The job of being a TV pundit really isn’t all that hard; you usually just smile into a camera and answer questions with what you hope are plausible-sounding answers.
But when things go wrong, televised punditry can turn into the stuff of nightmares.
Recently, for instance, I endured just such a trauma while appearing on one of those pundit TV panels.
It all started in typical fashion. About 15 minutes before I was to go on the air a producer took me to a small little room in the studio.
After hooking me up with a lapel mike and an earpiece the producer left me on my own, sitting at one of those newsroom-style desks. The camera I was to look at was remote controlled, so there was not even a cameraman to keep me company. I was truly alone.
There was nothing to do but wait. So I took advantage of my alone time to focus on preparing for my upcoming interview – I sat up straight, made sure my tie wasn’t crooked and most importantly I started to imagine all the things that could go wrong.
Would I blurt out something stupid on the air, would I mangle my words, would I get upstaged by a fellow panelist ….or would my ear piece pop out?
As I pondered this last possibility, I decided just to be on the safe side to cram the plastic little doohickey deeper and deeper into my ear canal.
As I pressed it in, I could hear the reassuring feed from the show, my only contact with the outside world …. but then suddenly the sound abruptly stopped. I was for all intents and purposes, deaf.
I realized with horror that thanks to my fidgeting with the earpiece it had become disconnected from its wire. I had broken it! And I was going to be on live TV in just a few short minutes, unable to hear the host or anybody else. There was nobody to help me.
Fortunately, as a veteran of countless TV appearances, I knew exactly what to do under these circumstances: I panicked.
I frantically dug out the plastic earpiece, fearing all the time that I would suddenly appear on TV with my index finger stuck in the side of my head.
Luckily I managed to retrieve it before the red light on the camera lit up. But time was running out. I quickly re-attached the wire, and once again I could hear the show.
Or at least partial success. My repair job was delicate to say the least. After re-inserting the earpiece, I quickly realized that if I made any slight movement of my head the wire would once again detach.
To keep everything in place, I had to keep perfectly still.
Before I could fret about it too much, I was on the air.
They say the secret to appearing on TV is to look relaxed. Well I must have looked about as relaxed as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Instead of focusing on coming up with witty comments about possible reforms to old age pensions, all I was thinking was: “Please little sound wire, don’t come loose.”
And the wire did stay in, but unfortunately near the end of my segment, while answering a question on the future prospects of the NDP, the whole earpiece plopped out.
So as gracefully and nonchalantly as possible I placed it back trying all the while not to look like a complete dork.
In my mind, it was a humiliating catastrophe.
In fact, I am sure when my on-air segment was over, the viewers saw me not as a political genius, but as a grim-faced, stiff-necked, nervous-looking guy who had a piece of plastic fall out of his ear.
But on the bright side, I was still on TV!