Sometimes the things you are required to do as a reporter can veer into the absurd.
More often than not, those things usually involve politicians.
Which brings me to how I found myself standing in front of Kroger on 15th Street on a chilly Wednesday morning.
I was there for a “news event,” which means it was really neither. U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey had chosen the auspicious location for a formal announcement that he was entering the 2014 race for U.S. Senate.
Originally, Gingrey (or more likely, his handlers) had selected a site closer to the former Medical College of Georgia, where he had studied medicine almost a half-century ago.
That was changed early Wednesday for mysterious reasons and moved to a scruffy, little island of flourishing dandelions and ragged holly bushes, which separates the Kroger parking lot from 15th Street traffic.
Gingrey’s press people seemed to have settled on the bizarre locale for the sole reason that they could stand a lectern there in front of a newly planted sign marking the border of Augusta’s “Medical District.”
So there we were -- me, photographer Todd Bennett and some guy from the Associated Press, standing around in the cold, waiting for Gingrey to get out of the car and grace us with his presence. We waited with a handful of the candidate’s relatives and staffers, while phone calls were made to round reporters from a couple of local TV stations.
Cameras eventually arrived and the candidate meandered over to us, chit-chatting a bit about the Augustaof his youth. I don’t really know much about Gingrey, but he seemed pleasant enough -- immediately likeable in the way many politicians can be. He talked about graduating from Aquinas and attending Augusta Tigers games as a boy at Jennings Stadium, just across 15th Street from where we stood. Those memories of Augusta from his past might have had something to do with why he thought the location for his speech was appropriate.
I didn’t get a chance to ask him.
Gingrey was called to the lectern and quickly surrounded by his wife, mother, nephew and a couple of brothers. He gave an unexceptional speech that invoked “conservative family values,” as one might expect a Georgia Republican of a certain age to give.
I wanted to ask him what he thought he might accomplish as a freshman senator that Saxby Chambliss could not – in fact I did ask him. But he was silenced by one of the handlers, who said the candidate had no time for questions since the press conference started so late.
Gingrey smiled a rueful smile, climbed back into his car and said goodbye to Augusta once again.
I tried to capture the excitement of the moment with a little video, linked above.