Memory Lane Slapped Me in the Face

Sometimes memories gently lull you and sometimes they slap you in the face in the most unlikely places. I never would have thought a trip to Nashville, a city I have zero emotional connection to, would prove to be a catalyst for reliving my young adulthood.

This trip down memory lane started at a barbecue restaurant. As we got in line for what was heralded as legendary Tennessee “cue” my husband noticed that CNN and PBS news goddess Christiane Amanpour was directly in front of us.

We introduced ourselves and ended up eating dinner with the erudite journalist and some other colleagues. After Amanpour departed, I mentioned that both of us were reporters at CNN at the same time. I then laughed at our career trajectories.

One person went into the stratosphere covering everything from the Persian Gulf and Bosnia wars and hosting multiple network. The other person’s trajectory was, how should I say it, not as awesome.

My sweet husband tried to cajole me by complimenting my, ahem, “slower paced” career. Truthfully I just didn’t have what it takes to make it. I’m the reporter who once hid in a bathroom to avoid messing up my holiday plans.

In December 1989 when CNN was assigning reporters to cover Manuel Noriega, who was holed up in the Vatican embassy in Panama, I literally sequestered myself in the ladies room – out of sight, out of mind – so my Christmas wouldn’t be spent in that quagmire.

I’m 100 percent certain Amanpour has and would never ensconce herself in a bathroom stall to avoid an assignment. Me, not so much.

My next young adult flashbacks happened in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Walking through the museum I had forgotten how many country stars I had interviewed back in the day. Being a Texas girl working for CNN in Los Angeles, I was the closest thing to a country music aficionado they had in the newsroom.

I tried to explain to my bosses that growing up watching “Hee Haw” at my meemaw’s house while shucking corn didn’t make me an expert on that genre of music. But pretty much once I put “Hee Haw,” “meemaw” and “shucking corn” in the same sentence, I was the de facto country music reporter.

I also had a PTSD moment in the Willie Nelson exhibit. His 1986 Farm Aid concert was where I had severe lower intestinal distress while on the air doing a live shot. It was a do-si-do of embarrassment and humiliation. To this day I can’t hear “On the Road Again” without feeling an urgent need to use the facilities.

By the end of the museum tour I was feeling a little down. Was my news career summed up by hiding in a bathroom and desperately needing one? But then I saw some George Strait memorabilia and it gave me a boost.

When I was 23 and covering the Texas legislature, I was way out of my depth in making sense of the political machinations. But something happened one day to let me know that no matter how dumb I think I am, there’s probably always someone a little dumber.

As I was at the Texas capitol waiting for my turn to do a live shot, I was watching a reporter from Houston giving her report. This poor woman thought that George Strait, the country crooner, was the speaker of the Texas house. From that point on there’s always been two levels of dumb for me – normal dumb and speaker of the house dumb.

So as far as life goals go at least I can say I haven’t hit speaker of the house dumb – yet.