Last Friday, I got an e-mail from a producer at NPR asking me if I would like to talk to Michel Martin on NPR's "Tell Me More" to discuss my recent article about student loan debt in the Atlantic. Within an hour, after a series of e-mails and phone calls were exchanged, I was booked to go to the studios in New York City and had arranged for my mom to meet the school buses on Monday afternoon.
I went into serious neurotic mode. It doesn't take me much to go there. I can make ordering ice-cream in Ben and Jerry's stressful. But this was an interview with a radio station that is on my speed dial on the car radio! Full on meltdown!
I spent the weekend trying to psych out every question that Michel might ask. I made crib sheets of statistics. I made my brother and Steve ask me tough questions. At the same time, I kept telling myself to calm down, because I have blown other opportunities in the past by being over prepared and defensive.
On Monday, I drove into midtown. NPR's NYC studios are located just two buildings down from where I went to grad school. I passed by Bryant Park where I spend many afternoons eating lunch with friends. I was going into the studios to talk about students making risky educational decisions and racking up excessive debt and that is exactly what I did just two buildings away. Irony noted.
Because I'm insane, I showed up at the studios 40 minutes early. One of the hippy minions who works at the studio let me into the office and showed me to a sofa where I could read over my notes and glug water like Paul Ryan in a debate.
I watched the soft spoken, jean-wearing, tote bag toting minions quietly working in cubicles. Maybe I could get a job here.
At 2:00, the sound engineer led me into a booth and showed me how to talk into the microphone. I unstapled my notes and spread them out in front of me like a fan. You can't shuffle papers when you're on the radio. He explained that I could look down at my notes, but not move my head. He hooked up with the main station in Washington and we waited for Michel to show up. We chatted about his kids and their college decisions.
Finally, Michel arrived in the DC studios and we said a quick hello and then the interview was on.
Michel asked me how I became interested in the topic. I gave one answer. She asked another question and I thought of a better way of answering the first question. I tried to go back to the first question and she shut me down immediately. No nonsense from the interviewee. Ok. Got it.
She didn't ask the questions that I had expected. The title of the article, which wasn't written by me, tripped me up a bit.
Also, she had interviewed a woman on a parenting show a few weeks ago who told her that faculty at UVA told her kid that college was just about fun and not studying. She wanted me to say that professors weren't helping kids and were instead advising kids to not care about their studies. It took me until the end of the interview to figure out where her questions were leading.
Here's the interview.
I can't listen to it, because I can't listen to my own voice on an answering machine. Who is that weirdo? Not me, certainly.
It was an excellent learning experience. I'm glad I did it. After the interview was over, Michel and I talked for another five minutes about the topic. She was extremely smart, and we shared the exact same concerns about college kids. It's always a pleasure to talk to someone who is on your wave length.
I came home to deal with homework and dinner prep and other news that dwarfed my day.