“I thought all Americans wanted to be on TV.”
I frowned before replying to my boss. “I thought all British men were witty. I guess we were both wrong,” I concluded, trying my best to look haughty. Yet I laughed when he did and pleaded again to be released from the interview schedule this morning.
“No can do,” he said, patting my shoulder before walking away. “Ten o’clock,” I was reminded and scowled. My irritation turned to nerves as my microphone was arranged and someone fluttered around with lights and camera angles and whatnot.
“I feel dumb,” I told a colleague and she nodded in response. I made my way through some prepared remarks, unable to decide if I was more idiotic or awkward and relaxing only when I could tell myself it would soon be over. I answered a few questions, smiling easily at the man with too-white teeth and feeling comfortable with my responses.
“Now we’ll do the action part,” he said when the cameras stopped and lights finally dimmed. I nodded, promising BestWorkBuddy that I’d tag along while she was in the spotlight even as I hurried to unclip the microphone that could record my every word. I walked behind the equipment-laden crew as we moved between buildings, wondering if my hair had been reasonably pretty. If I’d touched my face too much or nibbled that spot on my lower lip.
BWB arranged equipment and I helped a bit, finally finding my way to a quiet spot without tripping over any cords. Filming the experiment, most of our visitors looking rather bored, and after much longer than it should have taken, they began to fill cases with bulbs and cords and cameras. We smiled at our guinea pig and thanked him for his time. He raised his hand in a shy wave before smoothing his hair and departing.
“We should have played a trick on him,” SlickReporter said. “Bent over the screen and stared at the numbers and made sad sounds. Then he would have thought something was wrong with him.” We all laughed in that way you do when you’re being polite but aren’t very amused. BWB was saving the data and it flashed on the screen – bit by bit – as it always does.
I watched absently, the habit of checking the archive procedure ingrained enough that I kept an eye on the monitor. Blinking when I saw something odd in the first component, my expression must have changed as my attention refocused. I abruptly stopped listening to SlickReporter in favor of carefully watching data. I jumped when a colleague touched my arm, subtly reminding me to shake hands and say good-bye. I wished everyone a nice weekend.
After watching them leave, I walked over and stood beside BWB as she pulled the just-collected data from memory and began to examine it. I thought of how I’d teased our young volunteer about how I would have left early rather than letting someone test a procedure on me on a Friday afternoon. I remembered how I thought he was cute, albeit very young looking. And I stared at the reproducible data that now rested on the screen.
“Something’s wrong with him,” I said quietly, wanting BWB – with greater experience – to correct me. I turned to look at her and saw she was frowning at the numbers, leaning closer to the screen. Just as SlickReporter suggested we’d do if there was reason for concern.
My stomach cramped when she agreed.