Sometimes opportunity doesn’t exactly knock. Sometimes it just rings the doorbell and runs away again before you can answer.
I was pleasantly surprised late one recent afternoon when I received an email from HuffPost Live, the online news network of the Hufffington Post. They were doing a segment on scent-related technology, and I was being invited as as a guest. If you check way back to the early mists of time on this web site, you’ll see that one of my early posts about a year-and-a-half ago was about the untimely demise of my sense of smell (anosmia) after an accidental encounter with white vinegar.
Don’t ask. You can go read it if you really want the gory details. It’s in the November 2011 archive.
Out of the blue
Still, that brief blog written shortly after the vinegar incident is the only thing I’ve ever written about it. I’ve given the matter little thought since then; certainly I’ve never pretended to be any sort of expert on the subject.
So the email came out of the blue as far as I was concerned, and I had to do a bit of a scramble just to remember when, exactly, I had written about it. I couldn’t remember what I’d said, either, so I had to print out the post so that I could read it over and highlight passages I thought might interest them.
I was a little apprehensive waiting for the appointed time of the live segment, hoping that the conversation wouldn’t stray too far from the two or three catchy phrases I wanted to share with the listening audience.
But I was ready. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the breakneck pace of our high-tech information age, it’s that the fast-paced world of journalism has no time for expert guests to hem and haw while they try to figure out their main idea. If someone needs a quote from you, he or she needs it now. Right now. Not five minutes from now, when you’ve had time to think about it. Right now as in right this second.
Ready … set … no go
Therefore, I had my key phrases highlighted, my main ideas memorized, by laptop camera poised at just the right angle to de-emphasize my double chin.
Then I waited.
The appointed time came and went–the featured speakers were introduced one by one–the lively conversation began, and I sat poised in front of the camera, smiling, waiting for a call that never came.
Was I disappointed? Sure I was. But there was a slight sense of relief as the discussion unfolded and I quickly realized I simply had never thought about the subject in the same detail as had the selected guests. Two were scientists who specialized in the olfactory system. Two were authors who had written entire books about anosmia compared to my meager 727-and-some words. The fifth guest was an artist with an entirely different perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. I would have done my level best to be articulate and interesting, and certainly I would have welcomed the exposure. We writers are grateful for any chance we can get to promote our work. But the selected guests were simply more immersed in the subject than I was, and therefore they were better for that particular segment.
It’s all good
Still, I am proud that something about my work stood out enough for the staff at HuffPost Live to consider me worth inviting. That feels like a pretty decent feather in my cap.
Meanwhile, I do have a host of subjects about which I have written extensively. Migraine, for instance, or sibling violence, or bullying, or sexual assault. Those are my areas of expertise. And someday, I hope some enterprising journalist will need an expert source on one of those areas, will comb the existing blogs and find something in my words that’s worth a second look, and come calling for my opinion.
And I won’t have to re-read anything I’ve written, and I won’t need a moment to collect my thoughts, because it’s all in my head.
When that happens–when opportunity gives my door a good solid knock–I’ll be ready.
One response to “Almost famous”
An expert with specific research is excellent and sometimes warranted. However, I think they are like shooting stars – bright for a moment and then BAM! they’re gone from sight. Perhaps the function of a generalist is to position themselves in the night sky and continue to twinkle as part of the ethereal whole, until somebody picks us out and names us for our constant sparkle and reliable light. We all have a place.