Chapter 11: Block It Out (11)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
And then the unexpected happened right in the middle of the second video piece. They were preparing to put pension-related data on the monitor, but when Sakae gave the instructions “Graphics stand by,” the monitor remained blank and the graphics that they had prepared wouldn’t display at all.
“Oi, where are the graphics?”
“It’s not displaying!” the operator cried frantically.
“What do you mean it’s not displaying?”
“I’m not sure… I think that there might be a problem with the playout server.”
The risk of equipment trouble increased with the heavier reliance on machines and technology. What was important was how it was dealt with when the trouble occurred.
“How long does it take to restart it?”
“About 3 minutes.”
They would barely make it in time before the end of the video, but there was no guarantee that restarting the server would fix the problem.
Shitara spoke up over the headset.
“Normally there would be someone with systems experience in the control room, but they’re all regular employees.”
And because of the strike, that meant they weren’t here today. What should he do if they weren’t able to put the graphics up? Naturally it wasn’t impossible to only give a verbal explanation, but it was already a pedantic topic, and it would be hard to grasp all the complicated numbers that would be thrown around. What was the best solution that he could manage with the time that he had? If he were to order Shitara for ideas, he would probably give him some kind of answer, but that would be Shitara’s solution, which was different from Sakae’s solution.
“Remove the monitor from set. Hurry it up,” Sakae ordered. “Reboot the server while it’s off set, and bring in a whiteboard from somewhere in the studio! Hey, old timers, move it!”
“Huh? You want us to do it?”
“You’re the only ones with your hands free right now! Hurry it up!”
“What will we do with the whiteboard, sir?”
Shin’s voice was fairly flustered in his question.
“Kunieda remembers all the data on the graphics, right? He can leave things out as necessary, but make him write it out on the board. It might be nicer with the interactive feeling this way.”
The production control room and everyone on the headset in the studio were all surprised—everyone except for Shitara probably.
“Quit dragging your feet, Shin. Hurry up and tell Kunieda!”
The video just launched into a press conference with the Governor of the Bank of Japan. There was nothing in the script for Kunieda to read, and this was the only time they could pass the message to him. Shin hurried to pass the instructions verbally, and Kunieda nodded, showing no particular distress at the disclosure. Great, they could do this. Sakae was sure that they could pull it off. All that was left was to deliver the whiteboard in time.
“20 seconds remaining for the clip.”
“Is the board there yet?”
“If it doesn’t make it, we’ll use a sketchbook instead. It’ll have to be yours, Shin, so pass your sketchbook and pen over if there’s no other choice.”
“Ten seconds remaining.”
“Oh, it’s here! With this timing, the camera will catch the hand-off, but there’s no choice, right?”
“No, make Minagawa get up. He’ll bring the board in. 4, wait with a long shot of the full studio! Pull back even more.”
The feed switched to the studio after the video ended, and it showed Minagawa just as he was pulling the whiteboard on rattling wheels over to the set. Like Kunieda, he showed no alarm at the unexpected developments.
“We just barely made it.”
For the time being, relief spread throughout the control room.
“Oh, Minagawa-san, thank you very much. Since we have a professor with us today, we will bring a little taste of his lectures to our viewers. Professor, this way please.”
The economist couldn’t move or respond to the improvisation on the spot, but Kunieda very naturally guided him over to the board. He was good. The old men who had rushed to bring in the last-minute prop filed back into the control room wheezing.
“Haa, I thought I was seriously dying… I saw a vision of my dead wife.”
“I never heard anything about doing physical labor here.”
“If you’re going to croak, do it after you get home,” Sakae said heartlessly.
“You’re a demon!”
Kunieda wrote on the board without hesitation the payment amounts predicted by the pension model.
“So if pension payments are postponed past the designated age, you can see that there is a large increase in the monthly payments; however, retirees would require funds to bridge the period before the payments start, correct? Oh, please use this red marker, Professor.”
Kunieda and Minagawa were fine, but with the sudden changes to their plans, the economist became stiff again even though he had just gotten used to the cameras.
“Um, first we have the defined contribution pension plan…”
The economist wrote on the whiteboard in red marker, and before he could launch into his explanation, Minagawa laughed.
“Professor, you have very cute handwriting.”
The timekeeper next to Sakae broke into laughter.
“I thought the same thing…”
It was certainly a mismatch with the economist’s appearance. The handwriting was very round and loopy, like something a junior high or high school girl from the Showa era would write (one from the 1980s even). It felt like the handwriting would make fun of the guy with mocking dad jokes.
“Yes, it is very cute.”
Kunieda also picked up on Minagawa’s interruption.
“Oh, no, I’m embarrassed…”
“Please don’t be, it’s quite nice to see such a gap like this.”
“Camera 3, zoom in,” Sakae instructed. “On the Professor’s embarrassed face.”
“The gap is nice?” Laughter broke out again in the control room.
Minagawa was right to have interrupted at that moment. That the timekeeper had blurted out that he thought the same thing, there was no doubt that a lot of the viewers felt the same mismatch between the speaker and his handwriting. It was important to address that strange sense of juxtaposition between the two. There were certainly cases where it would be better to let the moment slide without any comment, but with this topic and with this timing, he had chosen in an instant this route to tease the guest playfully to create a moment out of it. That reflex of his was something that could not be acquired with just experience.
The mood in the studio lightened with the teasing, and maybe the economist relaxed or felt the need to defend his honor, but he spoke effusively as he gave his explanations. But it wasn’t a one-sided lecture like he had been warned against; it was a proper conversation. Speaking skills were essentially listening skills, and although he was still fairly clumsy, that he could correct himself in such a short amount of time, the older timers’ lecture had probably been very effective.
“Next I would like to discuss NISA. —Shall I flip the board here?”
The economist rotated the whiteboard to display the other side. He naturally thought that he would have a fresh, clean board, and Sakae had thought the same too.
However, a mess of scribbles that said Char sui, Miso, and Shoyu, and a tally of marks for each option had been left over on the other side of the board.
Sakae turned around to yell at the old men, “You should have erased it first!!” and they argued back, “But you kept telling us to hurry it up!”
In the meantime, Kunieda gave a wry gentle smile and erased the board with some cleaner.
“It appears that we have aired the delivery order for the staff’s dinner.”
“Yes, it’s quite top secret.”
Minagawa nodded gravely.
“Oh, that’s perfect. Let’s use ramen for our example. Let’s say we have ramen once a month, and a single bowl costs about 800 yen.1 If we were to skip that ramen and save the money instead…”
“Whoa, he started ad libbing.”
“We got a lucky break.”
“Hey, isn’t it all thanks to us that it turned out this way?”
“Quiet in the back. —Shin.”
“Don’t worry about the time. I’ll let them talk as far as they can take it. Even if they run over the time a little, you don’t have to tell them to wrap it up.”
Was that a mistake now? Yeah, it was a mistake. The tally for a delivery order did show up in the middle of an economics discussion after all. This show was seriously nothing but trouble today. But Sakae felt like almost laughing. Probably more than anyone here.
“And that wraps up the summary of the news from today. After the commercial we will bring you the weather.”
They entered a 2½-minute commercial. After that was the weather for 3 minutes, the sports news for 20 minutes with 2 commercial breaks in between, and finally the ending. He still couldn’t relax yet, but the show was half over, and they had probably gotten over the hump.
“Are the rest of the videos ready?”
“Yes, they’re ready to go.”
“And the captions?”
“They’re ready. There are no problems that I see with the order.”
In the middle of the checks, a cell phone started ringing.
“Hello? It’s Grampa~ Is there anything wrong?”
“Why are you answering!?”
“Why not? We’re still in commercial… Oh, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it. Grampa’s really important and incredible, you know? Of course there’s no one’s yelling at me.”
“Quit with your fake showboating!”
“Shhh! …Huh? Your plane? Well that’s terrible to hear. It must have been scary. Were you hurt at all? Hmm, okay… Send me another picture of you. Hmm? No, I don’t need one of you with your boyfriend. Okay, bye.”
“…Oi, hold on.”
“Huh? You were nagging at me, so I hung up.”
“You were talking about a plane. What happened to it?”
“After landing in Kobe Airport, there was trouble with the plane and they couldn’t get off the taxiway. Apparently they’re waiting in a transfer bus.”
“You should have said so sooner!” Sakae got to his feet. “What airline was it?”
“So use the damn smartphone that you’ve been chattering on and look it up.”
“What will you do if I look it up?”
“Put it on as breaking news of course,” Sakae answered in irritation. “It’s potentially a serious incident.”
“But we don’t have correspondents at Kobe Airport.”
Objections rose inside of the control room. There were reporters and camera operators stationed permanently at the major airports such as Haneda, Narita, and Kansai, and if anything happened, they could immediately get information from them, but they couldn’t expect that level of staffing at the scale of Kobe Airport.
“Are you talking something like a flash news story, with just the information and captions?”
“We need a live feed to go with it. We should have the weather cam.”
“But we don’t have one set up there?”
“I know that!”
But the commercial was over, and Sakae had no time to stop and explain everything. He talked into the headset and said, “Old man Nishikido, get over here now.”
“We’re live, you know.”
“Just get in here. The other cameras, cover for him.”
“Get over here yourself,” Nishikido grumbled as he walked in, and Sakae immediately gave him instructions.
“Call up Kansai Asahi.”
But of course he couldn’t neglect the weather segment that was in progress.
“Camera 2, stay on the weather monitor. We’re going to the weekly forecast next.”
“Huh? What did you say?”
“There’s plane trouble at Kobe Airport. Since you’re a news camera operator with Kansai Asahi, you should be able to get through to them. I want live shots from their weather cam. I don’t care who it is, but tell them to open up the control room and operate it for us. We’ll hook up to their feed and air the footage here.”
If the Tokyo office didn’t have access to the weather cam, they could just remote it in from a place that did.
Sakae had to hand it to Nishikido—he was quick on the uptake, and he pulled out his cell phone to make a call.
“Hey, it’s me. You at the office now? You’re on night duty? Great, I’ve got a favor to ask you.”
It appeared that they’d be able to pull it off. And as a sign of good things to come, he was also informed about the airline in question.
“It’s Finch Air Flight 721.”
“They’re a budget airline. Find out if they’ve had any other problems in the past. Also…”
Sakae had his eye on one person of the senior citizens brigade.
“Oi, Asahi Travel consultant.”
“Don’t ‘what’ me. Get the president of Finch Air on the phone, their PR person, or whoever, I don’t care, but I want a confirmation to back up the report. I won’t accept the excuse that you don’t have the connections.”
“Wha? …I don’t know if they’ll give me one.”
He did look reluctant to do it but he started making calls like Sakae had asked, so he turned his attention to Shin and called him over the headset.
“We might have some breaking news. Tell Kunieda to be ready for it. There’s trouble with a plane at Kobe Airport after touching down, and no harm has been reported so far.”
“When do you think we will break in?”
“I don’t know. We’re still gathering the information as we speak. There’s also the possibility that it won’t make it in time, but if it’s ready, I’ll make him say it at the ending if we have to.”
“The rest of you lot, put in a request for captions. I need one that says Live from Kobe Airport, a chyron that says Finch Air Plane Trouble at Kobe Airport, and the name of the granddaughter who was on the plane. We might need her to talk to Kunieda on the phone. I want a raw account from a passenger there.”
“Huh? Is it really okay to put our Arisu-chan on TV?”
“Hey, that’s not fair.”
“I said it’d be on the phone.”
That essentially took care of all the preparations. Now they just had to wait for them to be completed.
“The weather cam’s connected. It’s on R7. Is that the plane? All these vehicles are gathered around it.”
“Oi~ I got confirmation of the trouble from an official. There was damage to the right main landing gear; the cause is still unknown. There is a possibility that parts fell to the ground, and the runway has been closed. It was the last flight of the day, so there’s no impact on other flights.”
“Finch Air has one major incident on record in May when a front tire blew out.”
“The captions are done. The phone interview is ready to go at any time. Should I put it on speakerphone and air it to the studio?”
Sakae scribbled all the information on the back of a piece of paper nearby. He told the old man, “Give this and the cell phone to Kunieda,” and shoved the paper at him, and then announced to the staff, “We’re going in with breaking news!”
“Camera, when Kunieda’s ready, immediately close up on him.”
“I have just received breaking news. A short while ago, Finch Air Flight 721 from Haneda Airport to Kobe Airport touched down with trouble to the aircraft. After landing in Kobe, the aircraft was unable to move from the taxiway.”
“R7, weather cam!”
“…This is a current image of Kobe Airport. The aircraft in question, Flight 721, can be seen in the middle of the picture. It appears to be a serious situation with vehicles and people gathered all around the aircraft.”
“Weather cam, zoom in.”
Nishikido relayed Sakae’s instructions over the phone and said, “We’re looking to zoom in. Take it slow,” and in real time, the image on the broadcast zoomed in on the plane.
“According to an official at Finch Air, for some reason the right main landing gear has been damaged, but the cause is currently unknown. I have on the phone with me a passenger who was on Flight 721.”
“Okay, raise Kunieda’s mic so that we can pick up the sound from the phone.”
When the plane landed, there was a bit of an impact. They waited for a while with no sign of movement towards the gate, and when people started wondering what had happened, they were given an announcement in the cabin… After the brief exchange, Kunieda closed the phone interview with a “Thank you very much” and turned to face the camera again.
“Finch Air has recorded an accident in May where the front tire of an aircraft was punctured. It appears that their safety management system will be questioned. And now we have Minagawa-san to bring us the highlights from the other sports news.”
After the sports flash news, they would give an update on the stock markets and then end the show.
“And that’s our show for tonight. Airing next at 10 pm on this channel is the live broadcast of Team Japan’s soccer match. You won’t want to miss it.”
The screen changed to a commercial for the upcoming soccer match, and cheers of “We did it!” rang out through the control room. They even gave each other high fives for some reason. Just when Sakae removed his headset and stood up, Nishikido gave him a hard smack on the back.
“You haven’t changed at all.”
“That hurts, you damn old fart.”
“You were called in as relief, but you sure pushed yourself to the brink today. If you’d been off by just a second, it really could have been awkward. In the worst case scenario, it could have been an incident.”
“If you can’t report the news that’s happening, then you’re not qualified to call yourself a news show.”
Nishikido laughed loudly and gave him one more slap on the back before leaving.
Damn it, that hurts, I said.
Sakae had no plans to attend the review meeting since there was nothing for him to fix. He left the control room and headed towards the elevators when Shin caught up to him at the elevator hall.
“What is it?”
“Um… How was my performance on the floor today?”
Shin was out of breath as he asked his question, and Sakae was a little stunned. He wasn’t the type of person to seek feedback on his work. He was more timid, the type to not want to hear anything good or bad about what he did, but maybe Shin had changed too. For some reason, that thought made Sakae feel relieved.
“Now and then, it was clear that you were panicking.”
“You need to be more composed. Your panic will infect everyone else in the studio.”
It was probably only natural given all the unforeseen incidents that came barreling their way. Actually, Sakae thought that Shin did a pretty good job in such a short time, accurately processing and relaying the instructions that were flying at him from every direction. However, Shin was not discouraged in the least to hear only criticism leveled at him. He actually looked rather happy.
Sakae got into the elevator, and Shin shouted, “Thank you for the great work tonight!” bowing deeply until the doors of the elevator closed.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.