Sunday, September 30, 2012

My "60 Minutes" Interview

I don’t recall having volunteered to single-handedly prevent America’s forest fires.  I’m willing to do my part, of course, as I care about Bambi, Thumper and their woodsy friends as much as the next guy raised on Disney movies.  But as I told my church family, I was somewhat taken aback recently when a rather official-looking giant bear with a shovel told me that of all the people in America, I’m the only one who can prevent forest fires.  Granted, there is some satisfaction in being recognized among my peers, and to be honest, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.  But I would have guessed that the national acclaim I so richly deserve would have come for being an excellent driver.  I’ve always half-expected that one day an officer would pull me over to commend me for coming to a complete stop before making a right hand turn at a red light, or for being one of the few Americans who knows the order in which to proceed at a four-way stop sign.  I assumed that, as a result, I’d be invited to a ceremony for America’s Best Drivers (maybe sponsored by Allstate, so I could meet that reassuring “good hands” fellow---you know, the one who was Jack Bauer’s president for a while).  Then I’d make a few guest appearances on the morning talk shows, and perhaps have a sit down with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes.

“So is it true, Russ that you’ve been driving for almost half a century without an accident?” 
“That’s essentially true----no accident of any substance, Steve.” 

“You drive a little convertible, a 1991  Mercury Capri, is that right?”
“Yes, Steve----it's just coming into its prime.  I like to think of it as America’s Pace-car.” 
“You’re on record as saying you attempt to drive the posted speed limit wherever you go.  Is that true?”
“Of course I haven’t done it perfectly, but for me, Steve, keeping the speed limit is a matter of principle.  If the sign says 35, then 35 is what I drive.    
“That must annoy some people.  Do you get a lot of folks riding your bumper?”
“Oh that’s a constant.  I used to tap my brake pedal to ask them to back off, but as that rarely worked, I’ve decided to just ignore them.  What are they going to do, ram me?  The way I look at it, the fellow riding my bumper is being hypocritical.
“Hypocritical---how so?”
“I’d like to get a bumper sticker reading: ‘I drive the speed you drive when there’s a cop behind you.’” [studio laughter]  “There are times when everybody keeps the speed limit.  But I like to think I’m changing America’s driving patterns, one car at a time.” 
“How’s that, Russ?”
“It starts with a frustrated driver behind me in single lane traffic, wanting to pass me, but unable to do so.  But then, after he’s been forced to keep the speed limit for a few minutes, we arrive at a red light to find a few cars already stopped ahead of us, and it becomes clear to him that even if he’d been speeding, he would still be stopped at that same light.  So he learns that he can keep the speed limit, avoid all the stress, and still arrive at his destination at about the same time.”
“And you think that message is getting through?”
“Yes, Steve, I do.  Often, when I finally turn off the road, and the driver behind me continues on, he’ll honk at me, which I take to mean, ‘Thanks---lesson learned.’  Sometimes he’ll even hold up one finger as he passes, as if to say, ‘One more driver converted to safe driving principles.’
“That’s an interesting way of interpreting that gesture.  So you think of yourself as America’s unofficial Auto Safety Supervisor.”
“Yes, it’s funny you should say that, Steve, because sometimes people yell out to me, from passing cars, not quite Auto Safety Supervisor, but its initials.   It’s as if they instinctively recognize and appreciate what I’m trying to do.
“I can tell that you feel pretty strongly about this issue, don’t you?   Was there something in your past that triggered such passion, the loss of a family member through speeding perhaps?”
“No---nothing like that, Steve.”   [awkward pause]  Presumably this question and response will be edited out of the broadcast version of the interview.
“So you’ve become an advocate for the TRISLIT Movement, that is, the Truth is Speed Limit movement?“
“If the authorities expect us to drive at 70, then they should set the speed limit at 70, and ticket those who exceed it.  Why set the limit at 55, and then depend on us to drive at 70 to keep traffic moving?  The anthem of the TRISLIT movement is ‘All we are saying is give Truth in Speed Limits a chance.’”
“You’ve got me wondering, Russ, just how many lives would be saved, and how different America would be if every driver had your convictions.  If I may say, rarely do I have opportunity to interview someone with your combination of humor, erudition and character.”
“That’s kind of you to say, Steve.  I guess there aren’t many of us around.  Maybe we’re being killed off by all those aggressive drivers.” [more studio laughter]
From off set: “CUT!” 
“Great job, Russ, you’re certainly smooth on camera.”
“I guess it’s all those years of preaching, Steve.”
“Can you stay with us a bit longer? Leslie Stahl and Scott Pelley are never going to forgive me if I let you get away before they can meet you.”
“I’d love to, Steve, but I really must get back to my story now, in which this interview is just an aside.  I was telling my Wry Bread readers about my being asked to single-handedly prevent forest fires.”
“So you prevent forest fires too?” 
“I’ve been told I’m the only one who can.” 
“That’s fascinating.  I’d love to talk to you about that, and about your Wry Bread articles.  You know they’re very popular among some of us here at CBS.  The way you blend humor and devotional truth is wonderful.  I can’t wait to see how you’ll draw some spiritual lesson from your account of this interview.”
“As a matter of fact, I was just wondering how I was going to do that myself.  I don’t seem to have much to work with here.  If I’d stuck with the theme of preventing forest fires, I could have referred to what the Bible says about the tongue.  It’s a little member of the body, but it’s quite powerful, and it can cause great destruction, just as a huge fire can grow from a small flame.  I could have warned the readers to guard their tongues, because just as it’s much easier to prevent a forest fire than to fight it, it’s much easier to prevent destructive speech than to try to undo the damage it causes once it is out of the mouth.  I could have spun that out for a paragraph or two, but now I’m stuck.”
“Why don’t you publish what you have, and maybe come back and tweak it later?  That way you can go watch some football without this hanging over you.”
“I like the way you think, Steve.  I should have invited myself on 60 Minutes years ago.”

1 comment:

  1. I had a great time at CBS. The entire crew at 60 Minutes was friendly and helpful. It was a bit embarrassing when I backed into Diane Sawyer's car as I was leaving the parking lot, but she hadn't been at the taping, so she didn't know I was being honored for my driving.