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Funny

My name is Leah Waters. I’m a writer for WRST News. This is my podcast. My podcast program tries to bring the audience closer to the actual making of the broadcasts that we watch on TV and the internet. For that purpose I reveal my behind-the-scenes work as a professional journalist who prepares before she leaps, so to speak, onto the screen. Here you will follow my fascinating preparations and even be able to chime in occasionally.

So... sit back and enjoy seeing how I work.

I’ve been assigned to interview some people who are camping out in the back yard during a power outage. Before I do the interview, I need to decide what points to cover. I’ll even organize my thoughts in a short list, so you can see what I’m planning to say. Feel free to suggest other points. This interview looks like it’ll be the most boring one I’ve ever conducted and I welcome anything that might jazz it up a bit.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Point #1

Camping out in back yard with power outage. Why do that? Is it to pretend the outage is not happening? If there’s no light in the house, might as well slip out the back, Jack? Dark is dark, I guess. It might be smarter to get the tent set up and sleeping bags unrolled before it’s pitch black out, though. Just saying.

Or, maybe the camping out had already been planned. When the outage happened you had already finished setting up? Have you thought about how ironic that is? We thought it was actually quite ironic. That should be the answer. Also, it was great timing, Jack. We thought it was actually perfect timing.

A potential follow-up to the first question: Were you outside, then when you saw the power had gone out, did you decide to come in? I mean, because both outside and inside are dark, but beds are better than sleeping bags and bugs, I would imagine. Of course, I am not a camper-outer, so maybe I’m missing something here? What do you think you’re missing? There isn’t a whole lot around here this time of the year. Maine is bad in May and June, but now, even though the black flies are out of season, we’ve got chiggers, no see-ums, spider mites, the usual. 

Oh, is it dangerous to spend the night outside, then? Are you afraid at all? Nothing to be afraid of. Once in a while, there’s a milk snake, and you gotta keep an eye out for the poisonous mushrooms we got ‘round here. Prolly twenty or fifty, maybe a hunnerd varieties of them.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I pretended I was already speaking to the camping Mainers and wanted to slip in what they might say. In the interest of transparency, I never was in Maine and never met anybody from the state, so my imagined responses could be a tad disrespectful. I only know what I saw on that old TV program with Jessica Fletcher, “Murder, She Wrote.”

Now, in my humble opinion as a journalist who takes her job seriously, I am beginning to doubt the sanity of these people all ready. The next thing you know, these camping people are going to realize the folly of what they’re doing and they’ll do the logical thing.

Hey, we can be comfortable, inside the house, no lights of course, but that’s perfect. We can pretend we’re camping out in the back yard.

That’s what they might say, if they just think about it.

That was absurd.

I see a listener has just texted me a comment. I appreciate that, but don’t know what or who is absurd. Hopefully that doesn’t refer to me? Does it refer to me? I’m just a journalist trying to do her job.

Like, who cares?

That text was out of line. Maybe you should go interview the crazy Mainers who have that big state with all its natural beauty and decide to camp out in their back yard!

Point #2

Camping out. I as a serious journalist need to get at the reason for doing this in my interview. I certainly haven’t a clue as to why. Is it so the campers will feel happy when they get home after a couple of nights hugging the hard ground? Maybe it’s so they can feel like grown-ups by not sleeping at home? There’s also the possibility that the ones who camp out think it can make them feel like kids again. Is there a problem with any of those reasons?

The campers might be a little miffed, so I have to be prepared. I will tell them I was only looking to offer different reasons. Okay, maybe hugging the hard ground wasn’t very subtle on my part. Feeling like kids again isn’t so bad. 

Here’s a reason I nearly forgot: Do people just want to get away for 48 hours? Almost not worth it, in my opinion, but I’m only here to do the interview. What I think doesn’t matter.

Let’s see: How can I get the people to tell me if they like camping out because it sounds adventurous and maybe even cool? Who are you trying to impress, anyway? No, bite your tongue. You know that ‘cool’ part won’t fly in an interview. You’ll lose your job.

Because they think it’s so terribly camp.

This text just came in. It seems like there are some members of my audience who have a sense of humor. You know - to camp out and things that are camp? Nice play on words. Maybe I can fit the line into my interview. What if I actually explain to my Maine interviewees (who might not get it because they’re from Maine) something like the following:

‘Camp’, of course means a lot of things, but one of them is not cool, only flamboyant. Camp is from camper, which means to pose inappropriately, in French. We got lotsa French folk here in Maine. We call ‘em Francos. So it’s actually not cool are you if you go camping. If you’re doing it for the glamour, or for the adventure that you think will win friends and impress people when you tell it to them, don’t bother. It won’t. 

Somewhere in that attempt to show how I’m a serious journalist who can handle her vocabulary as well as her gin (oops, shouldn’t say that) I think I got lost. 

Anyway, I need to ask these people about the back yard part. Nothing, absolutely nothing is cool if you don’t get any further than your back yard. And it’s not ‘camp’, either. (Someday I’ll get this pun thing down. I’m off my game today, I guess.)

More absurd.

What does this person texting want me to do? I need to know what’s so absurd about my interview. After all, the assignment was given to me. I certainly didn’t ask for it.

Whatever.

Now that was unnecessary. If you don’t want to help me prepare this interview, don’t say anything. Don’t be rude. Plus, it kind of hurts my feelings. 

Point #3

Why do you all want to do your camping in the back yard? Is it because you want to keep an eye on your house? Are you trying to save money because the fee for the campground is so high? Maybe you simply want to pretend you’re camping out? 

I should be more careful. Those questions are a bit personal. The last one sounds like I’m trying to provoke them. Which is what a lot of good journalists do. However, I am not sure how provoked Mainers react. Maybe I ought to leave the pretend part out.

Because they’re afraid to be out in the dark in the middle of nowhere. 

I can’t use that suggestion, but it was a very good one. Thank you so much for sending it. It just touches a little on a sensitive spot. Outdoorsy people, as I understand it, don’t like to think they’re afraid of doing things outdoors. They want to be seen as tough.

I’m going to read some more of the suggestions my audience has texted me:

They couldn’t get a hotel reservation; all the cheap places were booked.

They forgot to call to make a reservation.

They fought over where to go and ended up nowhere.

They’re broke anyway. Spent the paycheck on tools and a six-pack.

Again, greatly appreciated, but you really shouldn’t make fun of Mainers.

I think I’m ready now. It’s a four-hour drive to that god forsaken place and it’s time to get on the road.

(Six hours later, the journalist arrives at the address she had been given for the back yard campers.)

“Hello. I am Leah Waters and I’m here to do an interview with people who are camping out in the back yard during a power outage.”

“Well, hello. I’m Travis. Travis Phipps. I know about them there people yur referrin’ to. They ain’t here. They use to be, but they ain’t now.”

“What do you mean? The station I work for gave me this address.”

“Well, it useter be the right address, but not it ain’t.”

“Do you by any chance know where the people who are camping out in their back yard might be?”

“Well, sure, but ain’t no lights on around these parts now. You’ll have a fine time tryin’ to locate ‘em.”

“Oh dear. But could you tell me anyway?”

“Well, sure. You see that house next door? The one with no lights? Oh, of course you don’t. Ain’t no lights to see by. Well, you git what I mean. Find the house next door.”

“Oh, is it that close?” Leah Waters smiles a smile that’s invisible in the dark.

“Well, no, but if you keep goin’ , you’ll see another house and another house and then probably you’re there.”

Leah wasn’t sure how many houses that actually was, but she set out. At the third house she would inquire once more, she thought. At least she hadn’t seen anybody on the front porch cradling a shotgun, so she felt safe enough.

The problem was, after house number two, there was nothing but a few stands of birches and several mammoth pines. She wondered if the man she’d spoken with at the first house had really known or had been half asleep. She was going to have to return to the station empty-handed (which was a figure of speech, as she well knew since she knew her vocabulary).

Watching Leah Waters drive off, Travis and his supposedly camping neighbor Big Al Doiron noticed the license plate said WRSTNWS and broke into snorts and laughter. They looked at each other and shook hands over the success of their plan. Travis and Big Al were among the Mainers who didn’t take kindly to ‘people from away’. Those people harmed the environment, poked fun at the locals, and bought tacky souvenirs after complaining about the price of a lobster roll. 

The plan had been simple and had counted on a stupid city station believing there was a good story in the idea that some people would camp out in their back yards during a power outage. The two men had sent the news item to several stations, but only WRST took the idea seriously. They sent their most serious journalist to cover it, even.

“You played your role remarkably well, Travis.” Big Al complimented his friend.

“You could have done just as well, I’m sure,” replied Travis. “At least we sent one person away discouraged because she only found one half-wit local and not the others she actually thought were camping in the back yard.”

“I kind of feel sorry for her, but now I have to get back to work on my book. I’ve got a tight deadline,” said Big Al.

“Yes. I was having so much fun, though. It’s going to be hard to go back to preparing my next class for Journalism 101,” said Travis, smiling.

Moral of this story:

Never take a Mainer for granted nor at face value.

Don’t forget to turn out the lights if there hasn’t been an outage.

If life has taken you hostage, you can do something about it. 

Camping out in your back yard is not the solution, however, power outages aside.

Mainers have a sense of humor, but it ain’t like any other.

To the persons hoping to watch the broadcast of Leah Waters’ interview, we’re sorry. We also have some advice you may find helpful:

If a person keeps telling how good s/he is, s/he’s probably not. Good, that is.

Never, ever believe a stereotype. (If you don’t want to end up like Leah.)

September 12, 2020 03:16

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11 comments

Lani Lane
04:07 Sep 14, 2020

Hi, Kathleen! I thought this was such a creative way to take on the prompt. I enjoy your style of writing and I'm looking forward to more of your stories. Just a small thing I noticed: "Well, it useter be the right address, but not it ain’t.” I'm thinking "not" should be "now" instead?

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Kathleen March
02:44 Sep 15, 2020

Yes, thank you. I believe I tried to edit but it was too late, so I noted it myself at the end.

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Lani Lane
03:15 Sep 15, 2020

That happened to me, too! Sometimes it's so hard to catch the little things. :)

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Kathleen March
02:47 Sep 15, 2020

Oh, and thank you for your observations.

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Evelyn ⭐️
21:43 Sep 12, 2020

Hey Kathleen! I really enjoyed this story! I thought it was very creative and I thought the plot was very good. I liked the way you fit the story into the prompt. I have to give you a solid 10/10! Great job, I can't wait for your future stories. Keep writing! If you aren't busy could you check out my new story? No pressure, just looking for some feedback!

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Kathleen March
02:45 Sep 15, 2020

Thank you very much for the positive comment. I will get over to read you.

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Bianka Nova
17:43 Sep 12, 2020

I think Leah might be something of a Karen, after all she's such a serious journalist 😅 A very original take on the prompt! One day I'd have to get to reading more of your stories. They are really good!

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Zea Bowman
21:15 Sep 19, 2020

Wow! I really enjoyed reading this story; it was so full of great descriptions, and I loved the way you ended it! I know that right now I'm going to be one of the annoying people that asks you to read my story (or stories), but it would be a big help. Don't feel like you have to :)

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Devansh Shah
11:22 Sep 18, 2020

Hey Kathleen, I have you as part of my critique circle. What an interesting read! I loved the 'meta-levels' of this story, it was almost like it was poking fun at the prompt itself, "believing there was a good story in the idea that some people would camp out in their back yards during a power outage." I loved the stream of thought writing style which accentuated the personality of Leah. She reminds me a bit of Leslie Knope. I didn't understand/enjoy the punchline though. Seemed like a cruel joke. All in all, I did enjoy reading ...

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Kathleen March
16:20 Sep 12, 2020

“Well, it useter be the right address, but not it ain’t = but now it ain’t

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The Cold Ice
05:30 Sep 15, 2020

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow!!! Super story.Great job keep it up.It was very funny.Keep writing . Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior part 2?”

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