4 a.m. comes early enough but even more so when you're up every hour on the hour nervous that you'll miss the alarm.
many assignments are very much hurry up and wait. go go go go go go go.... get there get there get there. get in place. find your spot.... ok now hang on a sec. and when it comes to covering presidential candidates there's a lot of seconds spent hanging. especially when you're the local press and not part of the "tight pool" - those photographers traveling with the candidate.... ap, reuters, annie leibovitz. though they do have a travel schedule from hell.
and so it was this week as i was sent to fayetteville to cover barack obama.
it's an hour and half from raleigh and videographer pailin wedel and i had to be there between 6 and 7:30 a.m. (meaning as close to 6 as possible...limited riser space, almost unlimited press) to secure a spot on the risers, scope the place out in order to best cover the whole event, make friends with the media contacts to see if we really can get a one-on-one interview, and be patted down by the secret service.
obama wasn't scheduled to start 'til 10:15.
he was a few minutes late, but no matter. it's his show and that means he's where he should be all of the time. i'd tell ya about the speech but i heard very little of it. trying to make some thing out of not much of anything -really if you think about it it's just a guy at a podium- means you're exercising your sense of vision more so than hearing.
of course you're always aware of the tonality and inflection of voice which can signal an emotive moment is about to happen. and when it's just a guy at a podium any emotional facial gesture and fist pump (if you're lucky) is better than the blah-blah-blah of straight faced teleprompter regurgitation.
getting there early paid dividends in the end. speaking one-on-one with some of his staff (who were more than kind) we were granted a five minute interview session with him before he was whisked away to a town hall meeting in charlotte.
as you can imagine five minutes is not a long time. so when he walked in the door, shook my hand and said hello, my head was five moves elsewhere and counting the clock hoping the q&a would wrap up soon and afford me at least the time to move a light into place. in situations like this there's no time to be starstruck or exchange too many pleasantries.
and appreciation for the moment only happens hours or days later when it finally sinks in and you wake up before the alarm again half-heartedly second guessing why you didn't move the light a little more to the right. but, hey, at least you were there.