“New York Times said it was the coldest winter in 17 years. I didn’t feel so cold then.”
—Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ New York”
I got a job reading from a teleprompter. It’s a sweet gig. I sit in a big, air-conditioned studio, wearing a suit jacket, shirt and tie (and shorts, honestly), and I look into a dark space and read some words as they scroll up across a screen. Easiest damn job I ever had.
There for a minute, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I mean, I can read fine. I can even enunciate … with the best of ’em. Seriously. I have got some excellent diction. My mouth moves around some vowels and consonants in ways that can make the angels cry. And timing? My tongue never misses a beat when there’s an abundance of Ts in the script. I’m like the Buddy Rich of aspirated phonetics. And my dental fricatives are to die for.
The experts were amazed. They put me on camera immediately. I barely had time to shave. They had some people do that for me. But there for a while, when I was reading the stuff that would come on the screen, it kind of bothered me. It was like this one kid shot this other kid, and then some other kid shot the first kid, and that was really sad. I mean, those guys were dead, shot dead, and I was sitting in air conditioning.
And then there were these stories about the economy and how a lot of people didn’t have jobs. And there were stories about how people were fat and unhealthy, and then there was a big fight about how some rich people didn’t want the poor fat people to have health insurance. And then, when I started to think about all the different things I was reading, I started to realize that all of the people who had the power to change anything for the better were getting paid off by the people who were making money from the way things are now, so it was looking pretty unlikely that anything would ever change. Or worse, any changes that were likely to occur were probably only going to make things worse.
It wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t being paid to think that I started to be OK with the job. I was only supposed to read the words on the screen. I didn’t have to understand them. I certainly wasn’t being expected to read between them. That’s a little joke right there.
None of that stuff really had any effect on my life anyway. Then, last week, the other guy starts talking about how hot it is. I was, like, “It feels great in here.” They keep the studio real cool. My car is air conditioned, and I keep my house at, like, 70 degrees. Most of the time I have to wear a long-sleeve shirt. Brr! So, I thought it was weird how the other guy was talking about how hot it was. Does anybody pay attention to this stuff?
Then one day last week, I took my son to see a movie. I figured I could write off the cost of the tickets if I write a “review,” and I think it was pretty good, but it was really hot in the movie theater. It was so hot, it made me fall asleep. I had this really crazy dream about being at a carnival. I was throwing baseballs at a target to get this girl in a bikini to fall in a big tub of water. And then I was on a boat going through a “Tunnel of Love” or something. When I woke up, I was soaked with sweat. It turned out that this girl (in the movie) had turned her mother into a bear, and then there was a big fight with another bear, and then everything was OK again.
On the way out of the theater, I noticed that there were fans aimed into the room we were in, and then I saw the manager. I asked him about the air conditioning, and he said they were having trouble with it, and he told us to go get some free passes to come see another movie later when the air conditioning was working better. I thought that was real nice. I like good customer service.