Maybe not a 'Chatty Cathy,' but certainly 'Verbose Brian'
Taping conversations has taught me two horrible things about myself. Just horrible.
When I was a kid, my mom would often correct my grammar if I misspoke.
"Mom, I write better than I talk," I'd complain, as if the written me was all that mattered.
Well, these days Mom is gone, and no one is correcting my speaking anymore. Not that I mix up my noun-verb agreements or say "ain't" all the time, which drove Mom nuts, which is odd because I got that from her Southern side of the family.
But I have some annoying habits when I speak, and a couple of conversations I recorded recently have shown me the error in my ways.
I Blame Technology
Way back in college, a professor – I'm not sure if it was Dr. Weber or Dr. Francke – said, "You may want to record interviews." My immediate response was, "Uh, no."
For years I followed the "Uh, no" approach. I learned to write quickly in notepads. I developed my own little shorthand. I typed faster and faster, ignoring mistakes, knowing the misspelled word "poelpe" was really "people," and I could fix it later.
But my new work computer doesn't have access to Microsoft Word, or any writing program really, unless I'm connected to the internet. So, initially I just started using more and more notepads, but at one point I thought, "I should back this up with a recording on my phone."
Now I have hour-long recordings of conversations for which I took good notes, but I'll sometimes go back to listen to verify quotes.
Now Hear This
All this leads me to last Friday when I needed to interview U.S. Rep. Angie Craig. Now, I've talked to Craig multiple times. She's one of several politicians who knows me by sight. . . . I think.
Anyway, she called me for our scheduled interview while I was on the road between Zumbrota and Kasson. During some small talk at the start of our interview, I told her it was a beautiful day, and she replied it was 52 degrees in Washington, D.C.
Envying her weather, I said, and I quote, "You're lucky I don't live in your district, you'd have just lost my vote."
First, Craig has a good sense of humor. (She laughed when she told me the temperature, she laughed at the above joke.) But the conversation – and another I recorded with Dodge County resident Mike Law – shows my chatty nature. Small talk is nice, even necessary, but I can take a conversation tangent and run with it like the best of them.
Second, I tend to "um" and "uh" my way through conversations. When I've got questions I've written down, not so much. But when something puts me on a new path of questions I hadn't considered, it's "So, uh, when you say, um, . . ." and off I go.
The whole thing has me making a vow to keep the chit-chat down to a reasonable level, and start thinking before I speak to cut out the "uh" and "um" parade.
That, and I'm sure Mom heard those conversations and thought, "Will he ever listen to me?"
Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.