A reporter's life is not always (ever?) filled with the glamour and excitement you see on television shows. We don't charge around on white horses, righting wrongs and rescuing people very often. For some of us, the opportunity never comes up.
We do spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in tedious meetings that no one in his right mind would voluntarily attend. ("Yeah, reporting's glamorous. Did you ever sit through a sewer-board meeting?" a friend of mine recently asked a group of college journalism students.)We sit there to get the "big picture." We are there to follow issues that we may someday have to explain to a reader. We are there to make sure that nothing important happens and, heaven forbid, is picked up on by someone else (meaning a reporter from some other news-gathering organization).
Some assignments are fascinating. Some aren't. And you never know till you go.
I am a collector of what I call "Goofy Moments in Bureaucratic History." And the bits and pieces I treasure can be something seen, something overheard, even something written. They are the "found treasures," the gems that make me smile inside.
Take the recent legislative session: The capitol sprouted antennas - thousand of little pop-up lines attached to cellular phones. And bureaucrats, lobbyists and John Q. Private all reached out and touched someone, in meetings, in the lobby, in the restrooms.
Last week, I noticed about 60 people clustered on the third floor. At least 20 of them were using their cellular phones. And in the middle of them stood Joe Duke-Rosati from the Salt Lake Community Action Program.
He had a phone, too. It was bright green with little bells that rang when he touched the buttons. A plastic cord drooped down, and the antenna had a bright knob attached to it.
Duke-Rosati joined in with the others, busily dialing and talking. And no one seemed to notice. I wish I had had a camera there. So the next day, I asked him if he had brought his phone.
"Couldn't," he said regretfully. "The person from whom I had borrowed it discovered it was gone. He cried and cried. Then he threw up on me."
Later that same day, senators were discussing whether or not to lend $10 million to McDonnell Douglas.
"You know what they should do?" Dave Condie asked me. "They should make it a voluntary check-off on the state income tax form, like they do with wildlife and the homeless. Be interesting to see how many people contribute."
Condie is a domestic-violence program specialist in the Department of Human Services. In the waning hours of the legislative session, his statement, like Duke-Rosati's phone call, was a gift.
My personal favorite came more than a year ago when a member of the Teenage-Pregnancy Prevention Task Force was summarizing findings. This is a direct quote: "We now know that the teenagers most apt to become pregnant are the ones who engage in sexual activity."
Sometimes, when I can't sleep, I try to figure out what the other high-risk behaviors are.
Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, introduced a bill in the just-finished session that would make it a third-degree felony instead of a class A misdemeanor to assault a police officer.
During the House debate, a representative proposed that it be amended to read "uniformed and conservative officers."
Would assaulting a "liberal" officer still be a misdemeanor?
He meant "conservation."
Talking about another bill, a representative suggested passage would be a bad idea. "I fear we'll be opening an Aladdin's lamp," he thundered.
Does that mean someone would have a wish come true? Pandora, maybe?
I'm not the only collector of such treasures. Jack Levine, a children's advocate from Florida, and I were swapping quotes. He shared a couple he heard (with his very own ears, he assured me) in our nation's capital.
Health care and lack of it was the topic and the discussion had become quite heated, when a congressman rose to his feet and shouted, "I am sick and tired of hearing about health care for the indignant! They can just straighten up their attitudes!"
I'm not sure what they were discussing when a senator decided to prove his point. He waved a thick sheaf of papers at his colleagues, then jabbed it with his finger.
"This study shows conclusively that 95 percent of the people in our prisons were once children."
My job boring? No way!