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Archive for the ‘really?’ Category

In my college years, I was a radio announcer. I learned to speak into a microphone with resonant chest tones, fade music in and out, and put together crisp segues between music, announcements, and talk. I was not a compelling radio host, but I could keep things moving along.

Today I was placed in front of a TV camera for the first time. Just me with a microphone on my collar, in a cozy patient room of the clinic in Las Vegas. The story of interest is that I’ve traveled from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas some 40 times in the last two years to be treated for prostate cancer.

Why would I travel to Las Vegas? Has it been worth it? The questions were simple enough. I knew in advance the gist of what the show producer was interested in. But sadly, my brain went surprisingly blank as soon as I stepped in front of that camera. I’ve been thinking for a couple weeks about all the good things I could say for the story, and only a few of them ended up in the conversation.

So, here’s everything that I wanted to say, and a list of advice to myself if ever a TV camera is pointed at me again.

1: Decide what you want to say, and remember it. Write a list on note cards, or do something, anything, to keep yourself from going blank.

For me, the key point of my story is this: I went to Las Vegas in March 2010 to change the course of my treatment. I kept coming back because I not only got new investigational treatments, I got incredible, superlative care at this clinic. I can’t imagine a better combination of competent staff, positive atmosphere, and compassionate medical care. I feel cared for, and I feel affection for the people who are treating me. You can’t fake empathy, and when I’m there I know that there’s empathy and genuine concern for my well being — and an honest effort to come up with the best possible treatment plan.

what came out of my mouth was something like this: I was looking for a clinical trial two years ago blah blah blah two years and I’ve had effective treatments blah blah blah it’s been so valuable for me blah blah blah I feel healthy, and hope to keep trying new treatments blah blah blah.

I’m not sure what all the blah’s are, so I hope they get edited out. But really, did I just answer a series of questions and not once mention the awesome doctor and clinic staff? Must be chemo brain, or maybe the camera lights.

2: Don’t limit yourself to the questions that the interviewer asks. Fill in the details with related, important stuff.

For some reason, once the light was shining in my face and the camera was recording, I became quite literal about answering the questions as they were asked to me. Duh! Those questions were starting points. I froze up and just answered the basic questions. No creativity whatsoever.

In the future, self, please remember to elaborate when you get a simple question. Answer with more than “yes” and “no”. Again, I could have talked about how it was very much worth the travel because so many people have been there to help me out: our friends Tom and Jodi gave us a key to their brand new house in St. George and simply said, “Any time you need to stay there, just let us know.” Dorothy’s cousin Cathy and her husband John have offered us a room to stay in at their home in Henderson, any time we need to stay the night in town. They’ve been a great resource as we’ve learned the ropes of getting around and finding what we need in the Vegas area. Dorothy has travelled with me many times, and other family members have come along  on other trips to help make the long drive much more tolerable.

Did I mention any of this? Of course not, I was frozen like a deer in the camera lights.

3: Relax, but don’t relax so much that you lose your train of thought.

People kept telling me to relax, being interviewed is no big deal. I guess I took the advice too well. I was relaxed, but apparently that extended to brain function. I realized midway through several of my responses that I had no idea what I was saying. I couldn’t find my way out once I got started into a thought. So I offered a series of very limited thoughts.

One thing that annoys me about news broadcasts, especially local news, and especially dramatic stories, is the on-the-spot interviews with bystanders. I’ve always been so smug about the trivial, obvious things they say. I now have to take back all that irritation and smugness. It’s rare that the average person can say anything profound or meaningful when a camera is pointed at them. And even if they do, it may well get edited into less meaningful bits.

I haven’t seen the finished result of this news piece. I sincerely hope that Dr. V had the presence of mind that I did not have, when they put him in front of that camera. I really, really wish I could have a do-over, but that’s how it works. In the final cut, I’ll probably be saying some trivial, obvious things and looking a bit slow-witted. Oh well. The real story is there, somewhere, and I hope they get some part of it into the final mix.

Has it been worth it, traveling to Las Vegas? Absolutely.

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My first blog post featured a wonderful fake ad. This one, it seems is real.

[Photo from The Consumerist]

I have to admit, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t like lemon-lime soda…

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I happened to be picking up a prescription in the early evening, apparently when the citizens of Sandy and environs all send in their refills simultaneously. Six pharmacy workers, all too busy to come to the checkout counter. So I stood patiently behind two other customers, and a small line formed behind me. Then the voice got in line.

“I’m like so bugged at her, she’s just wasting our time and doesn’t get it. And so we’ve been dealing with this all week and just can’t get it working right, but like it’s never her fault.”

It’s an impeccable Valley Girl whine, what we in Utah call the “oh-my-heck” dialect.

“So finally I get to the point where we can get some work done, because we are so in trouble if it doesn’t get worked out soon, and we just go over and over it. And like I finally asked her, ‘So can you do the matching program on your own?’ and she’s like ‘no, no way, I just don’t get it.'”

Hm. Sounds like a retail employee venting on her phone about a long day with the cash register and some sales promotion. I glance back and am surprised that it’s her boyfriend who’s silently listening.

“I’m like, oh my gosh, how can she stand up at the white board in front of everybody and go on about how she’s all over the program, making it sound so good, and then it comes down to it and she’s like ‘I don’t get it.’ So I’m going to have to take care of it?”

Really, I’m not at all interested, but she has a voice that not only carries but fills all available space within a 30-yard radius, and it’s not even a loud voice. It’s … insistent. I lean against the counter and consider twiddling my thumbs or maybe drumming my fingertips loudly.

“I’ve had it with her, but you know I can code it, I can debug it better than any of those muthas. I’m just gonna have to go in and clean it all up. We have to get it into beta.”

Of all the things I might have expected, that was not one of them. The pharmacist turns to help me, and I lose track of the geek girl and her silent boyfriend.

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overheard in Target #1

vintage-retailWhen things are stressful, I sometimes find myself in retail therapy. Not shopping, necessarily, just wandering in places like Target. Nothing beats finding a totally cheap clearance deal at Target. And retail environments are made to distract. In one of my favorite cancer movies, My Life Without Me, the main character muses, “No one ever thinks about death in a supermarket.” Me? I never think about my problems in Target.

So I’m browsing the men’s clothing section on my lunch break, and overhear a conversation between two men. I’m not paying attention, and can’t see who’s talking. I’m just looking for a pair of pants in my size that come in at the magic clearance price of seven bucks or less. I’ll wear almost any pants if they cost me less than seven bucks. Just ask my kids.

“…so then, he tells me I’ve gotta come over and see the property, cause he keeps trying to get me to invest. But I told him, My time is too valuable.”

OK, I’ve heard that phrase before. Usually on TV. I keep sorting through the racks of clothing, but the guy won’t shut up.

“…my time is too valuable. I’m not gonna bother with that.”

After about five repetitions, it cracks through my distraction and I think to myself, What is this important executive type man doing with his friend in Target at lunch time? But by this point they are on the other side of the display wall.

“No. I tell you, my time is just too valuable.”

I can hear him over the wall. At this point I’m done with clothes. It’s time to move on to the grocery clearance shelves. Mmmm, dark chocolate.

And then I see the guy. He’s wearing a torn parka, dirty jeans, has a three day stubble, and barely looks employable. But he walks with a confident, self-important aura, the poor schmuck.

I spend the next twenty minutes trying to picture him investing in anything, but I can’t do it. This is the power of the big box retail experience. Anyone can be anything under those fluorescent lights.

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