by Annette Schwindt
Covering for the culture editor has always been my favourite during my practical training at the newspaper. Music, literature, art… all those things I also cared about in my free time. And as there are many strange people among artists the phone calls always had a special fun-factor. Except one that I’ll probably never forget…
It was a very busy day, my desk almost bent because of invitations, announcements and texts from freelancers that I had to sort out. The telephone rang. On the other end of the line was a director of music, who was leading a classical orchestra in town.
“Got it?” was how he introduced himself. “You know?” he continued. “I’ve sent it!”
Erm… yes, but… what exactly was he talking about?
“Well the fax! ME! I have sent this to you!” he announced, surprised that I couldn’t read his thoughts.
Before I could even get to explain him that we had hundreds of faxes coming in every hour and that his one hadn’t been brought to my desk yet, he demanded “Go! Get it! Cause, there’s an error in there”, he explained full of guilt.
Well okay then, I went to get it.
Then I had it on my desk. It was an announcement for a concert.
So where exactly was the mistake?
“Well, THERE, you see?” he asked me as if he was standing beside me and pointing at the paper. “THERE, third paragraph, no? THERE, second sentence from the bottom…”
“THERE! Two sentences above!”
“THERE! It says: ‘…be pleased to welcome you in the concert hall’, right?
Would he finally get to the point?
“There’s a comma missing!”
Was he serious? THAT was why he called me? I thanked him politely but had to explain to him that he didn’t have to call for something like that as all the texts were amended before getting printed.
“Yeah, but that’s not the only mistake!” he justified himself all offended.
Well then… Was there some wrong date in there or wrong time, name of any musician spelt the wrong way?
“NOOO!” he raged fustrated over my continued ignorance of the thoughts that were so crystal-clear to himself.”THERE! Look!”
I was a good girl and looked.
“THERE! See? THERE it says: ‘The entry is for free COMMA we would be pleased to receive donations though.’ Got that?”
I got that and explained to him that this comma now was in the right place.
“NO! It should have been a semicolon!”
After I had survived this phone call, the man didn’t contact me for a long time. Until one day I covered for the culture editor again and the telephone rang…
“Got it?” a well known voice asked me.
Oh no! Not him again! But this time I already had the fax in front of me and could go through it looking for commas and semicolons. I was quickly having a look over the text in order to find out where the ‘error’ could hide this time when my caller was already about to hang up murmuring delighted: “NO! I just wanted to know if you got it!”