His eyes were lidded. His speech was slurred. He identified me as “Drag Ringus.” I had told him my real name, but that was how it came out of his mouth.
Although he hung around our live truck for a solid 90 minutes Friday, I didn’t catch his name. There’s a line one walks when encountering persistent lingerers out in the field. Your instinct is to discourage them. But you don’t want to make them hostile, either.
Plus, we were more-or-less stuck in our location. Dan Reilly and I were in a live truck. Our microwave shot had been set. We were producing a piece for the 6.
Our encounters with people out in the world — the expected and the unexpected — are part of what make the job interesting. But sometimes they corner you when you’re trying to make a deadline. Friday, my new friend had nothing better to do for 90 minutes but hang around our live truck.
He wasn’t an unpleasant man. He was well groomed. There was, as cops say, an “odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath.” But it wasn’t overpowering.
Sometimes, he would make conversation that was more-or-less coherent. He brought up the missing airliner. He mentioned the Falcons. My responses were brief but respectful.
He surprised me when he asked me if WXIA anchor Karyn Greer would “cheat on her husband.” You mean, with you? I asked. “Well, yeah!”
I told him there was no chance whatsoever.
Yet he still hung around. We were busy, and I tried to look it.
Sometimes, writing for the web is an afterthought. On this day, I did it with great urgency. As he persisted in engaging me, I pointed out that I was trying to make a deadline. He backed off for a few minutes. A woman walked past our truck and he hoofed after her. She outpaced him and lost him. He returned to our truck within minutes.
When air time came, Dan and I went to the sidewalk and our friend got kind of excited. I told him I needed his help: I need for you to help with crowd control. Keep the crazy people away. There was no crowd — he was it. But he nodded his head agreeably. At one point, he fumbled around in his pants pocket. A small baggie appeared. “What’s in the baggie?” I asked him. I got no answer.
I was actually secretly rooting for him to disrupt my live shot. It was Friday and my story was kind of dull. Although he was a bit of a pest, he seemed to be a gentle soul. I figured he would quietly photobomb me.
But whenever he moved toward camera range, Reilly would give him the stink eye and point to a spot behind him. The man obediently stayed put.
As we concluded, we parted agreeably. He never panhandled us, typically a pro forma part of our encounters with our lingering fans. I choose to believe he was so dazzled by his encounter with a Real TV News Crew, he may have forgotten to do that.