''I USED to get called the Panadol guy.'' Vic Lorusso rolls his eyes. There are numerous indignities to be suffered as Channel Ten's ''eye in the sky'' traffic reporter. Friends ask him for directions around Sydney. His two-year-old son mimics his traffic reports. Panadol was his first sponsor (because traffic causes headaches - get it?) and he wore the company logo on his T-shirt.
But Lorusso, 31, takes his job seriously. ''I'm as passionate about it as I was the day I started,'' he says.
This week marks his 10th anniversary calling traffic for Ten, the first TV network to do live traffic reports. ''A lot of people said at the time, 'What's the point of it if you're at home?' But if something breaks … mums and dads are sitting home with the kids and they've got dinner on the table and if Johnny's at work, they know he's going to be late.''
Lorusso sits in the back seat of the helicopter and operates a camera hooked below the nose of the craft while fielding calls about traffic hot spots and filing for radio stations WSFM and 702 ABC. His high-energy reports are as much a reflection of his personality as his enthusiasm for the job. If Lorusso wishes to answer a question in the affirmative, he doesn't say ''yes'' but ''100 per cent''.
For television, he ramps up things to another level. ''Picture-perfect weather and it's a picture-perfect run,'' he says, hovering above the Harbour Bridge on a spring afternoon. Aside from the perennial slowness around Olympic Park and a crash at Rydalmere, there is nothing out of the ordinary, except that nothing is ordinary from Lorusso's office in the sky. One backyard has a double-decker bus in it. The homeless man who lives on Ball's Head is out of his tent. And, Lorusso says, ''there's never a dull moment for the M4.''
Lorusso, 31, left school at 16 with plans to become a professional tennis player but a couple of months into training he did his back in and was left scouting for a new career. He wanted to be a rugby league caller and started as an office boy at 2GB before a job came up at the Australian Traffic Network.
''When I started, I thought, 'This is really what I want to do','' he says. He immersed himself in the work, studying the street directory and driving to different areas at the weekends to work out the interplay between various roads, motorways and overpasses.
At that time, the company was exclusively contracted to radio stations but two years later, Channel Ten expressed interest in carrying traffic reports on its 5pm bulletin. It was a major opportunity for the Australian Traffic Network and Lorusso, who was so nervous ahead of his audition that he nearly threw up in the helicopter.
For his first televised report, Lorusso had planned to head out to the M2 but serendipitously for him and Ten (if not for the victims) a fire at Moorebank intervened. As a result, his first file was more dramatic than he envisaged and Ten's punt was vindicated on the first night, providing footage it used throughout its bulletin.
A decade on, the excitement hasn't dimmed for Lorusso. He still does weekend research, with new roads to explore as the company expands into regional networks. Recently he has been exploring the central coast ''to try and understand what the locals are going through''.
So what would his response be if he was offered a job calling rugby league tomorrow?
''Ray Hadley started out as a traffic reporter,'' he eventually replies.