Saturday, April 21, 2007

This is Ethical Journalism?

I've wanted to write something for a long time. And it's probably good that I waited because all I could come up with on Monday was, "I'm pissed."

I was mad people died, that so many people died—at my school in Blacksburg. Blacksburg. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I was just pissed. Simple as that.

Annie e-mailed me at work to say someone had been shot at VT. It was upsetting news, but these things happen. When we met for lunch, Annie told me she heard that now 22 people were now dead. I was shocked. How did the number get that high so quickly? Hadn't they noticed all the other bodies before? Of course, looking back, knowing the time line of events, it makes sense.

At work I was refreshing Google News incessently. Newspapers in Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Korea were running the story. Now the world knows about Virginia Tech for this? Not for its excellent engineering, architecture, communication (I have Hokie Pride for my degree, thank you), business schools? Yeah I was mad.

And that was before I started watching the news. When NBC flashed an image of Burruss Hall with type that said, "Massaccre at Virginia Tech" I yelled at the TV.

"Whaaat the..." (Unlike the networks, I'll use some tact here.)

As I watch "Dateline" Monday night, it becomes clear to me that the newscasters are "investigating" who is to blame—other than the gunman.

Wait, what?

Brian Williams and Matt Lauer are standing near across the street from the Drillfield. I know exactly where they are on campus. If it was light outside, they would be able to see the Duck Pond just yards away from where they are standing. They look cold. It is windy. I can feel that wind. I know those guys have brains freezes and I know what those feel like. I remember how I always use to say Blacksburg could rival Chicago for the Windy City moniker. (But now Jess lives there and she told me that it got the nickname from long-winded politicians who were campaigning to hold the World's Fair in Chicago.) Besides, Blacksburg is a town. A perfect college town. But also, with students and professors from all over the world, it's a very cosmopolitan for a town. (What interesting dinner parties professor must have...)

Matt Lauer says he was surprised that the VT students were surprised to see him in West End; that they hadn't yet realized that this was a national story. My first thoughts were: Cheese Quesidilla! I worked at Wired! London Broil! Going there every night of freshman year with Lizzie and Keni, after the football players "came out" so we could "people watch," er, so we could check people out and guess who each other liked. My second thought was of September 11: While its aftermath lasted for months across the country, it seemed to be over (in O'Shag at least) in a week. We were freshman. Our parents were far away. There was frat parties and there was beer. The country was hurting, but we were enjoying our first month of freedom. Blacksburg is a bubble, so of course, those kids were shocked to see you Matt, why would some big name news reporter from New York City be in Blacksburg, even if this had happened?

And how did you even get there Matt? How much traffic did the Roanoke airport see that day?

I stopped watching the TV stations after a journalist on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric who was "reporting" on the students' feelings interjected her own commentary. First she generalized all students were upset the university only sent out an e-mail because, "Students don't have the time to brush their hair in the morning, they're not going to check their e-mail!"

How little you know about Virginia Tech! Most mornings I did not brush my hair because I was always 15 minutes late, but I ALWAYS checked my e-mail and my IMs, which I'm there would have been 15 asking me if I found out what had happened.

Ah, bugger. So this did turn out angry. But I'm also feeling Hokie Pride, loss, saddness, strength, hope for the Blacksburg community, the Hokie community, hope that this will help change our country's approach to mental illness.

One journalist, Hoda Kotb, a "Dateline" reporter and graduate of Virginia Tech, did a You segment about what it means to be a Hokie, what that school means to her. Watching it, I was so happy to see someone on national television expressing my feelings.

(Ignore Anne Cury when she says, "this once safe and serene campus." Virginia Tech is still a safe campus. And it will become serene again, with the expection of football games.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Playing Lost & Found With My Wallet

I lost my wallet. Again.

I got it back. Again.

So is my luck good or bad, or just simply balanced?

I know I have read that New Yorkers have been voted the politest/nicest big city folks. When I'm being shoved out a subway car onto the Grand Central platform and someone may have just grabbed my ass, I'm not thinking New Yorkers are nice people. But when I'm watching a postal worker unlock the mailbox that I may or may not have dropped my wallet into; when I'm listening to a voicemail from my roommate informing me that a little old lady just dropped off my wallet at our apartment; and when the little old lady, who I assume left me her number for a reward, leaves me a voicemail saying that hearing the happiness in my voice was reward enough, I couldn't agree more.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Chinese Fire Drills, A Creepy Farter and Quebec

No one does Chinese Fire Drills out of necessity. We do them because we are dumb teenagers or dumb middle schoolers with our friends' even dumber parents and we want to be CRAZY for a whopping 37 seconds in the middle of traffic, when it's dark outside and inevitably warm (because no one's getting out of the car when it's 30 degrees outside in Northern Virginia, we don't even drive in snow flurries, unless we are desperate for milk and bread and toilet paper).

But when we hit a light last Friday night and Morrison asked if I wanted to do a Chinese Fire Drill, she wasn't asking Lizzie and I if we wanted to get wild and crazy, she wanted to put an end to the craziness of my driving. I've never felt so relieved. And then the light turned green and I had to keep driving—intense panic.

After a year in NYC, not only do I drive like my grandma (I was terrified of her driving when I was little), but i am now terrified of driving, just like my mom. Lucky for my sister I haven't started pumping the break; a little driving technique of my mom'S that makes my sister very car sick. Unlucky for everyone else on the road: These days I drive under the speed limit and I don't even notice, until people pass me, which happens on a regular basis, three or four times in a 15 minute drive to Ballston from McLean.

While I haven't been a regular driver for over a year, I do have a new New York driver's license, which receives lots of comments from Virginians: "That's weird, looks fake.""Where's your birthday on here?" "Wow you're an organ donor." And all I really want to say back is "Check out just how fat I look! I look so bad right?!?!" And with that New York driver's license, I've been home six times since Christmas, six times since i freaked out Katie on our road trip to Kelly's wedding. Six times in three months means I should be getting better, right?


I suck. I suck! And I suck even worse when Mo and Lizzie the back seat driver are giving me conflicting directions to Georgetown from Mo's apartment on x95s and parkways and one way streets. So when we stopped and Mo suggested a Chinese Fire Drill, and I say, "YES! Thank god! I was thinking the same thing! I can't drive anymore! It's toooo scary!!!!"...and then the light turns green. So I yell at everyone to get back in and pull over ASAP. Lizzie says she'll drive and Mo says, "No way, you drive too fast so you can't drive Bridget's Dad's car." Lizzie concedes, but is already jumping in the front seat to give directions (it is a Chinese Fire Drill) and yells, "Grandma! YOU get in the back seat."

When I slam the door of the backseat, I'm overcome, overcome with relief. The back seat is where i belong.

And then I start getting worried that Mo is going to get in accident, because that's next on the bad things that could what happen chain of events. So we get to Georgetown safely, phew, and Mo "I love my Jack Russell Terrier Mini Cooper License Plate Holding Loser" rrison is parallel parking my dad's Mercury Sable and she love taps the royal blue car parked behind us, that's less a love tap and more of a hit I'd take on a guy that broke my heart kind of tap.

And when Morrison and Lizzie turn around my head's in my hands and I say, "I knew this was going to happen."

Granted I always overreact so it probably wasn't that bad and there was no damage done to either car.

Sadly, our noses did not make it through the night unscathed.

Creepy old dude whose 13 and 15 year-old kids are sitting at the bar is trying to make small talk (please notice how the words "hit on" were not used, I don't want to vomit)..."blah blah slur slur do you have kids?"... us: "No."...a good 5 minutes go by and someone lets one rip..."Having kids was the best thing I've ever done! slur slur as long as they're not little brats"....FART FART FART slur slur slur FART...Lizzie goes into hysterics....15 minutes later..."My kids think I'm the coolest slur"...more and more and more and MORE farting...Lizzie and the bartender discover that they have something in common, their favorite province of Canada is, in fact, Quebec.

And all this happened in one hour.