Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Okay, I've Smelled the Flower. Now What?

I heard indirectly that an old friend had a seizure. Having had a seizure, he had a CAT scan. Having had a CAT scan, he was told he had a brain tumor. Having a brain tumor, he had surgery. Having had surgery, he woke up, which was good. Having awoken, he couldn't move his right side, which was bad and still is. Every day he is getting better (I hear indirectly).

One thing I tell my students is that an aspect of being a journalist is that you become a reflexive interviewer. You just naturally ask questions even when you are off the clock. It's good at parties because it makes it less likely that you will just stand there silently. You will seem nosey, it's true, but at least you will seem interested. You won't be popular, but at least you aren't inert. You aren't argon. You aren't neon.

You may push a little too hard and ask a question that's a little too personal, forgetting that you are not at that moment a representative of a potential 6.5 billion readers who need to know or want to know or don't object knowing, or if they do object can just turn the page, still feeling somewhat grateful you are on the job and putting your beak in.

(About those 6.5 billion potential readers. We'll sort out the number of English speakers and the number of those with Internet access later on.)

But what do you say to someone you consider a dear friend who you really have neglected to ring up for much too long when he is dealing with an honest-to-god dread disease? It would be easy to get clinical, which is what a reporter is supposed to do. Or sentimental if you are a broadcast journalist manque.

If I were in that situation, I would want a friend to say.... I have no idea. Well, I'd want a friend to say something.

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