Tales from a home office

November 9, 2016 Comments Off on Tales from a home office

Halfway through today I received a desperate email from an editor who needed a story done pronto. This happens quite often  – I work very fast, so I’m often contacted when someone is in a hole. I like to think I’m the Olivia Pope of magazine journalism…

The brief was simple – a 600-word Q&A profile, comprising 30 questions, so it ought to be short and sharp. At 5pm I had to call someone, ask them the questions, record the answers, and then edit it all into shape. Easy peasy.

I called the interviewee from my landline to ensure at least one part of the interview would have a stable connection, turned to a new page in my favourite red Moleskine notebook, and we were off.

About five minutes into the interview, however, one of the worst storms I’ve witnessed in Johannesburg in 26 years of living here, began to pummel my suburb and surrounding areas. The rain drove through the city in sheets. Hail bounced off my driveway; the noise in my little outside office made talking on the phone very difficult.

And then the power went out. And so did my portable phone. Of course, I didn’t think to simply continue by using my mobile phone. Oh no. Instead I clutched my notebook and pen to my chest and ran through the deluge into the house, to my bedroom, where I have an instrument that doesn’t require electricity to work. Dripping and shivering, I dialed again, only to realise I’d left the sheet with the questions outside in the office.

There was no way I was going out into that lot again. I realised I had them on my mobile phone – in my email inbox. So I opened that and continued the interview, with a phone that kept going to sleep inbetween questions, and no time to change the auto-sleep settings.

The storm raged for the whole period of the interview. Lightning, hail and thunder raged around the house, and I, perched on my bed, strained to hear the answers I had to record. The phone was gripped between shoulder and ear, my notebook was balanced on my knee, and the interview continued while I wrote with my right hand, and tapped at my mobile phone with my left hand. All the while I hoped with every fibre of my being that those stories about people being struck by lightning down the telephone line were urban legends, and I winced with every shaft of lightning that lit up my bedroom, hoping this wouldn’t be the way I would leave the planet.

An hour later, the world’s most chatty – and really lovely – interviewee finally answered question number 30 and I could finally go and sort out the terrified dogs, worried children, slightly damp rabbit, flooded garden and wet electrics.

And people think working from home is less stressful than being in an office. Yeah, right.


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