The Dalai Lama thinks that I can just drop everything every time he decides to call....
......He's annoying like that and it can play absolute havoc with my work day.
My freelance writing gigs - the ones that are paid - are gradually changing into pieces that feature real people and I'm slowly discovering that interviews are a hell of a lot more interesting and rewarding than, say, deciding on my own topic and researching it under my own steam.
Take this week, for instance. On my list of people to nab included a Funeral Director, a Police Sergeant and a Home Economics teacher. A fairly unique trio you'd fairly assume and no, not to be included in the same article.
And yet, getting hold of them all require pretty similar approaches:
1. Find their relevant department or association
2. Phone and ask to speak to their Media Person/Unit/Communications Officer/Publications Director
3. Listen to Fogey FM as the receptionist puts me on hold
4. Chat to Media Person/Unit/Communications Officer/Publications Director and introduce myself. Explain who I am, where I'm from and what I'm looking for. Reassure them that they'll have the opportunity to read through and suggest amendments so that their organisation - and the individuals concerned - will be represented appropriately.
5. Await their phone call back.
6. When speaking to them again, repress a very tiny sigh at their predictability and agree to email them with the previous conversations details in writing. And the questions I want to ask. And my credentials, editor's contact details and copies of previously published articles.
7. Sit again by the phone and email for them to contact me with a suggested victim to interview.
During this waiting time, I'll hang out a load of washing, do a few tasting and photo sessions for GoneChocco, put Skipper into his playpen on the lawn, pat Milly, peruse i-Tunes, unpack the dishwasher, sort out the recycling, prepare a pot of soup to slowly bubble-n-boil and download chocolate photos in Picasa.
8. Receive a call back, with the name, email and mobile of a person who's willing to talk to me.
9 and 10. Same for the other two. Perfect! It's lunchtime and I've got all three lined up.
11 - 13. Leave messages at three offices, on three mobiles and write three emails.
14. Have a brief chat with Mel the Home Economics teacher during her lesson break and schedule a time for the interview after dinner that evening. She sounds nice and is reassured that I'm not doing a scorching expose on the evils of teens in the kitchen but a feature on why more of 'em need to learn how to cook something other than two minute noodles and eat foods that contain at least one acceptable nutrient.
15. Funeral Director Julie rings my mobile which is thankfully on my desk and not out in the glovebox of the car or behind the laundry hamper. As such, I answer it and we agree that she'll call me back at 1pm for a chat.
16. Desk phone rings and Mick the Sergeant checks out the cut of my jib, decides I'm acceptable and says he'll call me at 2pm after he's had time to finish the paperwork on the morning's drug bust and has a bit more of a think about the questions I've emailed.
It's now midday and I'm feeling satisfied. I stroll out to the kitchen to fire up Mrs Krups for the second coffee of the day. Idly glancing out to the garden I notice that Skipper's not in his playpen. Frack!
Turns out that when I dragged the pen to a newer, fresher section of grass, the back door had loosened and the little bugger decided to nudge it open and frolic under the section of our house on stumps - ie the study; perhaps only a foot under my desk.
Lying on the wet cement by the wheelie bins is my best vantage point. I see his white body in the dim distance, busily digging. At the shake of his pellet container he freezes for a moment before continuing. I fancy that if he was able to give me a cheeky grin and the finger, he would have.
An hour later and he's dashed out to snatch a pellet from the tupperware bowl and avoid my ineffectual grabs three times. My knees are aching from kneeling on the cement, my arse is up in the air like an inflatable bike rack and my neck is cricked from peering under the house, ostrich-like, pretending to still be unconcerned and happy as I coo, "Skipper.... Skipper sweetie.... Mummy has pellets....," in a musical voice when all I really want to do is scream at him Jimmy Barnes-style, hoik him out via a shepherd's crook and fashion a furry white collar for my polar fleece jacket.
17. About three metres away - and two feet higher up, I hear my mobile ring. Dammit, that'd be Julie. She's had the okay from her company to talk to me...... I try shaking the pellets again, but Skipper shoots out from under the house on the other side far out of my reach and is now beside the garden shed behind the water tank. I briefly debate leaving him there to get back to Julie and decide against it: too many gaps in the fence and the roar of the traffic a street away is too risky.
We spend another hour playing a slimy-shuffle dance and my rage and frustration now is so great that whilst he's still hearing my "Skipper Sweetie" tone, I'm sweating at the sheer effort of emotional repression and the physical challenge of having my face wedged up against a wet wooden fence and the drips from the tank plopping onto my left shoulder. I've learned the hard way that wedging myself behind the tank means that he only runs around the other side back underneath the study for another digging session. If he was capable, he'd be making the 'bthbble bthbble bthbble' tongue-insult that the road runner does.
18. In the distance, behind the glass doors and inside a warm house, I hear the landline ring. That'd be Mick, the detective. My shoulders slump, which isn't a good thing because the freezing tank water now trickles down my back. I bow my head and tiredly grip the pellets, utterly defeated by a one-and-a-half-kilogram mini lop.
I must have dozed off at some stage because I blink and look down and there's Skipper sitting at my knees, peacefully. Now 'over it', he doesn't run as I scoop him up and actually scrabbles to rearrange himself so that his face nuzzles at my neck his paws rest on my collarbone.
Damn little beastie: I kiss him several times and all my anger and tiredness disappears as I say, "You're a naughty little fella" over and over before placing him gently into his straw and newspapers.
19. I go to the toilet, remove the cobwebs that hang from my hoop earrings and return two calls. To both of them, the same line is used. "Look, I want to say that it was because the Dalai Lama called but really it was because I was outside in the cold waiting for a damn rabbit...."
20. Both laugh at my honesty and do the interview then and there. I finish the second call in time to find Milly's lead and go and pick up Sapphire from school. "Have you been gardening today, Mum? You're FILTHY."