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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Black and Blue

Vienna J. Montague, a news producer and student, learns to navigate lifes rough waters.
Vienna J. Montague, a news producer and student, learns to navigate life’s rough waters.

Vienna J. Montague | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re drowning or treading water. You might be moving forward, or the tide could be sweeping you out to sea. When you’re in these situations — as I have been and most certainly will be for several more months — the only goal is to stay afloat and look like you’re swimming.

Within the past few weeks, I swam nearly unscathed through a range of disasters: my work’s recent round of firings; my best friend’s uncle’s grim diagnosis & the sudden death that followed from stage four brain cancer; and a near-fatal car accident that sent me spinning into a ditch off a freeway. Oh, and taking 11 units of journalism classes.

As a producer for a local television station, stress and high stakes are familiar to me. Each sweeps period comes with a final ratings book, a message from the boss and sometimes a pat on the back. Or sometimes you get fired.

The way it works is that a call is made from management inviting the potential un-employee to lunch several hours before his or her shift. During the course of the meal the employee is told that his or her belongings will be collected and delivered to the now un-employee outside the station, and the un-employee is to deliver his or her press pass and building access card to the station right away. It makes sense, and isn’t a bad alternative considering that some people get fired in-house, just a few hours into their shift. I’ve seen both.

In the seven months I’ve been an employee, I have seen three people get fired. Well, one wanted to leave but was let go early because of a company strategy. Even more have left of their own volition, which is not unusual for a newsroom, to be honest.

I’m not a shark. I never have been & never will be. While I admire pragmatists and share their point of view in certain aspects, I have never been able to be quite that calculating. Some say television news producers have to be sharks. I don’t buy it.

I am, however, an empathetic. I cry when others cry. When I see people in pain, it makes me panic because I don’t know what can be done to alleviate a given situation.

My best friend Rachelle’s uncle was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and given just a few weeks to live. Uncle Marty had nursed a drinking problem, maintained poor nutrition and was a smoker. His diagnosis wasn’t much of a shock to anyone. However, knowing a major change is about to happen doesn’t mean you’re prepared for it.

Rachelle and her entire family have always been there for me since I was a 10-year-old girl moving to a new neighborhood. To this day I clearly remember sitting on the school bus while an olive-skinned girl with long blonde hair bounced up behind me saying, “Hi, I’m Rachelle. Do you get off at my bus stop?” From that point on she guided me through my new school, new friends and new life.

Since the moment that both of our homes burned together in a wildfire, Rachelle got married and had two kids, and I spent the majority of my adult life working for a TV station, always arriving at her house for Christmas and Thanksgiving throughout the years.

Her family is taking Uncle Marty’s death very hard, in different ways. His passing has dredged up questions about the future – from finances to health – and how it will be handled. Needless to say, it’s been a rough year.

Hoping to comfort Rachel’s beloved family, I decided to drive up to Redding to visit them. I had already etched out plans to house-sit for another friend, so I thought I would just stop by for a brief visit. My goal was to leave Wednesday night after work and be in Redding around 9 p.m.

I was a little late, driving a few miles north of Woodland around dusk. I was in the middle lane, with a car to my left, a car to my right and a big rig behind me. All I remember are flashes of images and thoughts, as if my mind switched to snapshot mode, knowing it was about to witness a lot of action.

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I let my foot off the gas, feeling myself being propelled toward the car to my left. I swerved slightly to the right to avoid the car, then spun uncontrollably toward the ditch like a pool shark’s trick shot in Billiards; tapped slightly and sent to the corner pocket.

My green ’98 Dodge Neon came to a stop after tearing up every flower, weed and willow in its way. I looked around, trying to assess where I was — in the median between I-5 North and South — and realized that I was completely okay.

I turned the car off, got out and observed that several cars had pulled over, people outside them asking me if I was okay.

Confused, I asked if I hit anyone, secretly terrified that my spinning car had somehow killed someone’s newborn son, an expectant mother, a newly married couple, or grandparents taking their grandchildren on a trip.

According to one man pulled over in a silver minivan, I had done none of these things.

“You got rear-ended by someone in a red car,” he shouted from across the freeway. “They just took off.”

Another man waited with me until police arrived to take a report. After that, I kept driving to Redding.

I’m not a shark, but even an experience like that didn’t shake me too much. The one thing I will say is that my so-called brush with death helped me realize I might not be around forever. I could sum it up with a cliché phrase about realizing one’s own immortality, but I think I had a handle on that a while ago.

It’s more about realizing that not being a shark is never an excuse to be a guppy.

I’ve always wanted blue hair, but until recently I figured I’d wait until I was a little old lady with white hair, and that’s when I’d go blue; however, I’ve come to the realization that I might not make it that far.

So I went blue.

I like it a lot, and it wasn’t actually as drastic as I thought it would be — like so many other things we hesitate to do in life.

And who knows? As far as treading water goes, maybe my blue hair will be an asset, providing some much-needed camouflage as I swim with the sharks.

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