Insights, Modern Life
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A Piece of Work

I get sideswiped by doubt each time I think about calling my next interviewee. What if they’re not home? What if they are but they say ‘no’?  What if they say ‘yes’?

I just pick up the phone and dial, no thinking, no hesitating. It’s got to be done. Otherwise I would never write another profile. I must.

Today I show up at the arranged time only to find my subject not at home. I should have called in the morning to re-confirm. I thought to, but didn’t. What if they had wanted to back out at the last minute?

I’ve got my reporter’s notebook with my questions written out. And my pen. But my shorthand is that bad (where bad means non-existent) and I never leave enough space to scrawl down the answers fast enough, so I just end up recording the whole conversation each time.

I wonder if she’ll think I’m an upstart? I am quite a bit younger than her, and not nearly so experienced in anything at all. I wonder if she’ll be able to tell that I’ve had a shocker week: sick kids, daylight-savings-ending-induced hunger tantrums, midnight coughing fits that have given me bloodshot eyes. I don’t even own makeup heavy enough to cover up that kind of baggage these days.

Just be confident. I’m the one asking the questions.

Oh good, here she comes now.

Yes, it was today, that’s right. So sorry. Shall I come back another time? No, now’s fine. Let’s go inside and have a cup of tea. Anxiety ebbing away slightly.

Remember not to interrupt while she’s speaking, and don’t finish her sentences. I am prone to that.

So glad I looked up those last-minute election results before I came. At least I will look well-researched if we come to that.

Tea is going down well. Trying to keep the conversation moving onto things I want to ask without seeming pushy.  Remember to get the facts first time round. I don’t want to have to clarify someone’s age via email afterwards because I was too caught up in the anecdote.

Well, I won’t keep you any longer. Thank you so much, lovely to talk to you. Oh, can I take a quick picture? Perhaps just over there. I’m not making the mistake of forgetting to take a photo this time. I even wrote it down in my notepad. PHOTO

Back in the car I realise my underarms are sweaty. It’s a cool autumn evening. I’m on a high from having survived once again. Nothing like the feeling of finishing something that you at once look forward to and dread.

I think there’ll be some good quotes. There’s a little revelation or two of character that I can work with. Such an interesting life. I already know it will be a task to distil it down to a mere 600 words.

The recording is like a great weight anchored to my phone. It waits for me to uncouple it and release it to take shape on my computer, but it’s big and heavy.

No-one’s making me do this.

I avoid it for several days. Finally I’m at my keyboard, hating this feeling that all I have gleaned and all that’s been offered can never be properly rendered for others to know.

I differentiate and delete parts of her story. How unfair to a life. Though, without that editing I doubt the piece would be worth reading, and then what’s the point?

Are there too many dates, not enough emotion? Still, the thing needs bones or it just flops about. Maybe there’s room for a bit more about motivations. My brain hurts.

That paragraph would work better near the start. It’s flowing nicely now. An angle, some meaning, an essence. Man, how did it get so late?

Print.

Send.

Could have included that quote. Too late now.

At least I remembered to take a photo.

Satisfaction.

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