I've written a story on a notepad while the movie "Rudy" flickered on a bus's monitor screen; it was the only source of light. I was run over on the sideline of a Clemson-North Carolina football game — the famed William Perry was one of the culprits — and I once covered a minor-league soccer match as rain poured and lightning flashed just off the coast of Charleston, S.C.
My favorite get-it-done story, though, came years ago. I was covering a football game at a high school in eastern North Carolina, and I used the principal's office to write my story. I was using a Bubble computer, a cumbersome abomination compared to the modern notebook, and I'd send the story in via phone line. No e-mail in those days.
The principal wasn't going to wait for me, so he locked me in his office, and I had to climb out of his window! After writing and sending the story, I opened the window. I realized I couldn't turn off the light first, so I left it on. I climbed out the window, holding onto the windowsill with my right hand and the computer case with my left.
Naturally, I couldn't close the window behind me, so I left it open. The lights on and the window open — no security for the principal's office.
I slid down the wall to my full extension, and I realized there was at least a foot of air under my feet! So here I was, a 250-pound sports writer, hanging to the windowsill with one hand and desperately clutching that blasted Bubble with the other. After a beat, I dropped into the mud below me, naturally, then slogged around to my truck.
Free at last, free at last, free ... Well, actually, no.
I drove to the exit and realized they'd locked the gate! I couldn't drive into a deep ditch to get out, so I had to go back to the principal's office to call the police (no cell phones back then, either). I shinnied back up the wall and through the window to make the call.
The only good thing is that, this time, I knew what I faced. I made the call, turned off the light and went over and climbed out the window. I couldn't lower the window all the way, but it was close. Security was much better this time.
Finally, about midnight, a policeman came by, listened to my explanation at least twice, opened the gate, and I drove a hundred miles home...
With skinned knuckles, a wrenched wrist, bruised knees, muddy shoes and pants legs, and a slightly banged-up Bubble.
It was rarely this tough, but I was willing to do just about anything for a story.
More EDITOR@WORK blog entries
Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)
More blog entries by Tom Gillispie
Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie