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25/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Mean but Polite

I have learned another valuable lesson: It’s okay to be mean but polite.

My Reporting and Writing class treks to The Clare to cover The New Media Professionals conference.  This assignment is contingent on obtaining one reaction from an audience member and extra credit shall be awarded for each additional reaction at ten points ahead.

My angle comes midway through the conference. An 80 year old attendee makes, what should be, a great comment about women in the media. This story has legs.

I star the woman to get her information and maybe a follow-up quote along with several other people in attendance, but as soon as the conference ends she bolts out the door. And I am Batman, the Bat-Signal has flared in the sky and I’m jumping over walkers, wheelchairs, people heading for their blue-dish dinner at noon.

I corner her in the hallway to get a reaction.

This is a mistake.

She starts at the beginning. Not the beginning of the conference, but the beginning of her husband’s professional life. What’s worse than the juicy quote not falling from her mouth is her actively shooing away other attendees I want quotes from.

I attempt to bring one such piece of extra credit into the conversation, but the woman I’m talking with is having none of it. She’s even going so far as to interrupt the man, “I’m talking with him now.” This may have stirred-up some old wound between the two of them, and now my story might change from a quaint piece on women in the media to “Old Folk Punch Out at The Clare”, and I’m wondering if I should cover it in a New-Journalism style since I, technically, am part of the story.

The embattled man leaves with sharp words, saying if I print anything she says it would be poor journalism, I would be a poor writer and he would make my life as difficult as possible. Any attempts to assuage the situation, or ask him if I could talk with him later fall on deaf ears.

I continue writing down what my quote is saying, realizing what she is saying completely refutes the angle I want for this story. Not only that but I can’t print what she’s saying as most of it is a mathematical improbability.

There are two “worst parts” to this, dear reader. The first is residents of The Clare a flight below me. While they might not add to my story, they would have at least given me the extra credit I so desperately want. However, my new companion insists on escorting me to the door. The second, and perhaps far worse, is my only quote not knowing her phone number, and insisting on me giving her my number so she could call back later.

Her parting comments haunt me. She points to the dining room below, where all of my extra credit was tantalizingly drinking coffee, stating as she has my phone number she can now call me over for lunch.

The art of breaking up with a girlfriend, even a friend is a delicate task. I shall leave for a later date how to break-up with a senior citizen.

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