I was sent on a shoot at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasting headquarters a couple weeks ago because the weather was horrible and we needed to know why. Without fail, news shows will lead their broadcasts with a weather story if there is one. The world is exploding? I’m sorry, we already have some minor flooding in the Eastern Seaboard that we are covering, the exploding world will have to wait until another day.
But on this day it was pretty cold for mid-October, and it was snowing in Pennsylvania for the first time in 80 years, so these forecasters had some questions to answer. I was chatting with their head forecaster before the interview when my blackberry and phone started going crazy. There was a little boy alone in a weather balloon, and he was floating high above the mountains of Colorado! Not to mention the boy’s name is Falcon! My god, could it get any better than that?
The next call was from a senior producer who asked frantically if I could find out if the weather in that region would make it particularly dangerous to be floating around in a weather balloon. In my opinion, any weather would be particularly dangerous to float around in a weather balloon, but that’s why I don’t get payed the big bucks. I turned to the forecaster and asked, “You’re an expert on the flight patterns of weather balloons with children in them, right?” He didn’t think it was funny.
So we started the interview and I had a slightly tough time formulating questions in regards to the bubble boy. “Is the weather in Colorado dangerous if you were a 6-year-old riding in a weather balloon?” I asked. “I have no idea,” he responded. It was ridiculous.
But with a few more carefully worded questions we found that the winds in that area were actually relatively calm compared to usual, making little Falcon’s ride somewhat bearable. There was hope!
In the end little Falcon was not in the balloon at all, and was found in the attic of his house, the entire thing a hoax in an effort to get the family it’s own reality series. And so I left the NOAA headquarter after losing a sliver of my journalistic integrity, having asked questions whose answers, in the end, were never used in our broadcast.
And while these situations teach me an incredible amount of patience because of their ridiculousness, I imagine that if I can ask NOAA’s head forecaster about a 6-year-old floating in a weather balloon and keep a straight face, I should be able to handle much, much more.