When I was a reporter, I never really understood why people got worked up and frightened about interviews with me.
I'm a wuss, for god's sake -- scared of mice, tall bridges and public speaking. I try not to judge, I'm a good listener and insatiably curious about other people's stories, so what on earth was there to be worried about talking to me?
Today, I sat on the other side of the table - the interviewee not the interviewer - and I gotta tell you: for a few minutes there, I felt the fear. I knew I wasn't the focus of the reporter's story, just the facilitator to help her find other contacts. But, still, I felt butterflies in my belly and tingles in my hands in the minutes before I met her.
I'm still not exactly sure why. Maybe I wondered if she'd be brusque or aggressive? Did I think she'd be mean? Who knows? It was as irrational as my freak outs over tiny, harmless, otherwise adorable mice.
But then she opened the door to the coffee shop and I saw her middle-school-aged son tagging along and in an instant, the butterflies disappeared.
I've always thought reporters are grossly misperceived as sensationalist hacks, fact manipulators and worse. I mean, that's the stereotype, right? So, OK, I worked with one or two pricks who fit the mold but the common rap is a bum one. Most of my friends in the newsroom were impassioned storytellers who loved words and interesting characters. They considered it an honor to be entrusted with personal stories and a joy to share them.
(Reporters are also maligned as idealists, so, yeah, maybe I'm being one right now.)
The point is: it's hard to be menaced by someone who brings her kid to work.
And, it might do us all a lot of good to remember that the grumpy cashier, the meter maid, the Hollywood star, the guy on the utility pole trying to get the power back on, they're all like you and me - folks with funky families and funny stories just trying to get along the best we can.