Katie ‘n Me

It took me awhile, decades in fact. I have always admired Katie Couric, especially during her hard news years on the “Today Show.” She is an excellent interviewer and a good journalist with strong skills. Yes, Katie seems to have it all –wonderful job, first sole woman anchor of a major TV network evening news show, hot drummers 20 years her junior following her around and two great daughters. So over the years in my bouts of Katie-envy, I’ve always looked for our similarities. As you can imagine they are few and far between. But now I have found a strong one–an indestructible, irrefutable bond. It’s our navels. That’s right–our belly buttons, our umbilici, our navels.

Before that day in late November, I would have said the ties that bind Katie and me were pretty loose. We were born just a few weeks apart; she grew up in Virginia, I live in Virginia. And that would be about it. But that all changed one day late in November.

The occasion of my red-letter day was an interview CBS News did with me about glass safety. I was contacted because I have served for a number of years as the volunteer president of the Auto Glass Safety Council™ (AGSC) (formerly known as the AGRSS Council Inc.).

I think the world of AGSC and the people in it. This courageous group came together a number of years ago to help solve the problem of improper auto glass installations. First a committee, then a Council and now a full-fledged organization, AGSC began by developing the ANSI AGRSS Standard for proper auto glass installation that is used throughout the industry today. AGSC then developed an innovative program in which companies sign up to be AGSC-Registered Companies, conduct a self-audit and then undergo a random onsite validation audit by trained third-party auditors. Every single AGSC-Registered Company is audited onsite on a regular basis.

I have enormous respect for these companies and, personally, only recommend my friends and family use AGSC-Registered Companies. (You can find AGSC companies here.)

So when CBS wanted to talk about auto glass safety, I was happy to do so.

“They’ll probably do your hair and face in their make-up studio, but here are some make-up samples just in case,” said our VP, Holly Biller, as I walked out the door. “Heck, yeah, sure,” I thought, conjuring up visions of those cute little segments they sometimes used to do with Katie in the make-up chair. But I threw the samples in my briefcase anyway and headed out. I had a lot of trouble finding parking and I understood why they always send a chauffeur and car for Katie and other VIPs. I parked about ten blocks away and walked through a sudden downpour, but arrived in plenty of time.

I got a bit choked up when I saw the CBS News sign on the otherwise nondescript building in Washington, D.C. I thought of all the people who had walked through that door. I was entering the network of Paley  … of Murrow … of Cronkite, and eventually, for the past five years, Couric.  I was flying.

Inside it is, understandably, like a fortress. But the nice security guard called the producer who came down, met me and we proceeded to race up four flights of stairs to the studio.

Now this Zirinsky-like producer was probably used to racing up and down those stairs 50 times a day. I was not, at least not in heels, and soaking wet. “Bet they let Katie take the elevator,” I thought as I reached the final landing, “and the chauffeur probably holds an umbrella over her head until she is inside, too.”

The producer took one look at me and said “Uh … do you want to dry off and put on some make-up before we shoot?” “Oh yes,” I thought to myself, “That will help. Even ten minutes in the chair with a glass of lime water and professional make-up artist would boost my ever-shakier confidence.”

“Sure,” I said, “that would be great.”

“Okay, good,” she answered, “there’s a little ladies room over there where you can put some on, but be careful with your make-up because the lighting is not great.” Off I went.

She was right about the ladies room because I tripped over a couch that I didn’t see going in and twisted my foot so badly that I let out a little scream. The mirror was really small, but I was very grateful for the samples Holly had given me. Slowly the color (mostly artificial)returned to my face.

As I limped out, I got the full breadth of the newsroom. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to a professional news junkie like me. It’s pretty small but there is constant motion among all the desks. “Gee,” I sighed wistfully, “I always knew I would have loved working in a place like this, but I would have loved it even more than I could have ever dreamed.”

A kindly sound engineer broke my concentration by hooking me up for a sound check and some lighting tests.

There are tons of lights at all different angles and I noticed that my face looked a whole lot better on camera than it does in real life. I asked the engineer about that too. “That can’t be me,” I said. ”No, it’s really not,” she answered quickly. “It’s the filters, lots of filters,” she said, “It’s amazing what they can do.”

Then it was time to sit down for the interview.

“Is this the ch…ch…chair and the d…desk?” I stammered looking at the CBS anchor desk. “Yes,” she said, “This is where Bob Schieffer sits whenever he is here. And this was Katie’s chair in D.C. too. In fact, you see that dot?” she asked, pointing at this ancient round sticker about one-half inch wide on the lip of the desk facing me. “That’s the belly button dot. It’s the exact middle of the desk. Shove yourself up against the desk and put your belly button right on the dot and you will be centered exactly and the right distance back from the desk.”

“Even Katie?” I whispered taking note of the monumental significance of the action I was about to undertake.

“Oh yeah, honey,” she said. “Even Katie. EVERYONE who sits at this desk uses it.”

And so I pushed myself in tight, knowing that my navel was going where the navels of the greats … including Katie’s … had gone before.

The entire interview lasted about 20 minutes. When it aired people told me I did a good job and I hope that is true. After it was over, the producer led me back down the stairs and shook my hand in a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of a way. She waved to the guard to let me back out into the world from which I had come.

Except I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t bring myself to step through the door. I could have stayed there forever.

So the big thing I learned that day, other than to always carry make-up, is that when you walk into the life you would have loved to have led, and you are at an age where you know you never will, leaving after such a short foray into what never was is awfully hard to do. And the visit is bittersweet even while you are living it.

And as for Katie, what can I say? Some people are bound at the hip. We are now tighter. We are bound at the button.

Have a good week.


cbs4smallP.S. The sound engineer was so nice she snapped the picture you see here from my camera phone. I sent one to my mother who called me right away. “Debbie,” she said, “I cried when I saw the picture. Can you believe it?”

“I know, Mom,” I answered excitedly. “Can you believe where I was?”

“Oh, I didn’t even notice where you were,” she replied, “I cried because your face looked so good. Where were you?”

“Nevermind, Mom, nevermind.”