The 123 area code blinked multiple times at me. Who is calling me? Why are they calling me?
It was five days after I had left my job as a reporter for a weekly community newspaper. And the “123” area code (real number changed, obviously,) startled me. It was different from my city area code and I just had a feeling it was someone calling me about something related to my old job.
I was done though. I submitted my last pay roll form. My last stories had gone to press a week ago and the paper was already out. There’s nothing I can do for them anymore. I ignored the call. I let it ring and go to voice mail — after all, I was out to lunch with a friend so it would be rude to answer. Even if it was someone I knew, I would not have answered it. The people in front of me always have my undivided attention, always.
The red light lit on my phone. Now I had a voice mail from the mystery person.
I put off listening to the message the rest of the day, worried that it was someone complaining about one of my last stories. He didn’t like it. She thinks I have a fact wrong. They want me to run a correction. Different scenarios started building in my head.
When I arrived home later, I listened to the message.
It wasn’t bad at all.
One of the last stories I wrote was about how a grandfather started a scholarship fund for local kids to support them in the sport of hockey. His young grandson died in a riptide accident a few years ago and he did it to keep his grandson’s love for hockey alive and in memory of the young man. The mystery caller was the grandfather calling to thank me for the story, adding that he had made a lot of good connections with people wanting to help and donate because of it.
I just had to call back. I didn’t have to call back though, but I wanted to.
I told him I received the message and basically thanked him for thanking me.
Since “retiring” from reporting, in two separate incidents, friends have referred to me as “the journalist.” Maybe its in my mannerisms, in the way I act. I will always be “the journalist” of the group.
But, I know that the real reason I am proud of what I did as a journalist was to get those stories out there. To teach others about something, hopefully. To help some heal. To inform others. I’ve always wanted to do meaningful work. I think that most — not all, but most — of what I did during my time as a journalist was. Will I ever return to it?
I don’t know. As we all know, journalism is a tough world out there.
I learned how to take notes on anything — Kleenex boxes in the car, for example. I learned how to be “available” at all times of the day. I learned how to survive an entire work day on a granola bar and water.
I learned so much — about budgets, llamas, homelessness, road engineering, human interaction, just to name a few — from the many people I met. It’s those people. I’ll miss them.
For someone who claims she doesn’t like talking to strangers in “real life,” I guess I did a pretty good job.