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I Was A Weatherman For A Day, And This Is What I Learned

When it rains, it pours.

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Hey guys! My name is Sam, I'm 25, and I'm a writer based in L.A. — and I love to try new jobs, especially ones that take me outside my comfort zone.

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I'm what you would call a classically trained extrovert — I love being the center of attention, SUE ME — and because of my not-so-demure personality plus the fact I'm not good with numbers and inevitably will have to marry rich, my dream job during high school and college was hosting my own TV show.

That hasn't quite worked out yet (the TV show part, but also the marrying rich part), but it got me thinking: What is it really like to be on live TV, where the stakes are about as high as you can get? There aren't do-overs in live TV, and the pressure is always on. If you mess up, you mess up in glorious fashion — and quite possibly might end up going viral on YouTube.

Of course, there was only one way to find out if I was cut out for this line of work: ACTUALLY work at a TV station for a day.

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Luckily, I had some help from Shanna Mendiola, a meteorologist at NBC's Los Angeles station.

Here's what I learned from my day as a weatherman.

1. First things first, there's a distinct difference between being a meteorologist and a weatherman.

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According to Shanna, technically ANYONE can do the weather on the news. Kim Kardashian? She can do the weather. Same for your mom. So I guess it wasn't THAT impressive that they let me into the studio.

However, you have to go to school to be a meteorologist — weatherman and meteorologist are two separate titles. A lot of people get into television and make the shift toward weather, meaning they have to go back to school while they're still on the job — Shanna herself graduated from a popular online program that Mississippi State runs.

2. Just like the Kardashians, you have to have makeup done because this is an on-camera job!

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Yup, even the men have to wear makeup if they're going on camera. It's not about trying to pretty up your look — it's actually practical and just another part of the gig. With those powerful studio lights, if you didn't have makeup on, you'd appear washed out or too shiny — especially with my pasty, oily skin. Thanks for the bad genes, Mom and Dad!

Luckily, Shanna was there to help beat my face into shape. Although I don't think she contoured me like Kim K. would.

3. The hours are crazy because DUH, there's always weather happening, even in sunny SoCal.

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So I was #BLESSED and didn't show up to the station until mid-morning (I'm a diva, I need my beauty sleep!) but when you're a weatherman, your schedule is typically CRAZY!

When Shanna does the noon broadcast, she has to show up at 5 a.m. Starbucks isn't even open then, which is a major issue in my opinion! But it gets crazier from there. If she's filling in for the morning broadcast, which goes live at 4:30 a.m., she'll be in at 2:45 a.m. To make things even more complicated, if she's filling in for one of the evening broadcasts, she'll show up at 2 p.m. Basically, if you're doing the weather, your schedule is INSANE and the sun never sets (metaphorically, not literally, you fools) and the total opposite of a normal 9-to-5 job.

4. Just like any other on-air position, being a weatherman means you're telling a story — not just delivering numbers.

I was under the impression that a weatherman rolls into the station in the morning (in my case, with a venti iced coffee in hand), checks the weather, and gets ready to go on the air, delivering the same type of weather news every day — the temperatures for the day, a forecast for the week, and maybe throw some traffic reports in there to spice things up. NOPE! Every day a different weather "story" needs to be told, which makes sense, because fucking DUH, the weather is different every day.

The day I was in the station, the big story was the Santa Ana winds — aka it was blustery AF — and thus, that was a large focus of Shanna's and my storytelling for the day. Basically, being a weatherman really BLOWS (OK, seeing myself out now).

5. I wasn't expecting this, but a lot happens at those desks on set that anchors sit in. They're NOT props!

I thought the desks that anyone who is on a broadcast for were just for show so that anchors didn't have to awkwardly stand there twiddling their thumbs. I WAS WRONG. There are three monitors at the desk where Shanna and the producers actually build out the graphics for the show — so in a way, the studio is LITERALLY a weatherman's office.

You need two to three hours to build out the graphics, and most (like daytime highs and the seven-day forecast) are built manually. This takes time — NBC LA reports on SEVEN different Southern California microclimates, although this is not the norm for the industry. Also, traffic is reported a little differently than weather. The story of what is happening on the roads is told as it happens, and while you can do this for weather, too, you also have to prepare prior to the newscast. Even then your work isn't done. If temperatures change during the middle of the broadcast, you need to update viewers. Yup, you're even working at your desk while the news is going on!

6. Technology is a BIG part of the job — and in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

It shouldn't come as a surprise that technology is an integral part of a weatherman's job. I couldn't just show up, feel my chest, and tell the audience there's a 30% chance it's already raining. NBC LA's studio is cutting-edge — think big touchscreens, fully automated cameras, and 3D "augmented reality" projections.

But technology is also integrated into the job in smaller ways. Whether it's gathering images from Twitter to use during the broadcast (LIKE THE ABOVE GRAPHIC THAT I MADE, AREN'T YOU ALL PROUD OF ME), getting direction from someone off-camera in your earpiece, or thinking about how graphics will look on the station's own app, the job doesn't just require an understanding of the weather — you ALSO have to be super tech-savvy to succeed in the business.

7. All right, let's get to the good stuff. Being on camera is...harder than it looks. Just look at what a hot mess I am.

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Listen, I'm an outgoing guy. I don't mind talking to strangers, especially if they're good-looking and there's a chance they'll buy me a drink. But I was NOT prepared to stand in front of a camera and deliver the weather, as you'll see in the above video.

I didn't know that I wasn't using a script, or that I wouldn't be reading off a teleprompter. Instead, I improvised what I said based on the information I saw onscreen. Delivering the weather to the camera is sort of like when you're flirting with a stranger — you make stuff up on the spot based on what information is thrown at you, and you just hope that you don't come across as a complete idiot. It's disorienting, for sure!

8. And not only do you have to SAY the weather, you have to DELIVER it by moving across the screen in a visually pleasing way.

I learned that being a weatherman is sort of like being Rihanna — sometimes you'll be talking about umbrellas, you need to be comfortable in front of the camera, and there's also heavy choreography involved in your routine. I thought I could get away with just reading off some numbers from the screen, but Shanna had me moving around, pointing, and trying to add some liveliness to my presentation (normally, Shanna has an earpiece with a director, assistant director, and/or producer speaking to her during the broadcast). TV, after all, is a visual medium.

The problem was it felt like I was trying to do too many things at once — read what was onscreen, process that information, regurgitate it out as witty banter, and also move around to add some visual flair to the whole thing. For someone who is fully capable of tripping while standing still, this was a lot to ask.

9. And being in front of the green screen is confusing AF.

Going into the day, my biggest concern regarding being in front of a green screen was not wearing any green so I didn't disappear in the shot (yes, this is a thing that happens). Boy, should I have been more concerned.

Being in front of the green screen can remind you of a drunken night out with friends — you're dizzy, don't know what direction you're headed in, and know it's being captured on camera.

Why is this, you ask? Well, in addition to the actual screen, you have two monitors to the side you're working off of, AND a camera and monitor directly facing you. These screens have the media and graphics on them that aren't on the green screen, which throws you off a bit. You never really feel like you're facing the right direction when you're in front of the green screen, and consequently, you're left twisting around trying to find an elusive stance that works for you. Spoiler alert: I never found mine.

10. Also, y'all need to stop freaking out about your local meteorologist screwing up the weather or traffic. That's not really how it works, TBH!

There's a stereotype of weathermen getting the weather wrong, and then you're left wearing flip-flops in near-freezing temperatures, or have a wool sweater on when it's sunny and in the 80s outside. I asked Shanna about this trope and how she would answer to it — and she said people need to realize that meteorology is "not an exact science." Shanna said meteorologists are "just the messenger" and only are able to share what information they have (and yes, she said they too are upset when they don't get the weather right).

"We do the best we can with whatever products we have," she said, "but it's not always perfect."

11. But the most important thing I learned was that being a weatherman is one of those jobs that requires you to be really, really passionate about your work.

Macey J. Foronda / BuzzFeed

Some people work for a paycheck, while others work because they genuinely love what they do. In my time at NBC, I really learned that when you work with weather, you're firmly entrenched in the latter category. And you HAVE to be. With crazy hours, the high stakes of producing and appearing on a live broadcast, and the pressure of serving hundreds of thousands of viewers, being a meteorologist is so much more than just showing up for your shift. I don't think it's any coincidence that Shanna said one of her favorite parts of her job is her coworkers — "I don't ever feel like I'm working" — because they're all crazy passionate about what they do in the same way. Also, every day is a little bit different (that's the funny thing about weather, even in Southern California) — Shanna said her craziest day on the job was working in Colorado in 2014, when she experienced all four seasons in the same day. This gig REALLY requires some thinking on your feet!

And while I won't be quitting my current job anytime soon to be a weatherman — I need my beauty sleep, thank you very much — I have a newfound appreciation for all the rigors that come with this gig.

Be sure to like NBC LA on Facebook, and download the NBC LA app here.

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