Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Play in One Act

If you’ve ever worked at a television station you know that the overnight master control operators are strange. They are a different breed, most are weird and anti-social. At my station, it’s no exception.

Here is the little vignette that played out last week when I returned to my office near midnight because I decided I needed a particular document for a meeting the next morning. Unfortunately, when I got to the office, I realized I had left my key to the front door in my brief case at home. But not to worry, I knew that Lance, the overnight master control operator had to be on duty and could let me in.

Lori [Earnestly pushing the intercom buzzer for five minutes waiting for an answer]

Lance “Uh….hello”

Lori “Oh thank goodness you answered. My name is Lori. I work for the Foundation. I need to get in and get a disk I left on my desk so I can finish a report that is due tomorrow.”

Lance [mashes intercom button as if he is going to speak, but pauses for long, long time instead. Finally he replies]. “A disk?”

Lori “Yes. A jump drive actually. Look, Lance, can you come down here and let me in? I mistakenly left me office keys at home.”

Lance [after another interminably long pause]. “How do you know my name is Lance.”

Lori [trying to be patient] “You’re the stuff of legend, Lance. Look, I work days, you work nights. I’ve never met you but I’ve heard about you and I really would appreciate it if you would come let me in the front door.”

Lance [long, long, long pause. I envision him slowly shuffling through the employee index. But knowing overnight engineers like I do, I know that the employee index he is looking at is one that is faded, torn and excessively doodled on because it was printed in 1971, meaning my name’s not on it. At long last a reply] “I don’t see a Lori on the list. Are you… a terrorist?”

Lori [after regaining consciousness from the stunned silence that rendered me incoherent]. “A terrorist? NO! I work here, I forgot my keys, I have an important piece of work to finish and I need you to come let me in right now.”

Lance “Well…. then….are you a communist?”

Lori [blood now boiling] “What kind of a ridiculous question is that? No, not a communist, just a card-carrying Independent. Lance it’s too late to call John or I would tell you to call him to verify I’m legit. Just trust me on this one. I office next to Louise, you’re probably talking on the phone in front of the playback machines, and the coffee maker in the break room has a slow drip that makes a soggy place on the carpet. I WORK HERE so please come to the lobby right now and let me in!”

Lance [in all seriousness] “Well…okay…but if you’re a spy for channel 9 I’m going to deny taking any part in this”

Lori [oh my gosh this paranoid, delusional recluse is serious!] “Fair enough, Lance. Just come let me in.”

10 MINUTES later [when the walk should have taken two minutes max], I see Lance through the glass peeping around the divider at the receptionist’s desk. I vigorously wave with a big, fake see-how-innocent-I-look-open-this-door-you-freak smile going . He ducks back behind the divider as if he’s been “spotted”. He slowly peers out again.

Lori [completely losing it and basically yelling.] “LANCE, GET OVER HERE AND UNLOCK THIS DOOR. THIS IS CRAZY”.

Lance [with a look of resignation and slight disappointment that the caper has ended less dramatically than the John Grisham finale he was fabricating in his head] “Ok…ok…hold on…”

As he rounds the corner I see that HE IS WEARING HIS PAJAMAS. Typical weird overnight master control operator stuff.

Lance “Hold your ID up to the door before I open it”.

Lori [digging through purse] “Lance, you’re going to rue this day!” [press driver’s license up to glass]

Lance “Oh yeah, I remember seeing you during pledge. Come on in.” [unlocks door]

Lori “Thank you. Oh God Lance, come on, you’re not going to follow me to my office are you?”

Lance “Yes”.

Lori [heavy sigh]

With pajama-clad Lance in tow I go to my office, get my jump drive off of my desk and head back to the front door.

Lori [feigning sincerity] “Good night, Lance. Stay alert.”

Lance [in all earnestness] “Will do”.

~C’est Finis~


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