As a guy who covers news, I’m on the road a lot. Perhaps you are too. If so, odds are pretty good that we share a common gripe: A lot of people don’t know how to drive.
Here’s the dirty secret: Some of them are TV news photographers.
I am, of course, a fabulous driver. I never drive too fast, drive too slow, tailgate, abruptly change lanes, or clog the fast line with my slow-moving vehicle. I would argue that driver-wise, I’m pretty much the best there is (although, in fairness, my insurance company and cops from south Georgia to South Carolina to Nebraska to Pennsylvania to Louisiana might quibble with my self-assessment).
One news photographer with whom I’ve worked liked nothing more than to apply the brakes when approaching green lights. His thinking seemed to be that if the light was fixin’ to turn yellow, he wanted to be ready to grind to a halt. We were frequently the last crew in town to arrive at news incidents.
I’ve worked with a photographer who habitually and randomly applied the brakes while driving on an interstate. Frequently, he would slow waaaay down for no discernible reason while the rest of traffic whizzed by on both sides. There was no logic to it, except an apparent desire to be cautious, accompanied by sheer obliviousness to the danger he was causing.
I’ve worked with a photographer who treated every familiar interchange like a completely new adventure. Turn lane? Oh, right. There’s a turn lane. I guess I need to use it. I’ve used it a thousand times in my career, but I don’t actually move into the turn lane until I’ve come to a halt in the adjacent lane. Sorry about that folks — mind if I move over? (Friendly wave, chorus of horns.)
I’ve worked with numerous photographers who viewed the use of the left lane on interstate highways as a birthright, rather than a lane for passing slower traffic. From the passengers seat, I’d glance out the exterior mirror, see the line of traffic clogged behind us, and cringe while the driver / photog cluelessly advances twenty miles up the highway. And when other motorists fly past us on the right, I’d lean way back in the passenger seat so they can’t see me as they glare angrily into our vehicle.
I’ve worked with a handful of photogs who passive-aggressively do the double-nickel on interstates at all times, regardless of the actual speed of surrounding traffic or the haste needed to get to a story on a timely basis. “The station’s not gonna pay for my speeding ticket,” they’ll correctly but bitchily fume while grimly assuming a spot as the slowest vehicle on the road.
I should hasten to add: The vast majority of photogs with whom I’ve worked are skilled and safe drivers. The folks I’m writing about here are the exception.
Here’s the weird thing: When I, the model motorist, encounter crappy drivers, they piss me off. I automatically judge these strangers to be fools, numbskulls, lowlifes, morons, idiots and / or brain-dead. (Unless they’re behind the wheel of a Buick Riviera or a Lincoln Town Car, in which case I will judge them to be somebody’s elderly grandparent.)
Yet every single one of these lousy drivers with whom I have worked are otherwise enlightened in the ways of the world, considerate to other people, have above-average intelligence and are not what you’d consider to be elderly. Most of them are people whose presence has actually brightened my career. In other words, they aren’t fools, numbskulls, lowlifes, morons, idiots and / or brain-dead. They’re mostly a credit to humanity and to TV news, except while driving.
Like the photog who sloppily parks his news car overlapping two spaces. He’s the sweetest friggin’ guy in the building.