Whether you’re chasing the head of BHP or the drummer for AC/DC, hacks can expect to spend a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring or the email to ping.
Ultimately, your interview subject has the power to decide when, where and if they speak to you. You can handle this in a few ways. Harass their publicists (who may very well be already on the case, trying to find out which New York hotel the star has passed out in). Phone them directly anyway. Use email. Quickly make a coffee in the kitchen and rush back to your desk.
Bounce your leg up and down in frustration under your desk, leading your colleagues to ask if you have restless leg syndrome. Swear. Do complex algebraic equations. Contemplate your mortality. Stare at the posters and art stuck to the walls of your pod, particularly that amusing graphic depicting the life cycle of a writer, which swings from joy (“Hoorah, I have a story”) to depression (“None of my friends and colleagues read my story – what am I doing with my life?”).
You may want to have some tactile object on your desk with which to take out your frustration. A stress ball is recommended – particularly when you hear that your subject is locked in a hotel room with a mound of cocaine which he is fashioning into the shape of the mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, leaving you to explain to your editor why you don’t have that page one for tomorrow’s paper. Suck a lolly if you’re feeling nervous (it works, apparently – don’t ask me how). Or use a pen to doodle and spiral as you hang on the phone with Telstra, who are attempting to connect your conference call.
Waiting to be connected is a good time to underline important quotes in press notes, key points in business press releases and anecdotes from the turgid biographies of sports stars. You never know what titbit might be useful when you finally speak to them (“Why, yes, my childhood ambition was to be a children’s clown/sumo wrestler/euthanasia advocate”).
Just remember not to lose your cool. Even if an interview slot is cancelled, they might get back to you with a new one. And don’t abuse the publicist, because you’re probably going to have to deal with them again some day … and they have long memories.
PS Re Godot. Why hasn’t someone made a Godot Action Figure by now?
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.