I had an interview this morning with a fellow who was on his cell phone while driving. Nothing really unusual about that, but a few minutes into the conversation, after I asked a very simple question, there was a longish pause. Then, suddenly: “[Expletive]! I’m running out of gas! I have to go!” End of interview. Luckily, I had pretty much what I needed to put in the article. He called back later anyway, to say he’d made it to a gas station and to wrap up the interview.
All sorts of things can happen during phone interviews. These days, I usually tell people I’m interviewing that any noise you hear in the background is my daughter, age three and unpredictable. Often this evokes the phone-voice equivalent of a smile of sympathy – during which they’ll say something like, “Yeah, I have three of my own.” Less often, I’ll hear a slight frostiness in the interviewee’s voice, as if they’re thinking, “You keep a little kid around when you’re working? How unprofessional.”
Last week I made a tape of a longer interview I did. I offered my now-standard warning about background noise, and sure enough, Ann decided to play dog about then, which involves all-fours posture and yip! yip! yip! This week, listening to the tape, I heard her. Remarkable how much she sounded like a real dog. My interview subject might have thought I had one.