Monday, May 23, 2011

We Break Murphy's Law in Our Internet Radio Debut

We made our first virtual stop on the Service Poodle Outreach/Outdoors Tour yesterday.  We had a great interview on Dog Works Radio, with Michele, a service dog trainer from Boulder, and Robert, an animal behaviorist, in Anchorage.  Literally an entire continent apart, cell phone and internet technology brought us together.  There was also a fourth participant, but he was silent.  Murphy, of Murphy's Law (everything that can go wrong will), demonstrated his presence throughout the interview without having to say a word.  However, his many attempts to hijack the interview failed.  We had a great time and it's a good show.  Listen to it and let us know what you think.

Here's what Murphy threw at us:

Interview minus two hours:  Jim and I both pull our cars out of his driveway so we can walk a bit of the nearby Appalachian Trail.  There's a beautiful waterfall there and one of the few silver linings of all the rainclouds that have blackened the sky for the last couple of weeks is that the waterfall had a wonderful volume of water this weekend.  In addition, lady slippers, a native orchid, are in bloom now.  I used to keep orchids, including slipper orchids, when I lived in Manhattan and I love seeing them in the wild.  Being outside in the woods is great for mood stability, and I want to be calm and stable for this interview. However, we're running a little bit late in getting out.

Interview minus one hour, 58 minutes: I realize the low gas light is on in the car. I had forgotten that the light was on yesterday.  I had forgotten how many miles I'd driven since it came on yesterday. I should stop for gas on the way to the fall, but how to let Jim know?  He has no cell phone. "No worries," I think, "I'll just have Jim follow me to the gas station after we're done with the walk." 

Interview minus one hour, 50 minutes: Jim and I head in different directions.  The reason we're taking two cars is that I have to be back no later than 1/2 hour before the show and he wants to hang out at Caffe a la Mode, while I'm being interviewed so he doesn't make too much noise or distract me.  He thinks we're going to leave his car at Caffe; I think we're both going to the trail parking area and we'll split up after our walk.

Interview minus one hour, 30 minutes:  Jim hasn't appeared at the waterfall.  I think he might have stopped to pick up a coffee to go (he's addicted) and got talking to someone.  Maeve and I enter the woods alone.  We go to look at the orchids, look back and listen for Jim. We go to the waterfall and head back to the parking lot, looking and listening for Jim. No jeep; no Jim. We're running a bit late, so I can't wait any longer.  I put Maeve in her kennel in the back of the van, but don't zip her in. If we were going on the highway I'd zip her in so she couldn't look out at the traffic and get stressed.  On local roads she doesn't react as badly. We head back to Jim's house to get ready for the interview.

Interview minus 40 minutes: "Cough! Sputter!" No polite little beep this time. My car is alerting me to its low fuel status in terms that cannot be ignored as I ascend a hill on County Highway 1.  I glide to the shoulder of the road halfway up the hill just as the engine dies. "No problem," I think, "I'll call AAA. Oops, no I won't, at least not until after the interview. If I do I'll have to talk to the assistance people on the phone and when they get here and that's likely to be during the hour-long interview." I called Michele and gave her a heads up that I was going to have to do the interview from the side of the road.  Then I crossed my fingers, called Caffe, and asked if Jim was there. Luckily he was and he agreed to go home, get a gas can, get gas, and put it in my car silently during the interview.   

A corollary to Murphy's LawMurphy loves the unprepared.  Okay, I was unprepared when it came to gas.  However, I had calmed my nerves beforehand by getting out into the woods AND I had remembered my cell phone AND I had used the cell phone last Thursday to take a picture of the scrap of paper on which I had scribbled the interview call-in number AND I had the email with Michele's phone number in my cell phone AND I had the number for Caffe on it. Take that, Murphy!

Interview minus 9 minutes: I call the interview number. Robert and Michele are already there and they bring me into the show.  I'm very concerned about noise of the cars flying by me, just a couple of feet away, at 55 mph.  The car shakes each time a car passes. I'm using a handsfree speaker phone because I can't hold a phone to my ear for an entire hour due to nerve damage in my hand.  They assure me I sound fine.  The speaker phone is on the visor of the driver's seat, so I have decided to do the interview from there rather than go into the back of my, where I normally work and where Maeve is.  We all wait as the automated radio show system counts down to show time.

Showtime! Robert introduces himself first and then Michele. He asks Michele how things are in Boulder. Dead air. Michele's phone has going completely dead.  Robert talks to me instead. He's mispronouncing Maeve's name and he has her website address all wrong.  "It doesn't matter," I think, "I'll keep calm and positive now. I can correct him later. Breathe, Joanne, breathe."

Interview plus 14 minutes: Jim opens the passenger door to give me a thumb's up to let me know the gas is in the tank.  I am in the middle of answering a question and lose my train of thought. There are "ummms" coming out of my mouth for a few seconds and my memory gives me trouble remembering a publication name, but I get through it okay.

Interview plus 17 minutes: I'm answering a question and taking the opportunity to mention the correct address of our website and to turn the conversation to something positive on that site when I drop off the call.  It was my worst fear about doing the interview by cell phone rather than on Jim's land line.  However, Murphy screwed up by first having Michele drop off the call.  Now it's not as embarrassing that I left dead air on the call.  Besides, I can drive up the hill and turn on to the quieter side street at the top while the phone redials.  

Interview plus 29 minutes: Maeve begins to bark -- loudly.  Remember that "quieter" side street I'm now parked on?  Remember that Maeve is not zipped into her kennel and can look out the back window? People are making multiple trips between the door and the driveway of a nearby house loading or unloading a car.  Maeve, who is encouraged to alert me to people approaching the van (we sleep in it when we're camping and I often work in back while parked in beautiful, but sometimes lonely, natural settings), is telling me there are a bunch of people heading our way.  If I were in back with her I could acknowledge their approach with a look and a touch, give her the "Shush" command and she'd at least tone it down to whispered whoofs.  However, that often doesn't work if I'm not in touching distance of her.  She continues to bark. The red of my cheeks would put a fire engine to shame. I stutter some as I answer the next question over Maeve's slightly quieter barking.

Interview plus 37 minutes: My phone drops the call AGAIN! I redial instantly and finish the remaining 22 minutes of the interview successfully.

Lessons learned:
  1. I can do a live interview!  
  2. I can handle questions that are not entirely appropriate or are unexpected
  3. If I prepare properly I can hold my attention and calm for a significant period (however, I do pay a price afterward)
  4. Perfection isn't necessary

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