BEIJING — Cathy Wurzer at Minnesota Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is marvelous at what she does. All things considered — so to speak — she is a very perky and friendly gal.
But that lady periodically makes life very difficult for me, particularly when I am many time zones away.
Last time she screwed things up was in Torino, Italy, at the 2006 Winter Olympics. There, the media bus service was — how do you say? — not good. I was in a mountain somewhere near the French border after some oddball sport like synchronized co-ed bobsled. I was waiting for a bus that was supposed to stop where I was standing but hadn’t for many minutes.
The phone rang. It was Wurzer and her producer calling from St. Paul. The signal on the cell phone was muffled. I tried to find a spot in those breathtaking Alps for better reception. As I sought a coordinate over there and over there I heard a roaring sound.
My bus zoomed by.
I was on MPR’s air by then. It was classic radio vérité. Not wanting His Highness Bill Kling to lose his FCC license, I controlled my language, and I think I said something like, “Drats, Cathy, there went my bus, for which I have been waiting for two hours.”
I muttered under my breath: “No more pledges for me.”
When I returned to Minnesota, Wurzer told me that being able to hear my bus roar by as I talked to her audience “was great radio.”
I wasn’t flattered. After that missed bus, I waited another hour or so with another lost soul from Latvia. All because of that somewhat untimely phone call from “Morning Edition.”
Flash to Monday in Beijing.
I knew that Wurzer was going to call me again, this time to chat about the horrible crime in which Twin Cities businessman Todd Bachman was killed. As it turned out, I was racing from one interview to another. I was in taxis all day but not really going very far.
Wurzer always finds me in a bad spot.
The phone rang as I approached the Main Press Center. Wurzer’s producer, of course. That was OK, but I was in a hurry because I had to pick up my belongings in the so-called MPC, get directions and then run back to another taxi for yet another appointment in another part of town. It was to a meeting with Bachman’s son-in-law Hugh McCutcheon, his and the family’s first interview since the crime. I wanted to be there on time.
As the phone rang and a producer told me to hold and Cathy pushed buttons, I gathered up all my things in the back of the taxi. Cameras, recorders, passport, wallet, sunglasses, receipts, notebook, rain jacket, Olympic media credential … brain.
The taxi driver pointed to a security gate as Wurzer and I began to chat. She was taping. I’d warned her I might get interrupted. I didn’t look closely at the gate to which he pointed.
True to my word, I had to hop out of the taxi as I briefed Cathy on the Bachman updates. Out of the taxi I leapt, just missed getting hit by a bus, trotted to the sidewalk, approached security and saw machine guns.
Odd, I thought, hadn’t seen them before. Even noted my discovery to Wurzer in the phone call.
Guess what. I wasn’t at the Press Center. I was at the Athletes’ Village about two miles away. No wonder security was tighter and more obvious. Gotta protect those jocks, you know. But I was now up the Olympic creek without a taxi, and they can be hard to get in the best of times in this sprawling city.
I waved. I waved again. I changed corners. I walked to a bus stop. The No. 2 was my bus to the Press Center. I waited with lots of Chinese volunteers. Ten minutes, 15. Being an American, I got anxious. I tried for a taxi at another corner.
As I did, here roared the No. 2 bus past. I ran after it, sort of like I did in Torino two years ago when Wurzer had called. Funny about that.
I got on the No. 2. I made it back to the Press Center. I was perfectly soaked in sweat for the next taxi ride to my next interview.
Cathy Wurzer, next time you call, I’m going to get stationary.