Winter Storm 2011 a.k.a. Troy's Last Day

The big storm Tuesday was a heckuva day at WILX, that just so happened to be Troy's last day.

For purposes of this blog let me identify the main players up front. Mostly because I'm not sure what I will divulge, but I'd rather not use anyone's full name. You never know when a potential employer goes on a serious Google search mission.

Troy = Former News 10 Photographer
Proc = News 10 Executive Producer
Goldy = Former News 10 Reporter
Nate = News 10 Photographer
Dave = News 10 Photographer
Ben = News 10 TMP/Director
The Boss = The Man Who Is Calling Me Into His Office As He Reads This
The Dean = Tim Staudt

The actual day began at midnight with the goodbye party (on a Monday, I know, who does that outside of Ferris State students?) for Troy and Goldy. Needless to say, it's usually wise for the guest(s) of honor to not work the next day.

It would be Troy's last day at WILX.

It started off ordinary enough until I got a tip about a murder-suicide in Mason. I grabbed Troy and headed out to the scene. It actually seemed like this would be great-- one last story for the Dream Team. Troy dubbed he and I the Dream Team a while back after a series of perfect live shots. After great work one of us would often chime out, "Dream Team!" Later on, after one or both of us would screw something up, he'd say, "Not Dream Team!"

Outside of the weather becoming miserable, I thought we'd be Dream Teaming it up all night. Then Troy got out to shoot video and I went to talk to cops and we were pelted with hail. Stinging hail. I came back from getting little info to Troy saying, "This day sucks."

I still held out hope as I told the 6:00 producer to roll the live truck. One more live for the Dream Team. Then the weather got worse. Hail turned to wet snow. The live shot went fine but when it was over, Troy and I were soaked and freezing.

"This day sucks!" Troy muttered.  He'd repeat the line throughout the day as things got worse, each time getting more laughs.

We loaded up and headed back to the station on a non-plowed Cedar Street.

Back in the newsroom, it seemed to be business as usual. Until the scanners went loco. Every now and then they pick up people on their shortwave radios talking to each other about their day and their relatives and their gardens-- you name it. It's like eavesdropping at your grandma's card game. Of course it begins right as the snow really comes down and the emergency calls start coming in.

Then the power goes out and sends our system for a loop. Just a pre-cursor for the unpredictability. As the neighborhood chatter gave way to cop chatter the seriousness of the storm was setting in.

The heavy rain the day before followed by the snow and whipping winds led to trees falling like dominoes. Many taking down power lines with them. For awhile on the scanner it sounded like there was a power line down on every street in mid-Michigan. The car accidents became too many to count. Then US 127 was closed. Then the school closings began. Proc was trying to get photogs in the field to shoot anything weather-related and get schools into the system. I was trying to update Facebook and Twitter. Troy told us editing wasn't happening because the power hit screwed up some things. Then I-69 closed. Then an employee who takes I-69 to work called to say she can't make it.

To paraphrase Crash Davis, we were dealing with a lot of stuff.

Then the Boss called.

Being on speakerphone he heard a little too much panic in the air and decided to come in to help. And he didn't sound happy about it. Mind you, this is a guy who gets in by 8:15 and usually doesn't go home until 6:30 and has to deal with jackassery all day from the inmates. Now he was going to drive on snow-covered ice from East Lansing to likely make a few phone calls.

We had less than an hour to get our stuff together. But we did. Luckily, school closings tapered off to none, Troy and the photogs got all the editing done, I got a call back from Mason PD for an update on the murder-suicide, Proc finished the graphics for the 11, and everybody had a second to take a bite of Troy's going-away cake which was surprisingly moist and delicious.

Around 10:30 the Boss walked in looking madder than I expected. I said nothing. He got a lay of the land as we neared 11 o'clock. Troy was basking in his final hour, cracking jokes and sitting down to write his obligatory goodbye note to the newsroom.

The show was ok with a couple glitches, but we had good coverage of the storm with Andy and video. After a quick post-mortem, the Boss was out the door with instructions to the staff that we WOULD be pushing his car if it got stuck in the parking lot. It didn't, but little did we know, we'd be doing some pushing very soon.

Before walking out, I read Troy's note, which was easily the best goodbye note in my 11 years at WILX. Sprinkled with some Ferrell and Sandler movie quotes, it was a sincere so-long while poking fun at notable moments and employees during his five years.

"...thanks Proc for not initially hiring me when I interviewed... not cool man... but all water near a bridge..." It read in part.

"...nate and dave you got me where I am today... thanks jerkstores... even though I hated nate when I first started... sorry bro..."

It rambled for sure, but included much more I can't repeat here.

Proc and I walked out to the parking lot to find The Dean's car stuck in the parking lot and Troy and Ben pushing it from behind.

Tim, dressed in his suit with no winter coat, hadn't scraped the windows anywhere and apparently thought the winter storm didn't apply to him. "AAARGGGHH!" Proc slipped and fell on the ground behind Staudt's car. I jumped in as we worked the rock-it-back-and-forth technique which Tim wasn't familiar with because he'd never been stuck before.

The funniest part was Tim's frenetic frustration. He was in such a hurry, although the rest of us expected a slow drive home all day. 10 minutes and a broken snow shovel later, I'm driving Staudt's car trying to get some traction without spinning into Troy's truck or my car. I finally asked why Tim had his windows down. "So I could see," he said. At this point, he didn't care about all the snow falling off the windows to his interior. Finally, we cleared a little space.

Me: Tim, get in and let it coast before GENTLY hitting the gas.
Tim: OK.
Me: GENTLY!
Tim: OK.

The four of us pushed. The tires spun. "EASY!!!" we all yelled. Then it started to move. "Hit it!" I yelled. We all started laughing and I yelled at Tim's still-rolled-down window, "Don't stop!"

I think he said 'thanks' as he fish-tailed out of the lot and down the road.

Then it was Troy's turn. As he got stuck we realized his tires were balder than... well, a bald guy. This time when Proc, Ben and I pushed the truck kicked up hard pieces of snow hitting us. Proc took some shots to the nether region. At this point, it was hard to push from laughing so hard, but we finally got Troy moving.

And that's how Troy's last day ended-- with us yelling and laughing as he spun his way out of the parking lot. He wrote another funny note on Facebook the next day about how he drove 35 mph all the way home to Flint and then getting up a couple hours later to go to Detroit for his first day at his new station at 8 a.m.

By the way, it should be noted this was Troy's 2nd last day. He gave notice a couple months ago thinking he'd be starting his new job then. He actually had to be re-hired and fill out all the required paperwork.

Not Dream Team.

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