Just over a week into my first big girl job I found myself chasing a street sweeper in low heels and a dress. I was on the brink of sweating from the extra excursion caused by the nice clothes in combination with the hot July sun. My illusions about the glamour of the job shattered with each loud clap of my heels against the pavement.
I took a reporting job just over a week before this race took place. Freed from the restraints of simple press releases this was my first real story and it was not going according to plan. It sounded simple. My editor wanted me to write a piece on what street sweepers actually do since there are a lot of misconceptions about the topic. I set up a meeting with the Street Superintendent as soon and I could and planned to have the story done the day after my interview.
I walked into the Street Department office with our photographer, pen and recorder in hand, ready for my first interview as a real journalist. That’s when the wild goose chase started. The Superintendent radioed the man in the street sweeper and gave us the names of a few streets the sweeper was near and off we went. Since I was new to the area I had to program the streets into my slow-thinking Garmin GPS and it took us awhile to track down our target.
When we finally located him we parked our cars, I grabbed my notebook and we started after him. Judging by the speed he was traveling when we drove passed, I was shocked by how much ground we had to make up just from parking our cars. After wildly waving our arms to no avail, the chase began.
We caught him three streets later and the photographer hopped up inside for pictures. I walked awkwardly behind the machine not really sure if they would come back for me or if I should follow. The photographer finished and left and I finally conducted the interview, pretending I wasn’t frazzled and mildly sweaty. Relieved when the interview concluded, I turned to go back to my car only to be informed this man was not the normal street sweeper.
A week later the story finally ran. I tracked down the home phone number of the regular sweeper and asked him a few questions before sending the story through. Seeing my name in the paper was far less exciting than I had imagined after the debacle was over.
Looking back I can laugh at the incident and I think it was a good learning experience for me as new reporter. But if you would have asked me about it the day after the chase I probably would not have even cracked a smile. It’s all about perspective.