A five-year-old did my job today.
I spent most of this afternoon shifting from foot to foot – stuck inside the media equivalent of a veal-fattening pen – and cringing in a crush of bored, surly reporters. We were a shouting, growling, spitting mass; twice, the photographers nearly mutinied. There were no sightlines. Aides and advance teams argued heatedly about setting up a sound system and then abandoned the project altogether. There was no sound.
Finally, more than an hour late, Bill and Freddy strode out onto Charlotte Street and worked the edge of the crowd. Bill signed some autographs. Freddy smiled squirmily. They stood side by side and, though their lips were moving, nothing came out. Reporters began handing their mics – big broadcast ones and teensy tape recorders – to schoolchildren. The kids were, after all, seated far in front of the press pen, intermittently blocking our view, looking eager. We could not hear a thing, so we put them to work. They relished their role, jabbing the mics at Bill and Freddy with precocious aplomb.
Unfortunately, the kid holding my tape recorder decided to turn it off. I looked on powerlessly, trying send her some friendly reporter hand signals, but my mind was already on the long train ride home from 174th Street.
Before I surrendered the recorder to my young saboteur, it picked up this line from Freddy: “We were here with so many of you in 1997 when President Bill Clinton said that on this street hope and opportunity met all of us halfway, and we made the most of it, and we became a national model.”
And while I’m not sure that opportunity met me halfway on Charlotte Street today, I’m certainly making the most of it.