Lewiston embraces mayhem on its own unpredictable schedule

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Most reporters will tell you that when the really big stuff is about to go down, they can feel it. When the S is about to H the eff, sensitive reporter nerves start jumping like bacon in a pan. It’s an extra sense, they insist. You either have it or you don’t.

Most reporters are lying.

It’s a scorching hot day in mid-August. I come dripping into the newsroom like a soggy hound that’s been sprayed by the hose.

“The city,” I will tell everyone, including a fax machine and the guy who changes the Coke machine, “is about to go off.”

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I tell them this because I’ve been roaming the hood. I’ve been out there putting my clammy fingers on the pulse of the city, getting slapped a lot in the process — some people just hate it when you put your clammy fingers on their pulse, as it turns out. You should never do this unless you’re a professional, like me.

I will even take this prognostication further, advising editors to keep my schedule open — you don’t want me out covering a round robin bake-off when downtown Lewiston is about to burst like a volcano, do you?

“Wouldn’t hurt to assign a few extra photographers,” I advise them. “We’ll want to capture this terrible time for future societies to ponder.”

I start for the door but turn back, slowly, with gravitas.

“This is the big one, fellas,” I announce. “God help us all.”

Then I swoop out, as theatrically as possible, to meet the mother of all news events, head on.

I think you know how this turns out.

By the end of that torrid, mid-August night, you can hear a cricket chirping. Not a whole bunch of crickets, mind you, just the one. The others have gone to sleep — that’s how dull it’s been in downtown Lewiston.

In this city, no one can predict the hour or the date.

This city has never made any sense to me. It should be crazy wild downtown on the first of the month, when the checks come out. If that should fall on a blistering hot night with a full moon, it should be a scene from “2012” (the movie, not the year) out on the streets, but it rarely happens that way. Trying to forecast mayhem in Lewiston is like trying to predict a lightning strike. Lewiston does whatever it wants, whenever it wants and with whom it wants.

One of the busiest days I ever had on the job featured a home invasion, a convenience store stickup, an escaped prisoner and a downtown building burning to the ground. It was crazy wild and if memory serves, it was the middle of the month with moderate temperatures and a light drizzle. Figure that one out, Nostradamus.

Did I accurately predict that one? Did I know at the start of the day that I would wear out the rubber from my soles and the lead from my pencil?

Not quite.

“No coffee for me today, Marcia,” I said upon arriving at the newsroom on the fateful day. “It’s going to be a quiet night. I’ll just put my feet up on my desk and snooze until quitting time.”

Which shows how awesome my powers of observation are.

We don’t even have a Marcia.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He’s working on his new book, “Chronicle of a News Story Foretold.” Email him at mlaflamme@sunjournal.com.

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