A Nightmare (Safely) Come True

Land’s sakes I’ve been busy lately – offline stuff – but I did manage to transcode what I shot (filmed) myself last week when I was hanging around with the ProTV crew. Below is a little snippet:

As you can see, it’s just me horsing around in the courthouse with all of the other journalists as we were waiting for the Lord of Cluj to do his perp walk. The local ProTV correspondent set her microphone down and I picked it up and started playing with it. If you watch carefully, you can see what I saw for three days – the enormous camera trained right on me. It’s just a short clip of me goofing around but I filmed it and posted it here because it sort of fulfills a kind of bucket list fantasy of mine, which requires a little explanation.

Back in 2004, when I moved to Romania, I had some pretty tough times. I didn’t know anyone, I really didn’t understand the culture and I had only the most elementary grasp of the language. I had no cable or satellite connections and so my television received just one channel over the air – ProTV. And so I watched a lot of ProTV, morning, noon and night, and that definitely included their major news segment at 7:00 pm.

The network news at 7pm on all the channels is pretty much identical (as I later learned when I had cable) but I learned the formula on ProTV – first a round-up of top international and domestic stories and then always a grisly fascination with domestic tragedy. Someone dies in a car crash? A house or apartment burns down? A drunken family squabble leads to a stabbing? You can be sure these will be covered in lurid detail. And when I say lurid detail I actually mean that ProTV (and the other stations of course) love nothing more than to “re-create” the awful event, or use dramatic background music, show the same clip over only this time in black and white, and just make the story as goddamn grisly and horrifying as possible.

Quite frankly the news channels here have two “problems”. The first is that their audience freaking loves to see a tragedy. They want to see a pool of blood on the floor and hear about how some peasant in a village got drunk and stabbed his father. The second “problem” is that there often isn’t that much that’s happening in Romania. So what would be two seconds of coverage in America (or less) here is played out in a three-minute piece complete with violins and repetitive jump cuts. In other words, they milk every drop of tragedy they can out of what are otherwise fairly minor incidents.

Since they often can’t show the dead body and inconveniently there’s not always a pool of blood on the floor, one of their favorite techniques is to interview the neighbor. Somehow or another there’s always a neighbor, usually an old lady with a kerchief on her head, who is willing to tell the reporter that she “always knew” that the guy in question was no good, and suspected “all along” that he would one day stab his father, etcetera.

Even if I owned a television these days I’d never watch the news due to these factors. But I did watch the 7pm broadcasts regularly when I first moved here and in my mind I came to associate ProTV cameras with something bad happening. And so I had two major fears when it came to living in Romania, one of which was the arrival of a ProTV crew, because that meant that something grisly and tragic had happened to you. I really did not want my last moments on Earth memorialized by a ProTV correspondent zooming in on the pool of blood in my hallway and speaking to my neighbors as they waxed on at length about how they “always knew” I was no good.

My second fear, by the way, was being injured in some way and transported to a hospital in a Dacia 1310 ambulance (like this one). Luckily those are pretty much gone from Romania but still, for years, this was a major fear of mine. Of course both of my nightmares could’ve come true simultaneously, ProTV reveling in my tragic injuries and me being transported in an antique ambulance :)

Well I finally DID get on ProTV, although thankfully not the 7:00 pm news segment, which means I still haven’t been mauled by a bear or stabbed in a domestic squabble, so that’s good. Instead I got to meet some really nice people from ProTV and help them do a fun and positive segment (which all of you will see on December 1). And while we were hanging out in the courthouse and swapping jokes and munching on pretzels (Rom: covrigi), I espied this unattended microphone and decided to simulate my nightmare and pretend to be a ProTV reporter describing my unfortunate death, complete with speaking to the aged neighbor who wanted to get their two seconds of fame.

Since those old style ambulances are gone for good (at least here in Cluj), I no longer have to fear a ride to the hospital in one of them. And now I’ve crossed off my list the nightmare of appearing on ProTV, since now I have been filmed by them and it worked out great, plus I got to simulate it myself as you can see in the clip above. I must say it’s pretty damn cool to have that particular wish fulfilled!

So there you go, a long explanation for what is indeed a very short clip of me horsing around with a microphone.


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