The thing I miss least about working in downtown Cleveland is leaving downtown Cleveland. Every day at 5:30, every person in the city crowds onto the same street at the same time to leave Cleveland. As a result, no one gets to leave Cleveland.
Over the years, I learned how to leave Cleveland fast by cutting down alleys and through parking lots and in front of people. I got good. I got cocky. Then on June 3, 2015, I got stuck.
On June 3, I pulled out of my parking garage onto Prospect Ave. and stopped. No matter who I tried to sneak in front of or what parking lot I tried to cut through, I couldn’t get any closer to the freeway. A half hour later, as a last ditch effort to get home before dying of natural causes, I tried to cut down the alley next to the graveyard. That’s when I ran into the cause of my problem.
I could get out of Cleveland just fine on Indians and Cavs game days. But on June 3, someone bigger than LeBron James came to Cleveland. Taylor Swift had taken over my city.
I don’t know much about Taylor Swift. She seems kind of like a nice robot. But on that day, surrounded by minivans full of bedazzled 10-year-old fans, I realized that there was no more powerful robot in the world than Taylor Swift, Inc.
That day reminded me of my one previous encounter with Ms. Swift. It was five years ago, and it was captured on video. I watched it the other day while procrastinating and was struck by how much the two of us have changed over the past five years – Taylor into a sleeker robot with an armada of semi trucks, and me into someone who is mortified by my actions in the video.
On Dec. 7, 2010, Taylor Swift sat down with the Today Show to promote her tour. On the same date, Deserae and I visited New York City to wave in the background of a Today Show interview. We all accomplished our goals that day.
I’d like to break down this video in detail.
:01 – Taylor Swift is singing a song about liking a boy instead of hating him because he broke up with her, so you know right away that this is an old video.
:18 – Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb introduce Taylor. The only thing I know about Kathie Lee and Hoda is that they sometimes drink on the air. After watching this interview again, I am sure that Kathie Lee sneaks in a few cocktails during hair and makeup too.
:36 – “She’s the top-selling digital artist in music history,” Hoda says. Upon hearing this, Kathie Lee stares at Taylor with mouth agape for four uncomfortable seconds as if she’s just learned that Taylor Swift has set fire to her home.
:44 – We meet our three heroes: Taylor Swift, Dustin Brady and Deserae Brady.
:45 – Dustin and Deserae Brady learn that they are on television. Judging by the expressions on their faces, this is the greatest thing that ever has and ever will happen to them.
:48 – Dustin notices that Deserae has been waving AND jumping for the last three seconds. This looks fun, so he starts jumping too.
:54 – After 10 seconds of waving, the novelty has worn off for most of the crowd. Not Dustin. Dustin is literally pumping his fist.
1:01 – Kathie Lee and Hoda are asking Taylor about turning 21. “It represents you are legally an adult!” Kathie Lee shouts at Taylor. This is not a true statement.
1:07 – Hoda reveals that she’s known Taylor and her family since Taylor was young. “What’s funny about you is you were already a robot,” Hoda says. (Technically she says “grown up” not “robot,” but it’s clear that she means “robot.”) Taylor’s compliment protocol boots up. “Awwww, thank you!”
1:12 – Dustin looks at the monitor above the studio and sees himself on TV. He opens his mouth in glee and bounces on his toes.
1:28 – When the camera cuts back to Taylor, we notice that Dustin and Deserae are being pushed behind Ms. Swift’s head by a woman who will mouth the phrase “Hi Mom” 33 times over the next four minutes.
1:49 – “Hi Mom” lady waggles two fingers at the camera. It is unclear if this is supposed to be some sort of peace sign.
1:56 – The look of pride, joy and satisfaction on Dustin’s face right now cannot be put into words. On Dec. 7, 2010, Taylor Swift may still be on her way up. But Dustin? Dustin has made it.
2:10 – To commemorate this moment for all of time, Dustin digs out a purple Nikon Coolpix from his coat and attempts to take a picture of himself on the 32” television above the studio. Dustin looks sure that this will be the most important photograph of his life.
2:14 – Dustin’s enthusiasm is dampened only slightly when he realizes that his photo looks like a blurry dumpster.
2:16 – Maybe if he takes a picture of the reflective studio glass?
2:20 – Nope.
2:22 – Dustin will not be denied. He goes back to attempting a picture of the television.
2:26 – Taylor is talking about her upcoming world tour. Kathie Lee interrupts with an important clarification. “This one is really world!” she says while making a circle motion with her finger. “This one is like, uh, inter, intergalactic isn’t it?!” This is not a true statement.
2:36 – Taylor awkwardly brings up the fact that her tour will be sponsored by Cover Girl. This gives Kathie Lee and Hoda an opening to read advertising copy about Taylor Swift’s new line of Cover Girl makeup and Taylor a few seconds to dream about the day she will one day have enough money to own those fools at Proctor and Gamble.
3:08 – Hoda shows Taylor that she was Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year. “That was nice of them,” Taylor says because that’s what she was programmed to say. “They’re not that nice,” Hoda says because she was not featured in the issue. “THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE!” Kathie Lee says because she is drunk.
3:16 – It’s been nearly a minute since Dustin and Deserae were featured in the background, so when the camera cuts back to them, they start waving like crazy to make up for lost time.
3:32 – A woman has been lying on Deserae’s shoulder for the past 20 seconds. Deserae turns and smiles at her with clenched teeth.
3:36 – Four teenage girls appear between Kathie Lee and Taylor.
3:41 – In a matter of five seconds, these four girls have multiplied to an innumerable gaggle. It is important to note that all of these girls are handling their newfound fame with more grace than Dustin.
3:48 – Kathie Lee Gifford uses the next twelve seconds to awkwardly push her son, Cody, onto Taylor Swift. Hoda’s strained laugh through this sales pitch seems to suggest that she previously told Kathie Lee not to do this, Kathie Lee agreed, and yet Kathie Lee is doing it anyways.
4:05 – The waggly peace sign makes another appearance.
4:15 – “Woooooooooooo,” says Dustin.
4:56 – Hoda has been carrying on a coherent conversation with Taylor about her live shows for a while now. Kathie Lee has been silent for 40 seconds and she can stand it no longer. She finally interrupts. “IT’S LIKE BROADWAY ISN’T IT!” This is not a true statement. Taylor looks down as if she has given up.
5:03 – You may think that five minutes on camera would be enough for anyone. Not Dustin. He is still waving with all his might.
5:21 – This is word-for-word the way Kathie Lee ends the interview. Again, this interview occurs on December 10th. “Have a great summer. Holiday. Season. Whatever. I’m so sorry. Oh my neck hurts.”
LIFE LESSON #99
We all* have to grow up some day.
(*Not Kathie Lee Gifford.)