I recently got a call at work from a woman asking for directions to the new Walmart in Scarborough. She told me she and her husband were in their car and couldn’t find it.
“Your article said Gallery Boulevard – where’s that?” she asked frantically.
I explained the road’s entrance was flanked by imposing brickwork, that the store was across from Texas Roadhouse and that you could see it from the old Walmart.
“You say it’s near the old one? Okay, goodbye then,” she said, and hung up.
I’m not sure whether her call to me was before or after a call from an irate husband to the Scarborough Police Department, telling an officer he was going to run all the cars off the road trying to track down the new Walmart (true story –check last week’s Scarborough Police Beat).
The officer was able to calm the husband down and I’ve heard of no calls to towing agencies from motorists who’d been forced off the shoulder by a motorist with discount dollar signs in his eyes.
And, I’m sure once the happy couple found the store, they were able to “save money” and “live better,” as Walmart promises.
As a reporter, I’m never sure who will be at the other end of the line when I pick up –or what they’ll want. But the Walmart lady’s request wasn’t all that unusual. For some reason, people expect us to have all the answers on any topic we’ve covered and often call us for information rather than going directly to the source.
In fact, an accurate job description for a reporter should include human GPS system, as well as social worker, confessor, neighborhood bartender and information desk. Not to mention complaint department, perennial-meeting-attendee and crow-eater, all wrapped up in a tough skin and served, overcooked and on deadline, to the public.
But, when listing the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of a reporter’s job, one must not forget the hallowed rule of journalism: a reporter must never, never make friends with anyone in the coverage area.
It’s meant to keep us unbiased –but it serves to keep me, well, unhappy.
One of the perks of this job (okay, maybe the only perk of this job) is meeting so many interesting people. Telling me not to get to know them is like leading the proverbial horse to water but not allowing him to drink. After talking regularly to so many of you who live in the communities I cover, do you know how hard it is for me to keep from developing friendships?
And, for those of you who were my friends before I became a reporter, do you know how it feels when, in the middle of telling me your deepest, darkest secrets, you stop short, recall my profession and say suspiciously, “You’re not going to print this, are you?”
But now, as I develop this blog –a collection of anecdotes, witticisms and ironies on home, gardening and life – maybe I can bend the rules a little.
Maybe I can become friends with some of my readers.
So feel free to call or e-mail me with suggestions, opinions or even questions –like, “How do you get to Walmart?”
Maybe we can all “live better” as friends (just don’t tell my editor).