I recently became a bona fide television personality. A true, real-life celebrity, if you will; a world-renowned star of the small screen, known globally for my wit and charm. What I mean by this is: I recently spent three minutes on an Australian morning show, where I temporarily forgot the word "ramp."
Here's how it happened: about a month ago, I received an e-mail from my editor, Matt, who was forwarding along an entirely different e-mail from a television producer for an Australian morning show called Sunrise. My first instinct, in this situation, was to simply ignore the e-mail, as I do with virtually all e-mails, until the little red notification bubble on my phone grows so large that it starts to resemble a handheld version of Chris Christie. Then I reply at a time that's more convenient for me, such as when I'm sitting on the toilet.
But since this e-mail came from my editor, I decided to open it right away. And that's when I discovered that this Australian television producer wanted me to appear on Sunrise in just a few days to talk about my Ferrari.
For those of you who haven't been following along, about a year ago I bought a Ferrari to see what it was like, and after a while I discovered that it really wasn't so great. So I wrote this big column about how it was a disappointment, and it got pretty popular, and I got a bunch of nice messages from all sorts of people around the world, except for the Ferrari forums, where they believe I am the automotive journalist equivalent of Lord Voldemort.
So I Googled this Australian morning show, just to make sure it was a real thing, and not just a couple of teenagers in Brisbane with a pet wombat and a YouTube channel, and I discovered that Sunrise is essentially Australia's version of the Today show. In other words: this program would be broadcast nationwide, coast-to-coast, to millions of Australians, and also a wide variety of scary-looking poisonous creatures. This is when I realized I would have to get a haircut.
The weekend I was scheduled to appear on Sunrise, I was in Washington, D.C., with my friend Eric, and I started to get nervous a few hours before I was slated to go on. What should I wear? I asked Eric, whose entire experience with television comes from sitting on the couch and reading while his wife watches E!. Are they going to make me wear makeup? Should I style my hair? What do I do with my hands? Should I try to tell a joke? Eventually, I decided I should at least memorize the names of the hosts: Andrew and Monique. Monique and Andrew. Monique. Andrew. AndrewMonique. To help calm my nerves, I suggested that Eric give me a few practice questions in an Australian accent, for effect. "And you have to ask some hard-hitting, thought-provoking questions," I said. "To make it seem realistic."
"G'day!" Eric said, with absolutely no hint of an accent. "Tell me about your Ferrari."
I knew I was in deep trouble.
That afternoon, we arrived at the television studio about an hour early. Looking back, this kind of seems like a waste, considering that the entire filming experience lasted approximately 3 minutes. In retrospect, it was like snagging good seats for an Opening Day baseball game, and then showing up at the stadium around Thanksgiving.
But we were there, so we went inside the building, which was just a few blocks from the Capitol, and we met with the television studio guy, who told me to relax and make myself comfortable. Comfortable?! I wanted to say. At a time like THIS?! COMFORTABLE?! Right before I'm going live in front of MILLIONS of Australians?!?!? Monique. Andrew. Monique. Andrew. Ferrari. Disappointment. Jalopnik. Voldemort. BRISBANE. WOMBAT! VOLDEMORT!!!! My heart was beating rapidly. Eventually, I calmed down a little bit when the television studio guy gave me a muffin.
About ten minutes before I was scheduled to go on the air, the television studio guy led me into the little room where they do all the filming so he could prepare me for my appearance. In doing so, he also ruined a childhood dream of mine.
You see, although I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, I always thought all those senators and congressmen being interviewed by CNN from Washington, D.C., were standing in front of a huge picture window in some awesome office building overlooking the Capitol. Even though I've been to D.C. many times and I knew there couldn't possibly be such a building, I held out hope. How cool would it be, I always thought, to see that awesome office building overlooking the Capitol and all the monuments?
Well, as it turns out, there is no awesome office building. There's no huge picture window, there's no cool view, and there's no Capitol. What there is is two large screens that each feature two different graphics: one shows a grainy photo of the Capitol during the day, and another shows a grainy photo of the Capitol at night. Since it was twilight during my appearance, we could've gone either way. We could play God with the daylight in Washington, D.C.
After we decided that I would be coming from D.C. at night, I got another shock when I actually sat down in the chair.
"So where's the live feed?" I asked the television studio guy, curious about how I would be seeing Andrew and Monique.
"Oh," he said. "We don't get a feed when it's international. You'll only have this." Then he held up a little earpiece microphone, the kind the Secret Service uses to tell each other that there's an intruder on White House grounds, and someone should really do something about it the instant Game of Thrones is over.
In other words: in a matter of minutes, I had gone from huge picture window overlooking the Capitol and live instantaneous video feed of my broadcast to small, windowless room and tiny, uncomfortable earpiece. Now I was certain I was doomed.
Eventually, we clipped on the earpiece, and the television studio guy worked his magic, and I started hearing Andrew and Monique talking to the guest before me. He was also an American, talking about God knows what, probably something far more interesting than a ten-year-old Ferrari, probably something incredibly entertaining, probably something that would make the viewing audience say: Come over here, honey, and check out the loser who has to follow THAT guy!
After he was done, they cut to a commercial, and Andrew spoke in my earpiece. "Doug," he said, enthusiastically, "we're excited to have you on!" I think I said something like "Thanks," but really, my mind was racing. I couldn't see him. Could he see me? I could barely hear him. Could he hear me? He had an accent. Was I on tape delay? Would there be that annoying three-second pause between when they asked me a question and when I answered it?Why does that pause exist? In this day and age? I can send a text message to the moon, but there's a three-second pause? Can I really send a text message to the moon? Who would be the provider for that? The moon isn't on those Verizon maps. So maybe AT&T? Isn't the moon in their logo? Or is that Earth?
As I was thinking all this, we came back from commercial, and Andrew introduced the segment: a guy who was disappointed by his Ferrari. "It's great to have you on," he said. I had planned what I would say next: "It's great to be here, Monique and Andrew." But then I blanked. What were their names? Andrew? Or was it Chad? And the woman… Clinique? No, that's not a name… son of a…
Fortunately, I composed myself, and I got through the interview with only a couple of little missteps. For instance: there was one moment where I couldn't quite hear what Andrew said, but possibly "breadbasket," so I just talked about how having a Ferrari isn't really that great. And then there was the incident where I forgot "ramp." I had it in my mind: that little surface that brings you from the road up a driveway… into a parking lot… into a garage… it's paved… But I just couldn't think of it. In my defense, I think we would all agree that it's a highly technical term.
In the end, though, I think my Australian television debut went pretty well. As I was leaving the studio, imbued with confidence over the fact that I didn't accidentally refer to Australia as "Austria," I asked the studio guy if he ever has politicians come in to his studio for interviews.
"All the time," he replied. "Just yesterday, we had John McCain in that very same chair."
So I think I'm moving up in the world. Sharing chairs with John McCain. Hob-nobbing with Australian television personalities. Controlling the sunlight in Washington, D.C. Next time, maybe I'll be CNBC! Or CNN! Or Dateline! Next time, maybe I'll tell a hilarious joke, or an exciting story!
Next time, maybe I'll remember the hosts' names.
WATCH: Ferrari for a year - Sunrise
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this bio himself in the third person.