Monday, June 25, 2018

Meeting Hat Trick

Brought to you by the Robbie Stories Department:

When you're a journalist covering a fairly brief, uneventful meeting by, say, a city planning commission, you don't expect more than one or two things to go wrong. I, however, having an accredited degree as a Master of Disaster (available on request), have a proven ability to score a hat trick of facepalm-worthy mishaps.

Tonight's planning commission meeting took place in the windowless, non-air-conditioned basement of the public library. Providing relief from the sticky warmth was an oscillating fan that was thoughtfully placed between the press table and the speakers who were to address the commission. The city planner had a nice carrying voice, so this wasn't too much of a problem. But the guy applying for a conditional use permit, about which the commission was having a public hearing, spoke in a very low, indistinct manner. I could only hear about one word in three that he said. I could tell, by experience, that my voice recorder wasn't going to do much better; I could look forward to straining my ears to make out anything audible over the noise of the fan. Mishap #1.

I couldn't just let this stand, and miss everything I was supposed to write about. So, verifying that my voice recorder was recording, I put it on a table in front of the commission, facing the applicant, without the fan in between. It seemed like a good spot for it, since the commission's clerk had put her omni-directional microphone there as well. Then I went back to my seat and waited for the testimony to be over. When the testimony was over, I got up again and fetched my voice recorder. Then I realized that it had stopped recording. When I tried starting it again, the device informed me that I had maxed out its internal memory. This had never happened before in the five months I've been using this recorder. What a time to find out how long I could go without erasing all my previous audio notes. Mishap #2.

Unfortunately, I couldn't record any more of the meeting without deleting something off the recorder. Even more unfortunately, I wasted several precious minutes of the meeting, during which no notes of any kind were being taken, trying to figure out how to erase some of the audio files on it. Eventually I was forced to accept that I would have to reformat the entire file directory and start from a blank slate - thereby losing any record of the part of the meeting that got in under the gate. So, resigning myself to having to reconstruct everything up to that point from memory and a few scribbled lines in my notepad, I reformatted it. I set the recorder, which weighs about 6 ounces, on the folding table in front of me, next to my Canon Rebel camera, my reporter's notebook and the agenda packet I had been issued at the start of the meeting. This, apparently, maxed out the table's weight limit, because the legs at one end proceeded to fold under the table. Before I realized what was happening, my camera, voice recorder, and all went tumbling down the slope of the half-collapsed table and onto the floor.

The recorder rolled all the way against the wall at the end of the room. Just to add to my awkwardness, the other end of the table tried to pull a similar collapsing trick when I set up the end that had folded under. Apparently, the table I was issued tonight didn't have the ability to lock its legs in place. Mishap #3. Hat trick achieved.

If I add that the office computer network on which I need to do all my work was off-line half of the day (but I still had to get a day's work done), and that the very first person I encountered while covering the front desk during the office clerk's lunch had a request I wasn't trained to handle, and that every single traffic light that I passed during my triumphant return to the office from hat-trick glory was turning red as I approached, I will only be putting a few decorative accents on an already complete picture of One of Those Days. You know what I mean.

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