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I blew my chance at Miami fame

April 07, 1997

In my defense, I'd either been on a plane or waiting on a plane for the past 12 hours and cobwebs were beginning to form from my ears down to my teeth and over to my throat and back up to my ears again.

So when the Miami television news team stuck a microphone in my face I was not exactly in peak form.

I'd always laughed at people in those impromptu, man-on-the-street television interviews. Don't those people realize how stupid they look and how dumb they sound, I'd wonder.

Why in the world would they submit to such embarrassment?

In truth, it's not like you have a lot of choice. It's not like a mouse wants to be pounced on. It just sort of happens.

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Thus, Painted Woman and Camera Guy roused me from a grumpy fog to ask the question: "Are you flying north?"

Keep in mind I'm in Miami and I'm not at the international gate.

"Well, I don't know where I'd be going if I weren't, unless there's a major airport between here and Key Largo," I said.

No, actually that's not what I said. It's what I thought of that would have been good to say about 20 minutes after Painted Woman and Camera Guy were long gone. You never think of these witty rejoinders when you need to.

What I really said was a decidedly unimaginative and unwitty "Yeah."

The next few minutes of the interview went like this:

"Then are you worried?"

Silence.

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Worried."

"Worried?"

"Yes."

"No."

"No?"

"No."

Silence.

(Something told me this wasn't exactly providing the gripping, dramatic video I knew they were looking for, and since I sort of wanted to be on Miami television I felt the need to push the envelope.)

"Um. Should I be?"

"Well, has your flight been canceled?"

"I don't know, I haven't checked."

"Where are you going?"

(At this point, with the camera in my face and for all I knew a million people watching live, my brain had a seizure. Suddenly the word "Baltimore" had completely flown from my vocabulary. Funny what the pressure of the bright lights can do. They waited expectantly. Then impatiently. Finally I choked out the word.

"Washington."

"Well do you know there's a big storm moving up the East Coast? A Nor' Easter?"

"No, I mean Baltimore."

"What?"

"Baltimore. I meant to say Baltimore. I'm not going to Washington, I'm going to Baltimore."

At this point Painted Woman and Camera Guy exchanged glances, like "How soon can we ditch the imbecile?"

"OK, whatever, have you heard about the storm? We're doing a story on whether it has affected people's travel plans."

"Actually the airport is halfway between Washington and Baltimore, so I guess saying I was going to Washington wasn't really inaccurate. Did you say Nor' Easter?"

"Yes. Big storm. They're calling for up to three feet of snow."

"Do you know where Washington, D.C., is?"

"Of course."

"And you're telling me it's going to get three feet of snow in April?"

"Well the weather report..."

"Have you ever been north of Vero Beach?"

"Uh, I think maybe we should find somebody else."

Of all the luck. I was just getting warmed up and she decides she doesn't want an on-air geography lesson. I truly believe she thought the permafrost started at Savannah and that D.C. was just a microphone's toss from Boston - which incidentally did get a lot of snow and its airport was closed.

My chance at Miami fame blown, I headed back to Baltimore, where, of course, it was bright and sunny. The only problem was the 50 mph winds that wiped out Opening Day at Camden Yards, and the pilot told us that things would be a little (plane hits a downdraft and plummets 1,000 feet) bumpy, but there was no reason to worry because (plane hits an updraft that takes us halfway to the moon) the aircraft is equipped (plane does loop-de-loops over the Wilson Bridge) to handle such conditions.

All told, though, it wasn't as sickening as being interviewed for TV.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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