Monday, May 28, 2012

An incident at work

I don't generally write about work, just because... well, it's work. I admit, my job has a lot more stories in it than many, but for the most part those stories go onto the pages of the newspaper.

This is one of those stories that isn't going to be much more than a sidebar to the real story, so I'll put it here.

My boss has an injury that needed attention, and his surgery was scheduled for Wednesday of this week. Now, you might think that while the editor is away the reporters will play, but it was more a case of "let's hope we get it out and it's good" with one of the reporters as the lead/boss for the day. We got through Wednesday ok, and didn't know if the editor would be back the next day.

Thursday morning I got up early and headed out to the high school for what was promised to me would be "a short meeting with a couple of important events." I go to the high school once a month to find out what the school is doing that might be good to put into the paper. It leads to a few good stories and keeps us in touch with the school. Anyway, I got to the meeting and the outgoing principal (who is staying on as a consultant, sort of, complicated story) was there. He's a very enthusiastic guy, and wanted me to make sure I got a story about the upcoming tests... in one week. In fact, he was so enthusiastic about this story that he made sure I had interviewed THREE people before I left the building that morning.

The meeting jammed me with so much information that I was dizzy when I left. I got to work feeling overwhelmed, which is never good in the first place. And the editor was still out.

Understandable, but the acting editor had gotten a call from the school district spokesman alerting us to a field trip by one of the elementary schools to a local lake. The acting editor wanted a photo page, and since my schedule was the lightest, I got to go.

If I have clear directions and there are signs on the road I'm taking, I can usually find my way to a place. I got sort of jumbled directions to the lake, because everyone who grew up here just knows where it is. I found my way to what I thought was the entrance. Then I went down a dirt road for what seemed like a very long time, then came to a fork in the road. The left road looked more recently used, so I took it. And realized that I was certainly lost. Very lost.

I noticed a man through the tall grasses, by a truck. I could barely see him, but I was sure it was a human form. So I stopped my car and got out. And heard a very very very loud humming. Very loud. I've been in enough orchards around here to know what an active beehive sounds like. And as I again caught a glimpse of the man through the grasses I realized he was a beekeeper. I retreated into my car only to discover that about a dozen mosquitoes had made themselves at home. I'm lost, very near a beehive, with a car full of mosquitoes. At least I had my cell phone.

Ha. What good it did me. The guy who'd given me directions didn't have a clue where I was or how I'd gotten there. At this point there was only one course of action, and that was to reverse course. Cursing and slapping at mosquitoes, I turned the car around and headed back the way I came. Now, I was on a dirt road, single lane, hardly worthy of the name road. So when I saw a pickup coming the other way I pulled over to let him pass, but rolled down my window to ask for directions as well. The gentleman in the truck laughed when I said, "I'm totally lost! I'm looking for the students!" and said to follow him, he was headed out to catch up with them.

Whew! What luck!

So I followed the truck... down the right-side fork... and much further along I spotted the school bus ahead. Yay! It was stopped right in the road, next to a large tree. With an SUV behind it. I pulled up behind the SUV, noticed people talking to the guy in the pickup, who had pulled off the road next to the SUV, so I waited. After a moment a woman and a man came over to me and said there was a large puddle ahead, and I could ride on the school bus if I didn't think my car could make it. I asked how deep. They said it was about a foot. I have faith in my technology, I said I'd give it a try. They seemed surprised, but then... I hadn't seen the puddle yet.

The bus started up and went forward, then the SUV and I saw the puddle for the first time. It was a little longer than the bus, and yes, about a foot deep for that entire length. There was no way to go around it as it appeared to extend out into the grass as far as I could see. I took a deep breath and urged Cody the car through. No sweat. The pickup pulled in behind me and I could see the driver grinning from ear-to-ear in my rear view mirror.

We got to the location, and the children got off the bus. I stepped out of the car, glad to get away from the buzzing mosquitoes for a moment. I got my camera out and got started at my job, taking pictures of the children as they milled around. I finally got someone to tell me what the whole thing was about, and took mental notes. Then I followed a group of students into an area of heavy bushes to check out a birdhouse.

That's when the children woke the swarm.

I have seen what I thought were lots of mosquitoes. Heck, earlier on my trip I'd been impressed with about a dozen of the suckers in my car (impressed and distressed). I'd never seen a swarm before. The mosquitoes were thick and nasty and the children had their hoodies pulled up around their faces. They were doing the mosquito dance, trying to get them off.

I have always been remarkably tasty to mosquitoes. If the person sitting next to me got three bites, I'd get nine. This was no different. They mosquitoes were feasting on the children, but they were dining in style on me. I got a few pictures and retreated back toward the school bus. As I came out of the grass I heard the teacher exclaim, "Oh my G--!" I asked what was up and she told me to look down at myself.

I was wearing black jeans and a green polo shirt. I now appeared to be wearing black, green and brown camouflage. There were so many mosquitoes on me that I couldn't even panic. It was just too much to take in until much later. One of the guys said he had some mosquito repellent and rushed to get it while I attempted to get the things off my bare arms. When the guy came back with the repellent I got thoroughly sprayed... and as the students noticed that somebody was getting protection they rushed to line up to get sprayed as well.

I stayed another half hour or so, maybe forty-five minutes, getting as many pictures as I could manage. Then I got back into my car with it's half-dozen surviving mosquitoes and headed back to base. The puddle looked twice as large on the return trip.

Later, I talked with the spokesman who apologized for sending me out there. He had also headed out to the area, seen the puddle and decided not to risk his SUV going through it. He figured the group had gone elsewhere and called the school to find out where. He was told, "the reporter-gal in her little car made it through the puddle!"

I counted about 37 bites on Saturday morning. I went through about 48 hours of torture trying hard not to scratch. I just figure I got out of it better than a lot of those poor kids. I have had years to practice self-control so I don't scratch at bites and I'm not extremely allergic like a couple of the kids. And I was able to get some serious medication into me quickly that reduced the agony.

Sadly, the adventure with the mosquitoes drove out some of the school stuff from my wimpy noggin. I had to remember it the next day and get all the stories written a bit late. None of it has published yet. I just have to say that Thursday was not my finest day as a reporter.


Roger Owen Green said...

sorry for your pain and frustration. mosquitoes LOVE me.

The upside s that it made for an excellent story for this blog.

David Oakes said...

I kept waiting for this to end like "An Incident on Owl Creek Bridge"...