Monday, November 1, 2010

My First Almost-TV Appearance (and Thoughts on Expectations)

I was told at the beginning of this semester that before too long I would be a regular "Washingtonian" - annoyed at the crowds of reporters blocking my way to the Metro, huffing and puffing along K St. to get to Potbelly Sandwich Works to grab lunch, and people watching on the bus. I was particularly excited for the first prospect. I could be on TV! I thought to myself that first night of lecture as one of our professors joked about the annoyance of living in the city's capital and all the backups because of rallies and the horrible traffic. Golly gee! My parents/friends/classmates/random acquaintances could turn on their TV in little ol' Wenham, MA and see ME there, brushing past a reporter as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Well, after 8 weeks of no reporters, no impromptu TV appearances, one brush of Shia LeBeouf's hand at the filming of Transformers III near the Lincoln Memorial, and one 2 block away sighting of the reporters outside the Supreme Court during the hearing for Snyder v. Phelps, I was pretty mad. Where was my moment of DC fame? Where was my sigh of frustration that ANOTHER reporter was in my way? Where, oh where, was my big break into the world of TV reporting?

Why I was mad, I'm not quite sure. I don't want to be on TV, in particular. I don't want to be a reporter. I don't like big crowds and I thought meeting Shia was pretty anticlimactic. But I think that's how expectations work. We hear that such-and-such is going to happen to us and even if it's not something we want, in particular, we start to expect it. We are easily trapped into thinking that our experience in a certain city, college, job, relationship, or church will guarantee us a laundry list of experiences. Sometimes we don't even need to be told something is going to happen for us to create the expectation in our minds.

I imagined this semester would have TV reporters clogging every intersection between 8th St and the Capitol; I imagined this semester would be the moment I finally realized that politics is where I belong (and the semester where I successfully landed a post-college job at a prestigious but thoughtful, up-and-coming think tank). I expected to confirm certain passions and finally put some things (theater, science, math, etc) off the table for my future. I thought (I admit it!) I would meet a great 20-something Washington DC guy; I expected I would attend a liturgical Anglican church.

But today, at the beginning of my ninth week in this fabulous city, a funny thing happened on the way to the program building. I ran into my first reporter.

The location: Massachusetts Ave. & 3rd St., NE
The time: Approximately 1:03pm, EST
The characters: Reporter, around 30, slightly balding, wearing a worn out tweed jacket and corduroys, holding a small microphone with a blue and yellow station logo on it. Cameraman, slightly younger looking, wearing a blue puffer vest and lace-up rough leather shoes like the ones they sell at J. Crew, holding a video camera. Interviewee, who knows how old, wearing chunky framed glasses, a gray suit with a vest, and the most earnest expression on his face. Me, 20 years old, hurtling from Union Station like a bat out of its cave to hunt via echolocation (I love that word - echolocation), my bright yellow crochet beanie hat on my head looking like a burst of sunshine on this otherwise gray day, my flats with the sole coming off the bottoms tripping me at every crack in the sidewalk, my big bag and book of ASL signs in my hands.

The event: Hilary, with her bright yellow beanie, is barreling down Massachusetts Ave intent upon her grilled cheese & hummus sandwich. She notices that as she walks, people stare up at her bright hat as if they've never seen anything like it before. As she ponders the question of whether DC is the city where fluorescent colors come to die, she approaches the Bagels & Baguettes restaurant, place of the (now infamous) winking guy from last week. Suddenly, looming in front of her, out of NOWHERE, are three men: the Reporter, the Cameraman, and the Interviewee. In her startled recognition that her moment of TV fame has finally arrived, Hilary...

runs around the back of the cameraman to avoid being seen?

How odd. After all my expectations and frustration that I lacked a single TV appearance, when I was confronted with the actual possibility, I skirted it. I didn't jump in front of the camera and screech, YEAH! HI MOM & DAD! (It's doubtful that I would have done that anyway...). I didn't even try to get all annoyed that there was another reporter in the way of my grilled cheese and hummus sandwich. So not only have my expectations of the city of DC been thwarted, but my expectations about my reaction TO those expectations was also thwarted! Wow. That's a lot of expectation to crumble in one incident.

But here is what I learned from this run-in with the camera:

1. I should really think about writing screenplays or plays. I love setting the stage like that.

2. Grilled cheese & hummus is worth running across 3rd St for, even if it means skirting TV fame.

3. This city is bigger than my expectations, and it denies them every day in extraordinary ways. I am not at a liturgical Anglican church (the church I go to is Baptist), I am not dating a DC guy (as you have all read I am loving the single life), and I have no desire to become a policy analyst or politician (I want to teach), and the things I thought I would say goodbye to like theater, science and math are all still loves of my academic life, and I am more reluctant than ever to give them up completely.

4. I need to think a lot more about the expectations I set, not only about meeting reporters in DC, but also about living with roommates, my studies, my jobs after college, my church life, my relationship status. If I have this much of a battle with expectations over the sighting of cameras and microphones, what other parts of my life need expectation upheaval?

5. All of this, from the musing to the yellow hat to the reporter to the guy's glasses to the street to this blog, is joyful. At least, I want it to be joyful. I hope it brings you all some joy in reading about it.


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