As a journalism student I’ve come to realize that people are the most important part in reporting. It’s people that give an article life. It’s what makes an article worth reading.
But sometimes getting an interview isn’t always easy, sometimes you don’t get one at all.
That’s what happened to me.
My multimedia journalism class and I are writing for the New Haven Independent’s CT Bus Diaries series and interviewing people about Connecticut’s public bus system is the core of the articles we’re putting out. My second article in the series was a photo essay of five people waiting for the bus in downtown New Haven. I walked up to 11, may be 12, people that day. Eight of them gave me an interview. Out of those eight I chose five to profile them in my essay. On my first article for the series I had two people come up to me and talk. Now for my third blog post for the series I had no interviews. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. I did. It just seemed like people didn’t want to talk about their experiences or I just caught them at a “bad time.”
The Game Plan for Coffee
It’s around 9 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2014 and I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm buzzing on the side table next to me. I look at the screen and swipe the alarm off. I drag myself out of bed running my hand through my hair and along my face to help me wake up. It was only eight hours ago that I came home from work and I was dreading the fact that I only had six hours left before my shift starts again.
“Coffee,” I thought. “Must get coffee.”
I went into the kitchen and to my despair opened an empty can of coffee grinds. I didn’t even have any instant coffee, a sure sign of my neglect for groceries. I was thinking of going to Willoughbys Coffee and Tea in New Haven to get a pound of their house blend coffee. Instead of driving there I took the bus, hoping to find my next story for the CT Bus Diaries.
It’s now quarter to 10 a.m. and the bus is scheduled to come by in five minutes. It was odd seeing the bus stop empty. I usually see this bus stop, on Skiff Street, with at least two or three people waiting. I weave through the empty shopping carts around the bus shelter and onto the bench. A few minutes pass and a woman wearing dark blue scrubs walked over and asked me when the bus will arrive.
“Should be another minute, at least that’s what it says here,” I said pointing to the bus schedule on the shelter’s wall.
The D bus didn’t come until 10 a.m. While we were waiting I asked the woman if she had ever rode the D bus before. She said she was new to the bus and then started talking about her experiences using it. I told her what I was writing about and she immediately said no. She wasn’t interested in sharing her reason why she’s taking the bus. She felt that it would ruin her “image.”
“Well you don’t have to mention that part,” I said. “You can talk about something else about your commute.”
She still wasn’t having it. She gave me a final “no way” while uncrossing her arms.
As we walked into the bus I said “Nice talking to ya,” and took a seat rows behind her.
Blabbering About the Job
Sitting in the seats next to me was an older gentleman wearing a straw hat and a black CT Transit turtle neck. He had a CT Transit badge and I figured getting an employee of CT Transit to talk about their job would be an interesting story. I asked him if he’d like to talk about his job for the Bus Diaries series. He says no, but ends up talking my ear off about this job anyway. This guy talked so much I was ready to get off the next stop even when the bus was still 20 minutes away from the New Haven Green. He had an interesting job, he records travel time between buses, counts the people that get on and off the bus at each stop, and then puts together a small report from the data he collects. He sits on this bus for 8 hours and records all the data in a small PDA.
“You’ve got an interesting job here, are you sure you don’t want to talk about it for my article,” I asked.
Without giving it a second thought he says no again. He fears what he said will affect his employment with CT Transit and that he prefers his name to be out of the public’s eye– even though he wears a CT Transit badge that has his name in big, black, bold letters.
It’s Not My Day Today
Listening to the guy on the bus all throughout the trip aggravated me a little a bit. What bothered me the most was the fact that he explained what he does for CT Transit, but didn’t want to share it in an article. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The lack of coffee didn’t help either. I walked over to Willoughby’s, bought my coffee and headed back to the green to catch my bus back to Hamden. In between I tried to talk to four people about their experiences with the Connecticut’s bus system. Two of them didn’t speak English–I should really learn how to speak Spanish. One guy was deaf and the other lady just waved bye as she walked right pass me. I started to think it was me.
“Am I not friendly enough? May be I need to change my approach? Do I smell weird?”
Just as soon as I was about to give up hope I meet Larry Senberg, a 68-yearl-old bus driver that has been driving for 30 years. He was standing by the bus I needed to take back home, but he wasn’t the driver.
“I’m just waiting for another driver to take my place. My shift is done,” Senberg said before giving a soft chuckle.
I mentioned the bus diaries to him and he emphatically agreed to share his experiences as a driver. Not only did I find someone to share their story, but it also happens to be an employee for CT Transit. Senberg didn’t have a problem taking the lead.
“People should demand more service from these buses. They pay for it, right? Then they should have more service buses out here,” Senberg said.
Just before I could ask him a follow up question Senberg’s replacement driver shows up.
“Well that’s it I’m going home, my shift is over,” Senberg said before bolting towards a white shuttle bus.
The bus ride home was quiet. There was hardly anyone on the bus. There was three more stops to go and the only one on the bus was me. I reflected back to the moments of the morning and tried to analyze what was so different about this day.
Then I came to the conclusion that “It’s not my day today.”