Back when I worked in TV production, I had a great fear of dropping video tapes while carrying them back from shoots in the field.
This was because one of the cameramen had taken me aside one day and warned me:
“You must never drop them. A sudden jolt like that can de-magnetize an entire tape. It makes the little iron oxide particles on the tape go all random, and there won’t be any signal, and therefore no recording any more.”
I was quite terrified.
It wasn’t until the man overheard me passing on this wisdom to a new intern, and laughed out loud, that I realized he had made the whole thing up.
I suppose you could call me gullible.
When you work in the news business, you’re supposed to be cynical and hard-bitten. But I never quite got the knack. Take what happened when I started my new job at PBS’ “Bill Moyers’ Journal.”
Perhaps because I was the newest hire, they gave me the desk closest to the office coffee pot.
Or perhaps they had put me there after noticing that I made — and then drank — an entire pot of coffee every afternoon. Sure, it wasn’t the best of habits, but I figured it was better for my career than being found asleep every afternoon at my desk.
Whatever the reason, I shared my little alcove with the coffee machine, the cans of Maxwell House, the filters and the cups.
One afternoon my boss, Bill Moyers, came by my desk with a quizzical look on his face.
“You know, Judy,” he said, chewing on something while holding a cup of coffee, “that granola tastes OK, but it seems a little stale.” Then he walked off down the hall.
Granola, I thought? What granola? I didn’t remember there being any. I swiveled around to check.
What I found, sitting next to the coffee-maker, was a small bag of stones, left there by someone repotting the office plants.
“Bill!” I said, shooting out of my seat. “Don’t eat that! That isn’t granola, it’s gravel!” But he was already out of sight.
Horror-stricken by visions of his on-camera career being ended by broken teeth, I dashed after him down the hall.
When I finally caught up with him, he didn’t say a word. All I got was an ear-to-ear grin that would have done the Cheshire Cat proud.
That’s how I learned that Bill Moyers liked to pull pranks. How fortunate for him that he had just hired the most gullible girl in America!
When I became a parent, my children had my number, too — presenting me with “moldy bread” every April Fool’s Day. And every year, I would screech with horror, “Eew! Get that thing away from me!”… even though I strongly suspected it was perfectly good bread that had been dosed with food coloring. Mold does not generally tint a child’s fingers green and blue.
But I think they actually did fool me with the mailbox. It wasn’t until I asked them for stories for this column that I finally had an explanation for a solid month of mysterious “non-deliveries” of mail. My sons apparently took any actual mail out of the box, stashing it somewhere out of sight; then they’d put the little flag back up. Ever the optimist, I was snared by that little flag every time — only to find yet another empty mailbox. They loved to hear me fume. And I fear there are pieces of mail we still haven’t found.
But where would my children get the idea I could be so easily fooled? From their father, I’m afraid.
Early in our relationship, he left his address book lying around my apartment, open to a cryptic entry for “orthogonal serration code: assets.”
For years, I tried every which way of asking: What on earth was an orthogonal serration code? But he never answered me.
It wasn’t until years later, on a visit to the Museum of Broadcasting, that I learned it was simply a fancy way of saying “square-toothed wave” on an oscilloscope, a piece of video equipment. It meant nothing at all about either assets or codes. In fact, the whole thing was a setup — and I had fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.
Worst of all, there were no hidden assets … just the ones we had already spent.
Oh, well. There are worse things than having faith in the people in your life — or so I choose to believe.