FTMN: The Internal Logic Of A Late Shift

Published: Thu 1 Aug 2002 11:56 AM
From The Muse's Notebook, with William S. Sumpter
The Internal Logic Of A Late Shift
There is no reason, but sometimes it is good to hear what other people do in their jobs in front of computers. I start at four in the afternoon by saying hello and sit with my back to the rest of the room.
I sit at a corner between two nice women and there is a bit of banter about things like how horrible it is to go to the dentist.
This leads on to listening to stories over dinner upstairs in the cafeteria about how you picked up your brother from the Albert St dentist when he was high on some knockout drug after having his wisdom teeth pulled out.
And because he was talking gibberish and meowing at the cat, which happened to be in the car, and sending odd drops of red blood splashing onto his best white shirt you placed a black sock from the floor of the car into your brother’s bleeding mouth. Where it hung like a dog’s panting tongue.
Or, how your car caught on fire with everything you ever owned in it, except your camera, 400m from a volunteer fire station near Rotorua and it took the engines 20 minutes to arrive, without any water, and a patch of melted distributor was glued to the road for five years before the whole sorry incident was sealed over with fresh bitumen.
There is also work to do, so you start at one end and finish at the other, processing news.
The first one and a half and the last two and a half hours involve looking through wire stories from Radio New Zealand, Reuters and AAP and turning 13 of them each into three sentences for page 101 on the teletext system (the world news page).
You can sit on your couch and read the world news as reduced by our sleight of hand to things like:
Stretcher after stretcher bearing bodies.
Seven dead, 50 injured in Jerusalem bomb blast.
Suspected suicide bomber nowhere to be seen.
A crime in which you disappear the moment your illegality is expressed.
It is a funny job, the rest of the time we have to rewrite the words spoken by Richard Long, Judy Bailey and the happy journalists of Television New Zealand. I'm learning their tricks.
You never say New Zealand Discus Thrower if you can say Kiwi Discus Thrower but what you really say is 'Our Queen Bea'.
A funny thing happened in the news today when Judy said that Canterbury University scientists were saving the native frog from croaking. The native frog is the only frog in the world that can't croak. That is why they are saving it. Because it is an old relic of an amphibian which arrived here five million years ago just after learning how to hop, and landed with great timing as our varied islands broke gracefully away from Gondwanaland waving, ka kite ano.
We have two species of amphibious reptiles and two species of bats, one species of which was on the verge of giving up flight and fluttering into a ground dwelling species of bounding rodent just before people and our animalian entourage arrived to encourage it back up into the nocturnal sky.
Such is the internal logic of the late shift, but who can be sure of anything, other frogs may not croak.
Finally, to get a proper grip on what we do in our job until midnight strikes, take this simple sentence from the Government’s press release on Wednesday which accompanied two beautiful pictures of a colourful boat full of mad chancers who don’t care if they do drown because they are trying to get to either our paradise or god’s, both have good reputations and from one you can feed your family.
“The information we have is that there are 56 male Sri Lankans on a grossly overloaded fibreglass boat which is only 60 feet long…”
Give it a kick:
“The only grossly overloaded information which we have is that there are fifty-six 60 foot long male Sri Lankans on a fibreglass boat.”
And that is that, as Russ would say, G’bye.

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