He should have known better than to whistle. He’d probably jinxed it. In the news business, things rarely go as well as one hopes. Maybe there’s a curse on it — the business, I mean. Maybe newsrooms aren’t supposed to be filled with happy sunny people who fucking whistle on their way to work. That never sell papers.
But Marc didn’t realize this just yet. He puttered at his desk for a bit. It was in a corner of the cavernous newsroom, about as far away from a window as it was possible to get without running afoul of workplace safety standards. On his desk sat a phone (a “phone”, children, was at the time an object connected to the wall by a wire), and answering machine (yes, they used to be their own separate thing, recording messages on tiny cassettes you’d have to rewind; you have no idea how much society has progressed in the last few decades, do you), a cup full of pens, and a Mac computer. In a fit of fancy the editor-in-chief had agreed reporters could get the new colorful ones, too. It made the newsroom look like a Christmas tree, but remarkably less joyful.
There was also, right there on his desk, half of a sandwich he’d never seen before in his life. Because journalists.
He went down to the fourth floor for a fresh cup of coffee, and as always wondered why he couldn’t be bothered to cross the street instead. They’d just opened a new Presse Cafe that served espresso, which was a darn sight better than the liquid tar the grumpy hairnet humanoid behind the counter poured out of a stained pot. Oh well. He checked his messages again. Nothing. He’d really have to start working, then. See where that led him. To perdition, surely. That’s what his parents would say if they still talked to him.
He wasn’t sure what time prostitutes went to work, but he figured 11 am was as good a bet as any. There must be customers chasing their lunchtime demons. “Squeezing in a quickie” would be a good headline on a column, he thought. Yeah. Anyway.
If there’s something worse for a reporter than having no lead, it’s having leads that don’t pick up their phone when you call them. Marc sat there and dialed and waited and did all the right telephone things yet by 12:30 he still had nothing to show for his efforts. He was more than half-way through his list already. Were there human beings behind those enticing ads? Or were they already so busy selling their bodies they unhooked their phone? Maybe they were still in bed? Not a clue.
A few of them had answering machines, but Marc felt this wasn’t the sort of relationship that ought to start with a recorded message on a tiny cassette you have to rewind.
The half-sandwich was still on his desk, unclaimed. So he ate it. Because journalists.
Then a near-miracle happened. Someone picked up the phone. It was a hoarse voice, but it spoke, sort of.
“Oh, hi! My name is Marc Lalonde and I work for the Montreal Gazette…”
A normal human would have been discouraged by this lack of reception. But media types are not normal (the jury’s still out on whether they’re human). Getting hung up on is like hitting the turbo switch for them. Marc started dialing with gusto.
“Is this a joke?” said one before hanging up.
YES!!! Progress! He almost hit jackpot with the next one. “You want to talk? OK honey, that’s cute. It’ll be $100 for 45 minutes and you do the talking.”
He could tell he was getting closer.