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Not punctual? Try improvising, and don't panic.

Byline: Pawel Z. BINCZYK


The first piece of advice I would give to the aspiring journalist would be to stress the importance of punctuality.

I was five minutes late, and I knew it. What's more, I was fairly certain that my editor also knew it. And so, when my cell phone began suddenly shrieking at 9:05 a.m. in the elevator up to the Telegram & Gazette city room last Friday, it was with resigned expectation that I read the caller ID: "City Desk."

To a student journalist, such communications from higher authorities are similar in importance to Moses realizing that his burning shrubbery is trying to make conversation.

"I was hoping to catch you still in your car," the editor said, as the elevator arrived at my floor and I stepped out, giving him a wave from across the room.

Even if a congenial discussion on punctuality had been planned, there was no time to have it. A call from state Rep. Lewis G. Evangelidis, R-Holden, had, minutes earlier, informed the city desk that a delegation of state legislators was about to tour Wachusett Mountain and was expected to be there only until 10 a.m. I was to drive there as quickly as possible and provide press coverage.

Having moved to Worcester only four weeks earlier, my first question was fairly standard: "Where am I going?" I was told that Wachusett Mountain State Reservation is about 35 minutes away. It was now 9:15 a.m.

"Don't speed, especially in Princeton," my editor advised.

I had 45 minutes to get there, find a group of legislators touring 3,000 acres of forest, and still have time left over to interview at least one of them. Were I to give a second piece of advice to my fellow interns, it would be to heed the immortal words of writer Douglas Adams: "Don't panic."

Despite my editor's warning, I instantly chose to view speed limits as speed suggestions, and while I fully support the work of our fine police officers, I am still glad not to have met any that morning.

After a wrong turn at the Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, I arrived at the state reservation with only minutes to spare.

Bursting into the visitors center, I pounced upon the first employee I saw and bombarded her with a flurry of questions about delegations, legislators and itineraries. The friendly young lady sitting behind the welcome desk kindly informed me that she did not know what I was talking about.

After a minute or so, however, she remembered that a group had held a meeting in the visitors center a little earlier and had just taken off on a tour of the reservation in a large white van.

I realized with a sense of relief that the delegation was most likely behind schedule and ran back to my car to give chase. With all six cylinders of my decade-old Chrysler sedan roaring, I took off up the winding, unfamiliar roads that encircle the reservation.

Like Alice chasing the white rabbit, I first scrambled up and then tumbled down the mountain in search of the van, still not even entirely sure what I would say or do when I actually found it. Back at the office, my editor had explained to me that the legislators were meeting to discuss funding for renovations at the reservation. As my car's shock absorbers groaned under the stress of some particularly patchy pavement, I considered the positive results such funding would bring.

My trip around the mountain led me back to the visitors center and yielded no large white vans. I was in trouble.

If I had a third piece of advice to share with my peers, it would most likely be to keep in mind, always, that any problem can be solved with a hastily improvised solution.

I began at this point to leave my phone number with every person I came into contact with, including the young woman working at the welcome desk. Some of them might be reading this column, and I wish to thank them for not calling the police when I pulled up to them, asked if they had seen a large white van, yelled my phone number at them and then sped off.

After I had made another loop of the mountain, a hiker I pulled up to suggested that I try the summit, which in my hurry I had not thought to look for. The summit offered two breathtaking views: one of beautiful Central Massachusetts, my new home, visible in all directions, and the other of a white Massachusetts Audubon Society van slowly filling up with legislators who were almost finished with their tour.

Suddenly, life became very easy.

By noon, I was back in the office, notebook stuffed with quotes, notes and informational handouts. Two hours later, the story was on the editor's desk, and I was refueling my car for the next day's surprises.

With the lessons of that day still in mind, I'd like to offer my final suggestion, especially to the recently graduated. Life and work are stressful sometimes, but take time to stop for a moment and see the fun and the humor in what you're doing. And if you do happen to become a reporter, your editor might even let you write a column about it.

Contact Pawel Z. Binczyk at
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 29, 2007
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