Reality bites

13 06 2010

Cycling is an escape.

A few hours on the bike is a few hours away from whatever annoyances or worries may be poking at my brain. It’s time to work out problems or conjure creative ideas. It’s a chance to hold in my head all those witty, erudite conversations/tirades I’d so love to be able to express in real life; funny how my voice always sounds like John Cusack in those imaginary convos.

Of course, all the while you have to be aware of your surroundings and the road ahead so it’s a bit of a left-brain right-brain exercise as well.

Sometimes, though, reality intrudes.

It might be a close call with a car or truck. Or, as happened today, it might be a detour to my planned route because of a police investigation.

This morning, all the entrances to the lower trails at Pacific Spirit Park were closed by yellow police tape. Halfway up the Camosun hill, the road was blocked by police vehicles, including a command centre mobile home.

The local morning news on television said a body had been found Saturday evening, but police weren’t confirming anything.

Across from the command vehicle, a handful of reporters, photographers and camera operators huddled next to the tape, exchanging gossip, killing time.

Like moths to a flame, media respond in force whenever police tape goes up and command vehicles roll in. Then we fritter away the day waiting and gossiping.

I’ve worked scenes like that a number of times over the years. They’re never like they’re portrayed on tv, where reporters show up and a chatty detective or incident commander ambles over to give them all the information they need to know to file a breathless live report on air. And they’re certainly not like days of yore, when ambulance-chasing photographers like WeeGee were escorted right to the crime scene to capture it in all its black & white horror on his Speedgraphic for publication on the front page of the next day’s tabloid.

For the media, such situation are essentially paid kaffee klatches; you catch up with fellow journalists, many of whom you haven’t seen since the last yellow tape incident, you tell curious neighbours you really have no idea what’s going on, maybe ask them for their reaction to all this nothingness, so at least you have something to put in your story, occasionally squeeze off a shot if a cop looks like he’s doing something important, although it’s more likely he just has an itchy chin. And sometime after many hours of this unproductive idleness, the police spokesman will come to the tape to say they “can’t release any information at this time.”

Today’s scene is of particular interest because a woman was murdered while jogging along those trails about 14 months ago, and the crime remains unsolved. The trails are heavily used, by joggers, cyclists, walkers, dog-walkers, even horseback riders. They’re in an affluent part of the city, where crimes more serious than the occasional car break-in rarely happen.

So when police tapeĀ  goes up, people notice and the media responds. In the absence of official information, the unofficial rumour mill explodes.

Oddly, even though it’s my day off, and Vancouver isn’t even my jurisdiction, I still felt compelled to check the scene out. I recognized most of the media faces at the tape, but in my cycling kit, I was just another voyeuristic looky-loo to them. That’s fine, it was too nice a day to just waste away standing around and gossiping anyway.