By David J Walker
“Coming in three, two, one…you’re on.”
The cameraman points to me, and I have a split second to think before I start talking. Do you know how many thoughts your brain spits out in a split second?
I was thinking about the National Enquirer my dad brought home from the grocery store when I was eight years old. There was a picture of a praying mantis-looking space alien carrying a beautiful blonde girl in a bikini to his spaceship. The headline read, “They are Taking Prisoners.” That scared the bejesus out of me! That blonde lady looked just like the weather girl on Channel 28 News. She wore a bikini every time the thermometer hit one hundred.
I’m one of the “Live on the Scene” reporters contributing to the KPRC Channel Two News. Tonight I am standing in front of the main entrance to NASA in Clear Lake, Texas covering the mission of the space shuttle Enterprise.
Impressive, huh? All of us TV reporters look alike: thirties, nondescript, Caucasian, perfectly groomed with sprayed down light-brown hair, blue eyes, perfectly straight teeth, in a perfect blue blazer and a white button-down shirt with a perfect red power tie.
I, like the others, pride myself on professionalism. Never once do we sweat, stumble, or sneeze live on the air.
That split second between the cue and when I start talking to a 5 o’clock news audience through a live camera lens can last an eternity. The live presence itself is the message, affirming the importance of what we have to say concerning the Enterprise.
The director back at the station listens carefully for the predetermined cue to roll the videotape of my story.
Sometimes, in that split second before my cue, I think of all the time I’ve wasted writing television news that no one will remember. Ironic, in that my job is to make “memorable television.”
Memorable, and now floating off into deep space on an unstoppable trek to who knows where.
Did you know that broadcast television waves can travel through the vacuum of space at the speed of light? That’s what a BBC News science editor claims, raising the possibility that malevolent aliens, were any to exist, might be watching our television programming millions of light-years away.
Does that mean they saw Adolf Hitler welcome the world to Berlin for the 1936 Olympics? Maybe they watched Milton Berle on Tuesday nights, or I Love Lucy. Did they see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan? They might have seen President Kennedy assassinated, our first primitive manned space flights on ridiculously small Mercury rockets, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Maybe they were among the millions watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing, or Little House on the Prairie, or MASH, or Friends.
What could they possibly think of us? Do the Grays out there imagine us as a mixture of horseback Old-West Indian fighters and space travelers, goofy comedians, and football players? Did they watch the Super Bowl? Did they witness Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction? Were they titillated?
There were thousands and thousands of TV shows floating out there in many different languages and on many different frequencies. Could they know about them all?
Maybe they will see me reporting live from NASA. Would they be impressed with my perfectly perfect appearance and perfect reporting? What if they have a whole catalog of everything I ever broadcast? What if they come to Earth knowing who I am and where to find me, thinking I might be some NASA representative, a spokes-earthling with vital information?
Maybe they are taking prisoners. What if they come looking for me and they get Larry or Phil by mistake? How could I convince them they’ve got the wrong guy? We all look alike. It’s a good thing I’m not a blonde girl in a bikini.
I wonder if the aliens watch the weather report? They could learn a lot about our weather patterns by watching. I wonder if they saw David Letterman doing the weather? I wonder if they saw Jan in her bikini in Lubbock?
Did they need to put tin foil on rabbit ears to improve the reception?
“Let’s go live now to Dave Walker at NASA, Dave, what’s on your mind tonight?”
“Ron, I’m here at NASA’s space shuttle flight simulator where a crew is mimicking everything they are doing in the Enterprise some 600 miles overhead, there to make adjustments to the Hubble telescope, refocusing the lens to peer deeper into space.”
(Script Que—Roll the Tape)