Manhattan Christmas Eve (iv)

The first floor studio of NBC was to our right. Just above the full story glass walls of the real studio where Katie and Matt sit and joke and get earnest and give the news is a running marquee with breaking news and an announcement of that night’s programming on NBC. Just above the marquee is a row of flat screen monitors with the show’s live feed. We were all watching the monitors to know when the outside studio would be live and we would then cheer and wave.

That morning, the two most frequent images across the monitors were the cover of Time naming Giuliani the Person of the Year and a very bad back-seat-of-a-speeding-car photo of Richard Reid, the tennis shoe bomber.

The next half-hour was pretty uneventful. Various technicians were standing about in the rain, drinking coffee, talking. Occasionally one or two would walk about the studio, stop, look over the audience, now grown considerably, then turn and talk to each other or write something on a clipboard, also shielded from the rain by plastic. We didn’t know what they were talking about or writing down, but we assumed we were being auditioned for the chance to speak to Al and be spoken to by him just before he cuts away for a weather update.

We tried to look promising and fulfilling, great potential interviewees, all without the slightest idea what the crew members were looking for as they scanned the audience. Turned out they were looking for an elderly white lady, two middle aged men, one white and one black, both working class types, and a middle aged mom. Each was later asked to participate in a segment called “Some Assembly Required.” For the entire length of the show, two hours, these four each had to work on assembling a child’s toy by following the directions. We were both relieved at not being chosen. I was pretty confident I could have put the toy together, a Mouse Trap Game, but I really didn’t want to have to stand there in the cold for two hours. Too much work.

At about 6:40 two photographers came out and explained that they were going to take our photos which we could see on the NBC Web site for the next two weeks. Of course we could also buy copies. We were excited about that. At least if no one at home videotaped the show (we had forgotten to arrange that) or happened to see it, at least we would have some photographic evidence, some proof that we were there and that Mattie held the sign.

As the photographers were completing their rounds, anticipation grew noticeably. The rain had stopped and the wet cold was seeping in, especially around our feet. NBC crew people had removed the plastic coverings from the cameras and had repositioned some lights. Must be close to showtime.

[an essay in 13 parts from Pablo Notes, 2001]

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