That thought had only half-formed in my head when the phone rang. “Can you take a road trip.”
“Uh . . . When?”
“Now. They found the body.”
I was truly surprised at my reaction. Ya see, at 48, I’ve kinda given up the run-n-gun lifestyle. These days, I prefer puppies to perp-walks, jugglers to jugheads. But something about running down a desolate patch of trees and planting the Brand X flag next to a flattened and freeze-dried possom on mosquito-infested ditch bank spoke to me in the language that only a photog can understand. BREAKING NEWS!!!
Within minutes I found myself hurtling down the interstate through rush hour traffic like a skier on the giant slalom. Zipping in and out. Ignoring the voice oozing sex-appeal from my GPS in favor of the maps cataloged and long forgotten in favor of the farmer with the 40-pound tomato. (I waved as we passed his house.) All while cranking the tunes of my youth. Oblivious to the reporter beside me.
Maybe not completely oblivious. Maddog had her own work to worry about. Texts, emails, phone calls, web updates, cursing stackers, and turning down music long enough to hear the “anonymous” source on the other end of the line.
We hit the scene 110 minutes down the road. Ripped off a few seconds of video and a quick interview just in time to help park the sat truck, set the shot and spew what we knew live — twice.
Then we got to do it all over again for the late news.
I hit the back door of the newsroom at midnight — sweaty, exhausted, and beaming. Partly because our team kicked serious ass on a story that has rocked this community for months. Partly because I was high on the chase.
There’s an adrenaline addiction that goes along with this business. It sets in the first time you chase a scanner. Years of car wrecks, perp-walks, and gasbags take their toll. The job becomes a cakewalk of cliches: the first day of school, elections, the paranoid blue jay dive bombing pedestrians passing too close to its nest. The constant drone of information and deadlines can rub the shine right off that fascination you had when you were still wet behind the lens cap.
Sometimes it takes a chase to stop you from sleepwalking through another day. To remind you why you wore that groove in your shoulder and ruined you back, your knees, and your social life.
It’s none of that high-minded Woodward and Bernstein crap they talk about in J-School. Nothing as esoteric as building a better world, making a difference in your community, the people’s right to know, the First Amendment, the fourth estate of government, or informing the public.
It’s the chase. It’s doing the impossible. Doing it on a ridiculous deadline. Doing it well. That and the high from all the adrenaline, sugar, and caffeine. And knowing that I can still run with the puppies.