Picking up nuances of facial contortionists

MIKE ROYKO

August 20, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

It's often said that being president is like living in a fishbowl. Especially in this age of intense media coverage and instant communications.

An example of the fishbowl effect is this brief Associated Press story from Monday's national news wires.

"Vail, Colo. (AP) President Clinton has been a bit testy with his staff during his working vacation, blowing up twice in the last week.

"The president was thumbing through some papers on the hood of his limousine Monday when he suddenly turned toward aide Andrew Friendly. His face contorted with anger, the president appeared to yell at Friendly at length.

"Aides said the president, who was about to board Air Force One for Tulsa, Okla., was apparently angry because he was supposed to make telephone calls but did not have the numbers or a cellular phone.

"If history is any guide, Friendly need not worry about being in the doghouse too long. Trip director Wendy Smith's stay was over in hours.

"She felt Clinton's wrath on Wednesday at the St. Louis airport when Clinton realized somebody left his briefcase behind. His face reddened as he yelled at her outside earshot of reporters.

"A few hours later, Smith was one of a handful of staff members who joined Clinton for dinner at a fancy French restaurant."

Reading that story, I wondered what it would be like to be constantly watched by an army of sharp-eyed reporters, waiting for your face to be "reddened" or "contorted with anger."

Looking back over my own Monday, I could imagine a news story being written that sounded like this:

Chicago (AP) Columnist Mike Royko was a bit testy with just about everyone and everything on the first day of his work week.

Royko's face was contorted with anger at 6 a.m. when he appeared on his front porch, wearing only his underwear, looking for his newspaper and seeing that it was 30 feet away in the wet grass.

After dashing to get the paper, his face became even more contorted with anger when he realized that the door had swung shut and he was locked out of his home.

Ringing the doorbell, he awakened his wife, who opened the door. Her face appeared contorted with anger and Royko's was contorted with contrition.

Royko was later seen trying to unlock his car while juggling a plastic cup of coffee and a sweet roll. His hot coffee spilled on his hand, causing his face to contort with anger.

Pulling into the street, he almost hit a yuppie on a 28-speed bike, causing his face (Royko's, not the the yuppie's) to contort with rage.

His face reddening, he shouted an obscenity. The cyclist responded by giving him "the bird," causing Royko's face to contort with fury.

During the trip to work, his face contorted with rage three times: once when tailgated, once when cut off by a smoke-belching '72 Pontiac, and once when the morning moderator on the public radio station said he and his guests would discuss whether schools should give free condoms to teen-agers.

His face severely contorted, Royko was heard to shout: "If they want condoms, let them go in and face the druggist like we had to!"

After parking his car, Royko entered the Tribune Tower, got on an elevator, punched his floor, and waited, his face only slightly contorted by a slight scowl.

Two women boarded the elevator and one of them loudly said: "Hey, hi, c'mon, smile, don't be so glum, smile."

His face contorted with rage, Royko shouted: "I'll decide if I choose to smile, and I can't smile as long as there are damn-fool idiots who can't get on an elevator and keep quiet and mind their own business."

At that moment, the door opened and he got off, his face contorted with rage, and he shouted: "Why are there so many (obscenities) in this world, especially on elevators in the morning?"

Arriving at his desk, Royko's face contorted with anger at the code for accessing his voice mail and at the first message, which was from a reader who resented talking to voice mail.

So Royko looked at the national wires and found a story about President Clinton's face being contorted with anger.

0 And Royko's face was contorted with delight.

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