Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Getting Carded

At the beginning of my career I was a news dictationist, a position somewhat akin to "copy boy" on the food chain and one which evaporated with the advent of mobile reporting equipment -- laptops and modems. But it was a great way for a punk with no skills to learn and a great place to yearn -- and yearn I did, to be crafting stories rather than transcribing them.

People took pity on me after a while and I got some paint-by-number stories and gradually more and tougher and "let's make Mikey eat it!" type assignments. I played their game and got so far into the tent that I had the audacity to ask to be included in the 1982 New York City Working Press Pass list issued by the NYPD even though I wasn't a reporter even in name. And they didn't even blink.

It was a tremendous ego boost to get one but it had very little practical value for the kind of reporting I (and Reuters New York journalists) was engaged in: press conferences, interviews, canned events. This sort of credential was for the sober-on-demand tabloid hack who fell asleep in his car to the hum of the barely-legal police band scanner hidden under the dash.

I had an NYPD pass each year from 1982 through 1989, when I left New York to run the New England Bureau in Boston, and I cannot recall a single time that I used it to do any reporting.

But it did come in handy.

Once I used it to get a cop to let me cross Seventh Avenue on Thankgiving morning, when that street was locked down tight for the impending Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I got plenty of jealous (or was it angry?) looks from spectators.

And, flashing it played a key (though in a far too circuitous route to recount here) role in my getting a first date with the woman who would become my wife, now only days short of 17 years.

Come to think of it, that's kinda harder than getting past cops and firemen anyway.