I’m working on a couple of stories about good employers. It’s a project that a local weekly business newspaper does once a year — it sends out surveys to employers across the state, figures the results, and names some of the companies Great Places to Work.
Writing the stories is like falling off a log. There are no questions about tax evasions, hidden balance sheets, hostile takeovers or backroom dealings. It’s easy for me to ask the questions, and easy for the subjects to answer them. Have the CEO ramble about mission, teamwork and culture, talk to a rank-and-filer about on-site day care and flextime, throw in a pool table or two, and you’re ready to go.
I had some trouble getting interviews set up with people at one of the companies, which I will call Corp. Finally, the communications person from Corp. left a message for me yesterday outlining the schedule of who I would talk to and when. She had people ready for me every half-hour, starting at 11:30 a.m., and they would call me to do the talking.
Every half-hour! It takes 10 mintues, tops, to answer the questions I have. Even the most dedicated cheerleading CEO or slavishly loyal rank-and-file couldn’t talk for 10 minutes about how much they love their company. But since the schedule was set, and my deadline is fast approaching, I agreed.
Here is a breakdown of my day:
10 a.m. Take John to daycare for a one-hour special visitor.
10:15 a.m. Return home to do some speed watering of various languishing plants. Avoid stepping on toad. Pay attention to Maia, because she won’t be getting any for another six hours.
11 a.m. Pick up John. Discover that the visitor gave every child a real live earthworm in its own tiny habitat.
11 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Learn various facts on worms, including that they love egg shells and coffee grounds.
11:17 a.m. Ensure worm is put away safely in John’s room.
11:18 a.m. Install children on couch in front of electronic babysitter. Check satellite schedule for next two hours. Find it’s crap. Curse under breath.
11:20 a.m. Emphasize to John that he is forbidden under any circumstance except for blood or fire to knock on my bedroom door.
11:28 a.m. Install self in bedroom upstairs with laptop and two phones. Compulsively check e-mail for 27 seconds, then get off line.
11:30 a.m. Go over questions. Become nervous at amount of noise downstairs.
11:33 a.m. Compose responses to e-mails received earlier.
11:35 a.m. Lie on back and stare at ceiling. Ignore noises downstairs.
11:40 a.m. Note that Maia has colored in one of Matt’s old books. Ponder ramifications to self.
11:43 a.m. Receive first phone call. Conduct interview with Corp CEO, who makes Corp sound like God’s kingdom reborn on Earth.
11:52 a.m. Wrap up interview, noting that teeth hurt. From sugary interview? From clenching so as not to hear mayhem downstairs? Unsure. Confirm that next interview will be in eight minutes.
11:53 a.m. Race downstairs. Reinstall children on couch. Announce lineup — end of Play With Me Sesame, and then Blue’s Clues. Promise children lunch after next phone call.
11:57 a.m. Reinstall self on bed upstairs. Prepare questions for Corp’s HR person.
Noon Check to make sure phone works.
12:07 p.m. Resist urge to check e-mail. Check phone to make sure it works.
12:10 p.m. Hear someone knocking at back door. Hear dog barking furiously. Hear children hollering. Begin to pray that the phone does not ring.
12:11 p.m. Answer door, finding FedEx guy holding Matt’s new computer game. Grab game. Race upstairs. Realize too late I hadn’t said a word to FedEx guy.
12:12 p.m. Maia follows me upstairs. I dig up a nuk, which she accepts wordlessly and begins crawling back downstairs.
12:13 p.m. Phone rings. Corp has called with rank-and-filer. I switch screens and interview her. Takes three minutes. They confirm that HR person will call “as soon as she’s out of a meeting.”
12:17 p.m. Race downstairs, bringing phones and laptop, to relocate into downstairs office. Pretend not to see that Maia was sitting on couch arm holding empty beer bottle. Prepare Maia a lunch of peanut butter and jelly on tortillas, Fritos, and leftover marshmallow Jell-O fluff.
12:25 p.m. HR person calls as I’m just starting John’s PB&J tortilla. Go over instructions on how to finish the tortilla, what he is and is not allowed to eat, and under what circumstances he may bother me in approximately four seconds.
12:26 p.m. Begin HR person interview.
12:30 p.m. Just as interview is swinging into high gear, note that Maia is screaming in the kitchen. Discretely cover phone receiver as HR person rambles. Find I can’t type with one hand.
12:31 p.m. Briefly consider blowing on receiver while HR person talks, so she doesn’t hear my daugher yelling on speaker-phone, and so I can type with two hands. Discard idea.
12:33 p.m. Skip to final question, which is, “Is there anything else you’d like me to know about your work at Corp?” Almost gasp in horror as I realize she has plenty more for me to know.
12:35 p.m. Cut off HR person with a brisk, “Sounds great!” Wrap up interview by talking without spaces between my words, so that HR person does not hear Maia’s yells, which are now punctuated by John singing the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” Confirm that the final phone call will come at 1 p.m.
12:36 p.m. Rescue Maia from half-eaten PB&J tortilla, get accident report from John (she bit her finger). Decide to put Maia down for a nap half an hour early.
12:40 p.m. Tell John he may go out and ride his bike until Mr. Rogers is on. Have fleeting vision of a devastating bike injury as I’m on the phone.
12:45 p.m. Go to the bathroom. Eat a handful of Fritos. Prepare final questions.
12:50 p.m. Begin typing this blog.
1 p.m. Call John in for Mr. Rogers.
1:07 p.m. Get report from John that a friend of his at school broke his nose.
1:10 p.m. Receive final phone call. Find that subject doesn’t want to answer questions or is possibly being deliberately obtuse. Restrain self from hanging up on him.
1:15 p.m. End interview. Confirm that no one else will be calling me today.
1:20 p.m. Consider lunch. Consider writing the story while it’s still fresh. Consider a nap.