Eppler: My Greatest Worst Moment at Work

Reported by: James Eppler
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Updated: 3/19/2013 12:07 pm

On Twitter: @JamesEppler

You know that dream you sometimes have right on the cusp of going into a deep sleep? Usually it's something like you're falling off a cliff - a long drop - and you jar yourself awake just before impact. For me, the "falling dream" really happened, and it still wakes me up occasionally.

It was four years ago this week that I was covering a play at Texas Tech. It was a production of "Sweeney Todd" in the Allen Theater. The set was impressively designed - professional-grade work. The most interesting part, of course, is the drop-away barber chair. After the Demon Barber of Fleet Street cuts the throat of a victim, he pulls a lever and dumps the body below stage. Having been on the job as the Entertainment Reporter at FOX 34 for about a year, I saw a golden TV opportunity.

I was right - but not in the way I expected.

I decided to do what we in the business call a "stand-up," where a reporter shows up on camera in the middle of the story to talk a bit. It's best if these are demonstrative, so I figured I'd do my stand-up as a sit-down in the barber chair and be dropped below stage. The director thought it'd be a great idea. I even brought some shaving cream to add to the theatricality of the thing.

I was instructed to keep my head back, and my arms tucked in. Here's what happened.

Now that you've watched it a few times, allow me to answer some questions:

1. "Oh my GOSH! Did that hurt?"
Yes, it hurt. It knocked the wind out of me and I couldn't get a breath for close to a minute. I honestly don't remember the fall itself - just that it was a short drop with a sudden stop. One second I'm in the chair, the next I'm below stage in the dark gasping for air.

2. "How'd that happen anyway?"
I didn't "look before I leaped." Apparently, the drop was a bit short of 6 feet, and I'm about 6'2". I locked my legs, hit, pitched forward and hit my chin on the side of the stage.

3. "Any big boo-boos?"
Fortunately, I just got a nasty cut under my chin. No knocked out teeth, no broken nose, but both were just a few inches away from being a reality. I didn't even need stitches, although I bled like crazy all over some new slacks I'd just bought. The most long-term effect was on my lower back from being jarred so hard. I'm still dealing with it.

4. "What about that pretty face of yours?"
You're too kind, really. I went to work the next morning to anchor the newscast like normal with a big bandage across my chin. My co-workers were concerned before they laughed - which is nice.

5. "Any stunts for TV since then?"
Um, unless you count touching a live rattlesnake or getting a flu shot on the air, not so much.

But I don't really believe in regrets. I learned from it with minimal damage. And as much as I laugh at internet videos of people getting hurt - this is just karma.

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