Friday, August 24, 2007

TV Traffic Anxiety

I survived traffic again. I realize that's what I always say when I fill-in doing the traffic reports on WTSP-TV but that's the truth of it. After a few fitful hours of sleep, my alarm clock jars me awake 3:10 a.m. and I bolt out of bed before I give myself the chance to fall back asleep. That's the single biggest source of anxiety surrounding the job: Failing to show up.

I worry about whether the computer will work. I worry about whether I'll remember how to work the computer. I worry about remembering the anchor's names. I worry about saying something stupid enough to land me on YouTube. But mostly I worry that I'll wake up 20 minutes before I'm supposed to go on the air at a TV station that's a 25 minute drive away.

This morning was my fourth day this year. I joked off camera that Meredyth Censullo, the regular (and very good) traffic anchor, gets separation anxiety when she's away from work for too long. I was only half kidding. Before I landed the job as her backup, she had happily worked more than a year without a day off. Since I started, her longest absense has been four days. And that was for a family emergency.

So I'm rarely there. Adding to the strangeness is the fact that I do not watch the program on which I occasionally appear. I don't have cable or satellite TV at home and WTSP's signal comes in very poorly. Plus, if I'm awake before 7 a.m., I'm at the gym or on the way there. It adds up to an almost surreal experience. I get up at an ungodly hour and drive to a foreign place to do a job I've done only a handful of times. At least I'm familiar with the roads I'm talking about or it would be Twilight Zone weird.

Why do a job that apparenlty causes me so much anxiety? A few reasons. It's another way to stay in touch with the business. It looks good on a resume. The people at WTSP have treated me wonderfully. And if I can't relax enough to enjoy doing the job, I do feel good once I've finished and can say I survived. That's accomplishment enough.

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