I’m signing in from a slightly out-of-reach branch of a certain chain bookstore, which is a little disconcerting given I’m so used to going to the large versions of this particular franchise, in highly populated or at least quite affluent areas of the state of Illinois. Until about five whole minutes from arriving here, there wasn’t even a café barista to be seen, and the entire ambience of this place is just sort of darker and sadder than what I’m accustomed to. Oh well.
I went out of the way to this branch because, on a whim, I decided it’d be a good idea to purchase a new book by the best friend of an author I quite like, and strangely (but I suppose awesomely enough for her friend) it is out of stock in many a location near me, including the store ten minutes away from my house. (This book, by the way, which I’ll plug before I even read, is called Good Enough to Eat. Hopefully, it will be Good Enough to Justify Witnessing the Unimpressiveness that is This Bookstore.) I reserved it in store and am not so surprised it is in stock here, as I don’t think I’d spend any amount of time here even if I lived in this area. I thought it would be a good motivator to make myself productive by forcing myself to write here, and surprisingly, the fact that this particular branch is a bit of a sad place may actually benefit my work ethic. I don’t want to be here, and my only obligation prior to leaving other than purchasing the book is to finish today’s post.
So anyway, today’s post is a little less emotionally heavy than the two from yesterday detailing my mother’s side of my hospitalization. I thought we could use, after such a strong blast from the past, a little more present-day attention, so I figured now is an appropriate time to discuss the excitement that’s occurred in the past week or so. Though in retrospect, it is a long post, so it too will be divided into sections for readability.
Exactly a week from today, I went back to the University of Chicago Medical Center to be photographed for both the article that is still in progress for the patient story feature in the a future issue of The Forefront, and a print ad (which I’m not sure exactly where it is going to be publicized). The photo shoot took place at the university’s gym, where I got to pose like a weird laughing gym rat — so, psst, if you do come across this advertisement, don’t be fooled; I do laugh at the gym, but only when my trainer has said something really funny. I do not, however, “giggle” (as the photographer requested) as I lift weights. But for the sake of ad merriment, I hammed it up, to the curious sidelong glances of all the students who were lucky enough to schedule their morning workouts alongside my glamorous shoot. (So, if you’re coincidentally one of those University of Chicago students who caught me in your gym, that’s what that was about, and sorry to disturb.) Think of it as the same concept as those smiling demonstrators in exercise videos, I guess.
After “modeling” in the gym, we headed over to a research lab-type building in the Medical Center to prep for the filming part. This is where it became truly interesting and also challenging! But about that in a second.
When I arrived, the catered breakfast food was still out for what I assume was the crew, there early to set up. I went straight to the food, as it was still pretty early on in the day and I’d rushed out of the door at 7.45 that day with just two thin pieces of toast. As I collected some food, some guy walked up to me and asked, “Do you recognize me?”
I regarded him for a second or two and replied, “Greg?”
Yes, indeed. “Wow! What are you doing here?” I asked.
Apparently he works in film now, and he was there as part of the crew. (I didn’t catch what his role was, so he very well could have been lying, wink, wink.) “I haven’t seen you since eighth grade when my basketball team came to play at your school and you were a cheerleader.”
Dude, it is a small world. I actually had no recollection of that, but it sounded true enough. (By the way, I wasn’t really a cheerleader; I was on spirit squad. The difference being spirit squad focusing on dance and being way cooler than the cheerleading squad, in which I had no interest.) I do know that our middle schools were athletic rivals (I had moved after sixth grade and switched loyalties — but only for junior high, as I deeply preferred the ambience of his high school and spent half my time with friends there when I could), and I had tried to convince the unsportsmanlike members of my squad to stop shaking their poms during the other team’s free throws, to catty accusations of favoring the other team.
On a complete aside, I do also recall running into my ex-middle school’s group of students in Washington, D.C. when my grade was also coincidentally there at the same time. I wound up chatting with them for so long that my school group lost me for a good while! I got a pretty extensive and stern reprimand for straying, but alas, I didn’t regret it. . . .
Right, the filming. After makeup (this was hardcore) and having me change into freshly pressed clothing (my own), they led me to the set. They had prepared a little nook for me in a small room, complete with all the cameras, screens, and filming gear that everyone keeps in their living room, of course. The room was so small that everyone in the crew sat in a moon-shape semicircle at the walls opposite me to watch, and then it was like, “All right, talk.”
Well, not exactly, but it was like ten or so people staring as I sat by myself on a little loveseat I could not look natural in for probably ten minutes. There was talk of switching out the loveseat for a folding chair, which ended up looking ridiculous, so the loveseat was reintroduced (not pictured, by the way).
UCMC’s marketing rep suggested I just sit as I normally would, but given my most natural “couch sit” is not a sit at all but sort of an unsightly sprawl-out half-lie-down-and/or-leg-twisty concoction (I have the natural flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil contortionist), I told her that was not the most “photogenic” idea. So we kept experimenting with as many sitting in front, in back, legs crossed (leggings down!) and uncrossed, boosted by jacket combinations as we could come up with.
Finally, the camera operator guy who was in charge of asking me the questions came in and said, “Rumor has it you’re comfortable. Is that right?”
Well . . . no, but I then quickly calculated the probability that I’d ever be completely comfortable in such a setting and lied, figuring I could just go with it.
The interview was fairly organic, as there were plenty of questions I expected to answer, about my experience. Of course, I knew they wanted my positive feedback about the Medical Center, which came only naturally given I’ve had an affection for University of Chicago — not just as a hospital or medical school, but also the university itself (most Nobel Prizes in the world!) thanks to my experiences there. It’s actually something they totally could have capitalized on years ago (even as a student at the University of Illinois. Yes, apparently having “dual citizenship” for two schools is a theme in my life) and they really didn’t need to coerce it out of me (which actually the filmers often had to with UCH’s oddly, yet infinitely humble physicians).
I may not have really expanded on this prior to this post, but I used to be quite active in the drama group at my high school. Never one with the quiet dignity of the backstage crew, I preferred letting them blind me with spotlights. No, seriously speaking though, I loved performing. The excitement of showing off the product of months dedicated to rehearsal and working with the magic that said crew would provide over time (of the “Whoa! Suddenly there’s a ship where before there was none!” variety, and sometimes even the “So that’s how Peter Pan is supposed to fly” sort) to a darkened auditorium filled with anonymous people was matched by really nothing else. (Psychoanalysts, now is not the time.)
So asking me to be the star for the day was really not the worst idea. The only thing I was bummed to find out was that my attending physician during my hospitalization wasn’t asked to be filmed, but I later (as in, today) found out this was because he wasn’t the one making significant clinical decisions, since apart from my surgical needs and whatnot, my demand for further medical care was pretty minimal. (Though, obviously, I would have been happy not to have the surgical needs either.)
My interview lasted what seemed like an hour, and I definitely rambled at length sometimes — which apparently was good because they needed plenty of what’s called “sound bites” (incidentally and etymologically unrelated to a “byte,” in case any other nerdy-nerds were wondering) for editing. I’m curious to see how they’ll cut down my speech for the final products, as there will be two videos from this session: one thirty-second commercial clip aired on local NBC, CBS, and ABC channels, very similar to this one on the media company’s page, and a longer (i.e., five-minute) video detailing the story for the UCMC website. (Naturally, links to both will be posted once they are finished and available to me.)