Friday, February 4, 2011

Why Do Reporters Always Interview People with No Teeth?

    The office was dull and dark and bore an early1970s look.  The wood paneling that adorned its walls made the room feel much smaller than it actually was.  The inside of the building told far more about its age than the outside did. 
     It was a gorgeous spring Friday morning in 2004 and I was a bit uneasy as I sat in front of the desk, facing a rather robust woman with what, to me, was clearly a bottle-blond color job.  She was nice enough but the clock is always working against reporters and I knew I needed to get to work and start chasing  my story for the day.  I had stopped here on my way to work - with my bosses permission - to change my auto insurance policy. 

     The bottle blond was somewhat attentive to my presence but was focused on the task at hand.  She asked all the standard questions:  "Name?  Address? Make and Model of your car?" 

     She rattled them off in rapid-fire succession, faster than I could fire back.  I could tell she knew the insurance industry backward, forward and sideways.  "But she's not much of a conversationalist," I thought to myself. 

     That changed when I responed to her next question. 

     "Who's your employer?"

     "ABC 33/40," I quipped. 

     ABC 33/40 is a highly acclaimed television station in Birmingham, Alabama and I was proud for people to know I worked there.

     "Oh really! What do you do there?" 

     I sensed she was impressed and immediately my ego kicked into overdrive.

     "I'm a reporer," I said.

     "Really?  Did you cover that tornado that touched down in the White Plains community a couple of weeks ago?"  

     White Plains is a tiny town about an hour east of Birmingham.

     "Yes mam, I sure did."  I was beaming.

      I suppose now would be a good time to tell you that there are certain questions people always ask reporters when they meet them.  The most popular is... well, you'll see in a moment.

      "Can I just ask you one question?" 

     I was sure I knew where this was going.  The tornado story was still fresh in my mind and I remembered the rough looking woman I had interviewed whose mobile home had been destroyed.

     "Let me guess," I interrupted her. "You want to know why we always interview women with no teeth after a tornado."  I was prepared to answer that question.  I was not prepared for her reply.

     "Actually, that was my sister," she explained, a bit embarrassed now.  "I was just wandering how we could get a copy of y'all's story."

     "Oh shit!"  I blurted out before I could stop myself.. 

     I wanted to laugh but felt closer to crying.  I had been asked the question about people with no teeth so many times.  "Floor,open up and swallow me," I quickly and quiety wished.

     I had imbedded my foot so deeply in my mouth I thought I would choke on toe jam. To her credit, the bottle blond was gracious about it.   I apologized.  She accepted.  I left her office a little humbled that day.

     Of course that only lasted until I got to work.  Boy did I have one hell of a story to tell!

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