The second time around
Not too long ago one of the television news programs showed a little lady of some years as she walked to a monument and placed a sad little bouquet which she had clearly arranged herself among several sophisticated wreaths and floral tributes already there. Seems to me this had something to do with Poland. It was a poignant vignette, but there was something wrong with it. The picture was gone from the screen by the time I realized what that was. I had not really seen a ''news'' picture at all, but had watched the ''actual simulated demonstration'' of the television cameraman. There had been a story at the monument, and television had arrived to photograph the politicians and pick up the prepared news releases. As the equipment was being packed up, this little lady appeared, but she was unscheduled and unexpected. Without reference to the public ceremony just concluded, she expressed her personal sentiments in her own humble way, with serenity, sincerity, and dignity. She was asked, then, to repeat her gesture for the cameras. She did, but with a difference.
The difference was that she was herself the first time. The second time, she was an actress--but nervous, uncertain, curious. She looked up at us, responding to a director. Watching her, spouse and I rehashed our first encounter with the TV double take:
We were in Salzburg one summer, visiting Mozart and admiring the horse baths, and a crew of archaeologists was methodically excavating by the big cathedral, exhuming the buried records of that ancient city. Deep down, the dig was something of a tourist attraction, so ramps and railings had been arranged and folks could stand at street level and watch the progress. A young man who seemed to know a good bit about the work volunteered to point things out to us, and he said that soon after noon a television crew was to come and make pictures of an important find. He said that the week before a stone with letters cut into it had been uncovered, and the experts agreed it was historically significant. We stayed to watch this filming.
The great hole, at the bottom of which this stone was waiting to be ''found'' by TV, had been dug away barrow by barrow by archaeologists who looked ever so much like ditch diggers in hard hats. Each barrow load was tagged, and put along the side of the cathedral so, if need be, it could pretty much be put back in the hole as it was. Later, each load would be sifted and sorted for anything that might tell of the layering of Salzburg. We watched this until the television people came, and then we found a good spot on a ramp and were joined by the same young man.
''They'll rehearse,'' he said, ''and then the dirt will be dug away there (pointing) and you'll see the stone.''
So with a half dozen of the archaeologists on camera, three trial runs were made without removing any dirt, during which the archaeologists made great dumb show, smiling and clapping backs and shaking hands, each his own Clark Gable. After all, these were serious scientists, all with professorships at the universities. Satisfied, the director now called for the real thing.
One of the archaeologists scooped away the dirt with a small trowel, brushed with his hand, and everybody leaned in to see. All, of course, on the same side, so the camera wouldn't be stymied. Then there was great lifting of hands in awe and amazement, the congratulations, and the raising of the stone so the camera could close in for the details. The young man who had befriended us was shaking his head.
''That's not the way it was at all!'' he said. ''It didn't happen like that!''
''How did it happen?''
''Well, Dr. Dachschlager found the stone and said to Dr. Hummelkiefer, 'Look, Ludwig, see what I have!' Then Dr. Hummelkiefer said, 'Good! Cover it quickly and we'll notify the television people!' ''
''How come you know so much about this, are you an archaeologist?''
''No, I bring the sausage and rolls for Mahlzeit.''
An ancient Chinese saying covers the matter: Confucius say one word often more reliable than ten thousand pictures.