Monday, March 30, 2009

Sitting in the Plane at the Gate Not Moving Stuck in Atlanta

1918 grader.Image via Wikipedia

Something wasn't working, or the display said it wasn't working, so we sat for two hours before someone solved the problem or kicked the console or crossed fingers and said, "We all owe God a death, including those 264 people sitting in back. Let's fire this Mother up."

But the point is we sat there for two hours. Luck comes multiform. As it happened, my last task from Spring Break was grading a set of meeting stories from basic reporting, and what with one thing or another they were still not graded earlier today; they were to be my in flight recreation. The moment it became clear that the delay might be prolonged, I pulled out my stories and went to work.

These were 350-400 word stories, just an elementary meeting cover with the main points (I insisted) in the first 100 words, to be written as if there were no other words on the subject, not in the whole wide world. Such stories consume 20 minutes apiece to grade because I line edit each of them. It's the only way I know how to grade.

"Write tighter" -- what does that mean? "More detail" and "clearer" and "paraphrase"? Yah, why not just recommend Truth and Beauty, So I tend to scribble in what I mean, and for a page-and-a-half story: 20 minutes.

And thus it was. Six stories in, the captain said it (whatever it was) was fixed. I quit grading and watched some girls NCAA basketball on the seat-back TV, then graded six more stories, then watched Stewart and Colbert and then graded the final story, the one I'd saved because (sigh) it really is heavy lifting. This is the one where I rewrite half, and I leave the rest alone.

Well, back to the point. When I grade this sort of story, I go into my own little world. It's not a pretty world, and I don't much like being there -- I tell my reporting students that I spent 15 years in journalism avoiding writing stories the way I am teaching them to write.

But it closes the door. And sometimes you want the door closed.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Peter Moore said...

Being in an office that loses power at 9:30 in the morning truly does allow one to get a lot of filing done. Much put off filing. Whole filing cabinets worth of filing. Such was my day until we were sent home at 3:30. Sort of like stuck on a plane but with a lunch break.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Yeah, but you were surrounded by the finest (and probably also some of the semi-finest) wines of France. File yourself under B for "blotto."

God, I love the word "blotto."