The alarm finally buzzed at 4:30am. I had already been up for three minutes. It’s weird. No matter what strange hour I need to get up for something, I’m always wide awake well before I need to be. I’m sure many of you won’t seem surprised by this, but my sleep cycles are not quite, shall we say “eastern time zone.” In general, 4:30 in the morning is a lot closer to when I usually go to bed than it is to when I usually get up. And I do more often than not get the requisite eight hours of sleep.
For some reason, I just wasn’t excited about this television appearance. To make sure we’re on the same page here, I must remind you that I am not famous enough not to get excited about appearing live on a nationally syndicated broadcast. Let me emphasize: I am so not famous that I should be eternally grateful that this particular producer had found something of interest in my background that she’d been trying to get me on the air for several months.
In fact, I was and am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity. Still, I couldn’t shrug this feeling that I was merely doing a job. Nobody gets excited about “merely doing a job” and I’m no different from anyone else in that regard.
I hate getting up early. I hate getting a hotel room on a double digit floor. I hate having to walk in the rain in my good suit. Yet, there I was, showering and shaving before the crack of dawn, seventeen stories above the streets of Manhattan, struck by the utter realization I’d have to carry my umbrella with me “just in case.”
Of course, I thought and planned ahead. I secured a hotel close to the studio. I’d learned from previous media trips to the Big Apple it’s a lot better to get a hotel within a few minutes walking distance than to endure the stress of relying on a random taxi driver’s ability to navigate the streets of New York. There is, unfortunately, a downside to walking: the weather.
I spun out of the revolving door of the Grand Central Hyatt onto 42nd Street only to be greeted by an irksome misty drizzle. It wasn’t enough to merit opening the umbrella, especially since the GPS showed WPIX was only a four minute walk. So I hugged close to the buildings, defying the soft rain through stealth rather than conceding defeat and opening my umbrella. My destination lay on the first floor of 220 East 42nd Street and I had just departed 109 East 42nd Street. I figured the few water droplets from the floating dew that attached themselves to me would still be nothing more than innocent beads on my tailored garment by the time I arrived at the TV station.
Have you ever noticed when you’re trying to locate an address to a place you haven’t been before the neighboring buildings tend to never have their street numbers in a clearly visible location? New York City is no different than any other community in this regard. It was now nearly ten minutes into my “four minute” walk and I had already crossed two broadstreets when I finally found a street number. It was “60.” I was walking in the wrong direction.
Miffed, I reversed course with the gnawing realization I was now three times further from my target than I would have been had I turned the right way upon leaving the hotel. The rain seemed to intensify. I remained defiant, however, and refused to open the umbrella. I could see the water beads begin to absorb into the cloth of my suit. I quickened my pace.
That’s about the time I realized I had failed to put my wallet into my jacket. I left it in the hotel room. Even though I was right then passing said hotel, I decided I didn’t have time to wait for an elevator to take me 17 stories into the air to retrieve the missing wallet. Besides, I wasn’t going to buy anything, so what did I need a wallet for?
I answered my own question when I saw the security guard at the entrance to 220 East 42nd Street. “I’ll need to see a picture ID, please,” he matter-of-factly uttered.
What could I tell him but the truth? “I’m sorry, but I left my wallet in my hotel room,” I began, half wondering if that was a standard excuse offered on some list in the first few pages of the terrorist training manual. Then a brilliant idea struck me. “I’m here for a book interview,” I continued as a pulled out my book. “Here’s my picture on the back cover of the book” I said as I offered him the book.
It worked. He let me in. But not before mumbling half to me, half to an invisible nobody who could care less, “They really butchered your name” as he hand me my name tag.
I walked down the long corridor to the left of the elevators and entered the studio, only to be stopped by another security guard. He shuffled me off to the “green room” (a lobby, really) and instructed me to wait for “make-up.” That’s when I began to notice how hot it was in there. I could feel the moist Sicilian sweat attacking my shirt from the inside as a thick layer of humid perspiration grew on my head. I stripped off my jacket in hopes to cool my sweat glands.
The make-up lady then popped in, asked to see my name tag, then instructed me to follow her. I obeyed and dutifully sat in a chair as directed. Without warning she began to apply make-up but stopped suddenly. “You’re really sweating,” she said, as she reached for a towel and proceeded to wipe the water from my face and scalp. No sooner had she removed it then I could feel the sweat oozing back with eager reinforcements. In less time that it took her to place the towel down and begin reapplying the make-up did the perspiration return to its full former glory.
But I had other things on my mind. “Who should I talk to about spelling my name right,” I asked.
“Listen, honey, I don’t care. I’m just make-up,” she said with New York City abruptness. Welcome to the Big Leagues, Mr. Hobbs was all I can think as I cowered back into my seat.
Having completed her task, she released me back into the lobby. By then, I was bathed in all-out flop sweat. I had visions of Albert Brooks’ scene in 1987’s Broadcast News. Was I about to blow this appearance on account of being drenched in sweat?
Without warning, the security guard came in with an unexpected request. “The producer’s on the phone. She wants to speak to you,” he said.
Are they cancelling my appearing at this late date? My very first television appearance in 1998 was interrupted by Bill Clinton’s infamous “I did not have sexual relations” speech, so you can understand my worry.
No, she was just confirming a few things she wanted to place on the graphics during my interview. In return, I was able to confirm she spelled my name right (she did). In a few minutes, I was up on the second floor under the bright Klieg lights speaking to millions of New Yorkers – and beyond, since WPIX is the flagship station for Tribune Broadcasting, a cable Superstation, and the #1 affiliate of the CW Television Network. Like an old pro I went straight to “morning DJ” mode, all perky and engaging. I was on top of my game. I was jazzed! I was, yes, genuinely excited!
Perhaps that producer knew something more than I did!