some boxes this afternoon with the intention of beginning the task of clearing out six years of notes, tapes, and memories. Although I had a couple of hours to kill at the end of the day, for some reason I couldn't bring myself to do it. I told myself it was because I wanted to keep listening to Yahoo! Launchcast on my earphones, but I think I'm just avoiding in the inevitable nostalgia that will go with boxing everything up and carrying it out to the parking lot.

And so I sat here listening to music and checking my e-mail every few minutes. Somehow I've established about a half dozen active e-mail accounts and it's all I can do to keep up with the inboxes. The Steve Goodman song "Would You Like to Learn to Dance" came on. It's not really a sad song, but it always sort of makes me misty.

And then it happened.

I started getting sad.

My cousin and a columnist from my hometown newspaper have both spent some time recently writing about the death of one of their former newspaper editors. The reverence in their writing makes me believe I would've been happy working under the guy.

It's the same respect I have for my bosses. For all the crap that goes on in TV news and the occasional shame that corporate ownership brings on local news, my bosses, Andy and Lee, still have a passion that makes me sad to leave. Deep down, I know they rage against the dying of the the picture tube light. I honestly believe they would've paid me more if they could. I honestly believe they'd rather I stay here. But I also know they are happy for me to be chasing this little dream of mine.

That is...this leaving thing would be a lot easier if I hated them like a lot of people hate their bosses.

There's a lot of stuff I'm not going to miss about this job. I'm not going to miss making up the news on the day when there is none. I'm not going to miss standing out in the cold because a pellet of ice fell from the sky. I'm not going to miss standing in the dark at 6pm because "viewers feel a live report makes the story more significant."

But I am going to miss the people and the much-too-rare surge of adrenaline that comes from being in the firing line of a crazed psycho with a gun or sitting face to face with a killer as he confesses his crimes.

I've done a lot of things in this job that I otherwise might not have done. I've ridden in a blimp. I've ridden along with fugitive squads as they jumped out of unmarked vans and pounced on their prey. I've seen enough dead bodies to know I don't really care to see any more. I've shot automatic weapons. I've been tazed. I've bit hit on by a transvestite hooker.

Most importantly, I've told stories nobody had ever heard.

Now Bob Dylan is on Launchcast Talkin' World War III. My desk looks just like it did a few minutes ago when I started this post. I still have three more days before they take my security key fob and send me on my way.

Around here, when we are having a hard time finishing a story, we call it the "Last Line Blues."

I guess that's something I'll be packing up to take home with me, too.


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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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