Friday, November 09, 2007

just a couple o’ working stiffs

“Me go work,” Isaac announces upon mounting his rocket ship. “Bye bye.”

“Have a good day, honey,” I call while checking to see if that director or this organization chair emailed back yet, another deadline looming over my shoulder.

I am a journalist. No, a reporter. No. I write articles sometimes for the paper. I have found myself in one of those professions, like a bartender or a cabdriver. People tell me things. I am a keeper of secrets, a seer of souls.

“This is off the record,” they say.

“Well, between you, me, and the wall…” they say.

“I wouldn’t want you to print this, but I’ll tell you the real reason,” they say.

And so the things they tell me in confidence dangle like mischievous poltergeists between the lines of black newsprint.

They tell and I receive. Maybe they never knew they had these things to say until some question I managed to write down on the fly set them on a path to divulge, a route blocked with emotion. There’s a need to get it said even if it can’t go any further, like a journal entry, like a terminal degree; I understand. I have those things.

We live in a world of large, public everything. Our internal worlds – what ARE those again? What good is it if it isn’t going to reach a thousand people? a million? If it’s not on Oprah? If we aren’t shouting? If people, lots of them, don’t know about it, it must be pointless.

And yet, again and again they reveal, in the intimacy of the impersonal, in the safety of the temporary.

I have interviewed loads of people over the last year and a half. Many of them connected to events I would not have given a second look if it weren’t for my job. Some of them connected to events I actively dislike and find in conflict with my philosophical, political and moral beliefs. But at least for the time I am in their company (even if the article I ultimately write takes a different turn) I must give myself over to their point of view. And, for the twenty minutes I am sitting across from them or have them on the phone, I do. I go there. It’s something most of us can avoid, though none of us can afford to.

“Me home from work, Mama!” The rocket ship parks beside the bookcase.

“That’s great, Izzy. Welcome back. What did you learn at work today?”

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