Story Time: The Take Hits the Airwaves

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This whole trading thing can be a bit overwhelming at times, can't it? You get a little weary sometimes of even logging on in the morning. Face it -- in the past few weeks, you're on the verge of battle fatigue.

So, I'm betting you can use a break. I know

I

can use a break. So, for today, put away your charts. File your spreadsheet. Forget about "GBS Classics" for a bit. I'm going to tell you a story. And, darn it, if you don't get at least a little chuckle, then I'm not doing my job!

Friday, Aug. 14

2:00 p.m. The phone rings in my office. Well, basement actually, but "office" sounds like I know what I'm doing. I'm wrapping up the day and the week, and I'm just not in the mood for phone calls. Actually, I find as I get older, I'm never in the mood for phone calls. I'm either getting crotchety or grumpy. Heck, maybe it's just male menopause. (Is 40 too young for that? Note to self: Research this in case I need an excuse to tell my wife for acting grumpy.) Fortunately, my two daughters seem to be taking up the phone-call slack. Unfortunately, they're nowhere to be found, so I have to answer.

It's

Jamie Heller

, the peerless executive editor at

TheStreet.com

. "Hey, Gar, do you want to be on

CNN

?" "Uh, yeah, OK, I guess. What do I have to do?" "Call the

CNN

booker, Laura, in 10 minutes. You're on at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Bye!"

So, I call Laura and get the skinny. Seems I will be on

CNN

the following morning, on something called Saturday Morning. Or maybe it's called the Money Show. I'm really unclear at this point. Whatever, I'm sure the subject will be trading. At least I hope it's trading. Or golf. Yeah, I could talk about golf. But, really, that's about it. Especially on a Saturday morning.

Laura says I'll be on with Marc Friedfertig, who wrote that electronic day trading book. Great. I just basically trashed day trading in my recent Wednesday

column, so no doubt, this guy will not be my best friend.

But, I'll worry about that later. For now, I have to get my own act together. Laura then proceeds to do a mini-interview, and I'm hacking. I know it's TV, and I know they want little sound bites, but every single answer I give her is disjointed. Or long. Or both.

I mean, how do I describe technical analysis in 30 seconds? I can barely explain it to my wife in 30 minutes. I'm going to die on this show. I know it.

She tells me not to worry. Miles O'Brien is a pro. He'll make the segment fun. I tell Laura, "Great, I love Miles." In reality, I have no idea who Miles O'Brien is.

3:00 p.m. The preinterview is over. I answered maybe three of her questions in 30 minutes. Why did I agree to do this?

8:00 p.m. I debrief my wife, Nancy, on this whole situation. She's excited, as I've never been on live TV. She calls her parents and relatives. To this day, they have no idea how I trade. After tomorrow morning, I'm certain things won't be any clearer.

8:20 p.m. Nancy asks me what I'm going to say tomorrow. I tell her I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure out how to explain technical analysis and not sound like a geek.

8:21 p.m. Nancy senses fear in my voice. She starts volunteering sound bites on technical analysis, the advance/decline line, shorting. Damn, she knows this stuff better than I do. I wish she was going on tomorrow. She's great at this kind of stuff. Friggin' ice water runs through her veins. Me? I'm the kind who folds with a full house.

9:30 p.m. We're watching

Apollo 13

. Heck,

Tom Hanks

isn't nervous and he's facing death. Me? I'm going to be on TV for less than eight minutes and I'm nervous. Nancy asks if I'm nervous. I say, "only a little." She knows I'm lying.

Saturday, Aug. 15

5:25 a.m. I'm up early, shower and shave. Knew I should have gotten a haircut last week! Now I'm going to look like Maynard G. Krebs Does Wall Street.

6:00 a.m. Nancy suggests she fire a few questions at me; sort of a mock interview. I beg off. I know from experience I won't be "up" until showtime. No, right now I'll be dull and flat, and just get depressed. Nancy's only response is to wish me luck and tell me I'll do fine.

6:40 a.m. I'm at the South Norwalk train station. Where is the train? Am I late? Is the train late? I hate traveling for one simple reason: I always get lost. As an example, a few years ago I was taking the kids home from school, and I accidentally pulled into the wrong alley and got lost driving home. I'm a complete ditz when it comes to directions. My family knows this and fortunately acts as navigators when we travel. However, right now, I'm on my own.

6:41 a.m. The train arrives. At least I think it's the train. All I hear is some vague mumbling from the conductor when I get on. I could be heading for Albany. At this point, I wish I

was

heading for Albany.

7:00 a.m. The train from Connecticut takes about an hour to get into the city. I read

The New York Times

and the

IBD

. I try to get any further insights in case I'm questioned on current events. Also, I'm trying hard not to spill the coffee I bought at the train station.

7:12 a.m. I spill the coffee directly on my crotch. Smooth.

7:40 a.m. I arrive at Grand Central Station, and with a detailed map in front of me, I figure I'll walk to

CNN

. Plenty of time ... if I don't get lost.

8:10 a.m. I am at the exact location they gave me. No

CNN

. There's Madison Square Garden. There's Eighth Avenue. So where is this 5 Penn Plaza? Damn, I'm lost. Also, I'm sweating. Walking was a mistake. Should've taken a cab. At least then there'd be two of us trying to hunt down this location.

8:11 a.m. Duh. 5 Penn Plaza is just

on the other side of the street

. Well, at least I'm early. Plenty of time to nosh on a bagel and get ready for my appearance.

8:30 a.m. I'm waiting in the

CNN

lobby when Marc Friedfertig arrives. Seems like a decent guy. Also, he seems unaware of who I am, and what I just wrote about day traders. For now, then, he doesn't hate me.

8:45 a.m. We get taken to the "green room." It's not green. Also, I'm expecting bagels, or danish or

something

laid out. There's nothing. Machine coffee is about the best they can scare up.

8:50 a.m. Uh oh. I'm on soon, and that third cup of coffee kicks in. Now I have to find a restroom, do my business, and be back in 10 minutes. Trust me, I'm not a 10-minute kind of guy. I mull over holding everything in. No, too risky. I have to make a run for it.

8:59:59 a.m. Whew! I feel a lot better now. No time to relax, though. I'm taken immediately to the studio. No problem: I'm sure someone will prep me, do makeup, give me an overview of what Miles is going to talk about, etc.

9:01 a.m. I'm sitting at a makeshift desk, with an earpiece in my ear and a microphone on my tie. No one has said jack to me and I still have no idea of the topic. Even worse, I'm sweating like a pig and have no makeup on. In about 30 seconds, the shine from the studio lights off my forehead and nose will blind everyone watching.

9:02 a.m. I'm told to look into the camera when I'm talking. That's a bit disconcerting, because it's basically like interacting with a wall. Also, I can see Miles O'Brien on the monitor, but the words in my ear are not in sync with what I'm seeing. But, at least I can hear him clearly.

9:03 a.m. The producer or someone says Miles will ask me the first question. I immediately get cottonmouth. I sip some coffee and take a deep breath. Okay, I'm ready. Fire away.

9:03:31 a.m. Miles offers up a curve ball. He references my recent slamming of day traders, immediately putting me at odds with Friedfertig. Fortunately, I guessed this might come up and have at least thought of a way to answer and not get every day trader in the world yelling at me.

9:03:57 a.m. I can feel myself starting to ramble, so I wrap up my mini-monologue. The ball is now in Friedfertig's court and I can relax for a few seconds. Okay, I'm feeling fine now. Wasn't as smooth out of the box as I'd like, and I have to remember to smile. I like it when people on TV smile. No one looks bad smiling, unless it's really a smirk. That, I don't like.

9:04 to 9:11 a.m. Everything else in the next seven minutes is a blur. Passing impressions are that Friedfertig is shilling both his book and his day trading firm way too much. Also, I keep trying to smile, but it feels forced, and I know I look like an idiot when I do try. I give up on that after catching myself in the monitor smiling and indeed looking goofy.

9:11 a.m. We're done and hustled out of the studio and to the elevator. That's it? No parting gift? No

CNN

T-shirt? My kids will be disappointed.

9:45 a.m. I think I'm on the right train home. I hope so anyway. I reflect on my performance. I give myself a B+. A slow start, but overall, I didn't say anything too idiotic. Of course, I haven't seen the tape yet, and frankly would rather not.

11:15 a.m. I arrive home and Nancy congratulates me on a great appearance. Tough to tell if she's being honest or a good wife. I'll find out soon, because she puts the videotape in the VCR and hits the play button.

11:17 a.m. Yep, a slow start. Even worse, I had no idea I talked out of the side of my mouth. Jeez, that looked even stupider than when I tried to smile. Overall, though, I looked OK. Naturally, my wife picked out my coat and tie, so I knew that would fare well. Also, I even sounded fairly coherent. Thankfully, I didn't have to explain technical analysis.

11:25 a.m. The tape ends, and again Nancy says I did a great job. The kids seemed to like it too. Diana, my 9-year-old, thought the whole thing was "neat." "You really looked good, Dad." Katherine, my 11-year-old, says, "Dad, you were really cool. You really know that trading stuff."

Yeah, I guess it all worked out OK. If my family liked it, then I'm happy. Let's face it, though: It was six hours of work for eight minutes of "fame." Still ... I look forward to my remaining seven minutes!

Gary B. Smith is a freelance writer who trades for his own account from his Connecticut home using technical analysis. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. This column, Technician's Take, appears every Monday. Smith also writes Charted Territory, which appears every Wednesday, and TSC Technical Forum, which runs Saturdays.