Friday, August 23, 2002

Hallo! I am Triumphant Hiami Merald Freelance Woman! :)

I did my first assignment for them yesterday, which was to shoot a University of Miami (big Syracuse rival- Go Orangepersons!) football practice. I got a real photo assignment, with accurate times and dates and addresses and the name of the reporter who is ACTUALLY writing the story and a cell phone number that actually WORKED when I called the reporter to check in, on a piece of paper with my name on it and everything. I haven't had that since the Daily Record. (I am making a big deal out of this, but it's kind of tongue in cheek- getting photo assignments with all that info, etc is standard operating procedure everywhere but @P, apparently) I was so psyched.

The football team is very strict about media at practices. We were only allowed to shoot for the first thirty minutes because they are very anal. And you know what? The editor told me that when she assigned me, the reporter reminded me when we spoke the night before AND it was written on the assignment sheet! (Cue music: The hills are aliiiiiiive....)

This is EXACTLY the type of thing that Maniacal @P Staffer Who Made Me Miserable (some of the other people who work there have taken to calling her You-Know-Who- I guess they are going to fight her with sorcery the Harry Potter way...?) would have used to her advantage. She would have said, "Practice is between 8:30 and 10 a.m., so just go over there whenever... Why don't you start your day at 9?" That was always the catch phrase, "start your day;" like, "Your shift starts at 10, this random congressman's rally is at 10:15, so why don't you start your day then?" And I would have gone there at 9, and I wouldn't have been able to make a picture due to the restrictions or whatever, and then they would have said, "Always make it a practice to go early" or some shit, and it would have ended up being my fault. Which did NOT happen with the Merald! YAY!

Anyway, I shot the practice. It went well. After I was done at U of M, I did the standard thing, call back to the office and ask if they need anything while you're out, which could be anything from shooting another assignment or bringing back a jelly doughnut. Nope, all set. Half and hour in morning traffic later- remarkably when I am five minutes from the airport- my assignment editor calls and says, "Go straight to the airport; they are evacuating it. From all reports, the action is at concourse B."

Here's the thing. Someone called in a chemical terrorism/anthrax threat to the airport that morning. It turns out that the call was a hoax. However, someone- and no one is sure who- accidentally discharged a big-ass can of pepper spray in the international terminal. Naturally, when 43 people suddenly needed medical attention for choking, watering eyes and difficulty breathing an hour later, the airport thought the threat of anthrax/chemical warfare was real. They did find the pepper spray can about 15 minutes of chaos later, but everyone had been evacuated, the national guard called, HAZMAT teams mobilized, etc.

Every single journalist in Florida was on it, including You-Know-Who. I couldn't believe she was there. She has shot one thing since April, and that was when I was New York, shoplifting things (completely and totally by accident) from the company store. Anyway, You-Know-Who was making a big show, chatting with everyone and looking oh-so-at-ease with all the other photogs blah blah blah. And then, the HAZMAT people showed up and started putting on their gear on the other side of this big cement pole.

Now, here's the thing about so many journalists covering something. There is a real "pack of wolves" mentality to it. One person runs toward something, and everyone else follows. I have been the second and third person to see something in other situations, but never before have I been the first. So I see it, and walk quickly but purposefully to the spot and start shooting. Everyone comes running over, and You-Know-Who is. Right. Next. To Me. With a very teleconverter on her lens, a lens that is much better than mine. I just kept shooting. She was right next to me.

Fast forward three long, hot hours. Two other Merald people are there, and we spread out to try and get different stuff.

The airport re-opens. A Merald photog gets a kick-ass shot of a pepper-sprayed woman covering her eyes and being ushered out really, really fast. Every other person who needs medical treatment has been long gone, and they told employees they could return to their jobs a little too soon. Meanwhile, I am getting pictures of bored skycaps and checking the nondenominational chapel in case people are in there praying or something.

By the way, have any of you ever been inside an Airport Nondenominational Chapel? I had not. The one in Miami International has a big mural of an eagle, some folding chairs, a podium and two copies of Santa Biblia, the Christian Bible, in Spanish. I don't know what I was expecting. I think I was expecting more of a One-Of-Everything type place. You know, one cross, maybe a prayer mat or two, some plain white candles, some copies of the Koran, the Bible, the Torah, maybe some kind of shrine or a small Buddha or something. I don't know. Anyway, I get the eagle thing. You know, America, eagle as national bird, freedom, wings, flying, plane, airport, and so forth. But still... Huh.

So we go back to the office. The Merald is pleased with P's pepper-sprayed employee shot and my work, esp. of the HazMat people. I process everything. I go to leave. Fun New Nice Boss stops me and asks if they can move some of my photos of the (Bad Old Internship) Wire. (The Merald contract says they have to ask, because I keep the resale rights! I. KEEP. THE. RESALE. RIGHTS. This is great, and not what Bad Old Internship Place does. At All)

ANYWAY- this is so long, sorry- So this is what happened. Bad Old Internship Boss called Fun New Nice Boss and said, "Did you have anyone out at the airport?" (Um, yeah, everyone and their mother did, but okay) and Fun New Nice Boss, all this is according to her, by the way, said, "We had quite a few people."
BAD OLD BOSS aka BOB: "Oh. Well, if you have anything that looks different from what we shot, could you move it on the wire?"
FUN NEW BOSS, aka FNB: "Certainly."
BOB: "DO you have anything different?"
FNB: "Yes."
BOB: "Um, is [my full name here] working for you?
FNB: "Yes, as a matter of fact she is."


BOB: "Oh. Well, good for her."
FNB: "Good for both of us, actually. She's doing very well. We're really happy." (I love her.)
BOB: (Silence)

Hee hee hee. But wait, there's more.... THIS is the best part.

They requested MY picture of the HAZMAT people, because the picture You-Know-Who took, who was standing RIGHT NEXT TO ME, with superior equipment, Well, BOB had to specifically request "a HAZMAT picture."

Of course, P's picture of the woman who was having issues with the pepper spray was the Numero Uno Shot of the Day. I am SO PLEASED for him, and of course, concerned for the woman, whom I hear was just fine after a quick trip to the Eye Wash station. (Whoever told her to go back to work before all the Irritating Chemicals were taken care of is also a Bad Boss.)

But just to keep you from thinking Random Bad Stuff has stopped happening to me, during the Three Long Hot Hours that I previously fast forwarded, I got a $29 Parking Ticket (all the journalists parked in the journalists' area that weren't big satellite newsvans did) and they towed my car (which only cost $25 to get back from the airport, because they hadn't taken it to the tow lot, which would have cost $100+) but I got it back AND still got pictures of the National Guard coming in.

BUT THEN, after work, the rental car that I am using until my own car is fixed got banged in a mall parking lot, which I am responsible for, to the tune of $600+, which I am mostly paying for myself as my parents already graciously paid the first $500 deductible from the Scary Accident a fortnight ago, (Fortnight! Loo! Telly! Lift! Bloody Hell!) and my mom thinks the insurance company might drop me if we report another accident, even though it was technically hit-and-run, since I wasn't even there when it happened.

Sigh... But it's still okay. In any car accident where no one is hurt, I am learning, it's a blessing. My money from @P can cover this. My savings are still okay. My insurance is still okay. I think this is the universe's way of achieving balance since @P technically had to pay me twice for my photos from the airport, once to not work for them, and once to buy it from me as a pick-up from a member.

And I am happy. Because this is what photojournalism is about for me. It's about teamwork, and sports, and nondenominational religious spaces, and pepper spray. It's about Being There, for the good stuff and the scary stuff. It's about doing your best and being respected for it. It's about being a part of something bigger and focusing on getting people the information they need.

The Weird Bad Luck is so much less overwhelming when you love what do and have the freedom and support to just go out and do it. In the meantime, I am parking waaaaay out in No (Wo)Man's Land, far away from everyone until I get my own car back. And maybe even then. :)

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