There's a whole list of rules for crafting a good story. They were hand-written by the DCN's Editor Russ Mitchell in black dry erase marker on the whiteboard a long time ago, and they continue to hold true. Of course, there's a litany of writing tips he's shared that didn't make whiteboard status. One of them being, "Take yourself out of the story." That's natural for some writers but not so much for others. Don't say you walked into the room and were stunned by what you saw. Describe what you saw, because the story isn't about you. The job is to tell other people's stories.
That is until their story overlaps mine.
There's no way around this one. I'm keeping myself in this story. Luckily, one is afforded more leeway in a column than an article (plus another writing tip uttered in the newsroom is "I'll follow style rules until I can do something better by breaking them) so here we go.
I had just finished a few interviews west of Milford for a story I was working on this week. I crossed the street, winced at the creak my car door still makes, sat down, shut the door (more creaking), dropped my camera bag in the passenger seat and set my notepad on my knee. With my head down, I began to clean my notes up from absolute chicken scratch to semi-legible scribbles. I barely registered a truck that passed by, which then came to a stop at the intersection just a few yards in front of me.
Then the sputtering started.
The truck didn't move. It just let loose the all too familiar whine of an engine that refuses to turn over for love nor money as my dad would say. Now, I've driven some less than trustworthy cars in my life, and I knew sometimes it can take a couple tries to breath some life into an engine block. I decided I'd give the guy two more tries before I got out to see if he needed help.
I made a few more pen strokes and, by the time I looked up again, a group of men — some of whom I had just finished interviewing and some of whom I didn't recognize — was crossing the street hastily to offer assistance. So I took my cue from them and got out to help. There were enough of us there to push the truck with ease while the driver steered it to the curb and parked it behind my car.
The driver didn't need much. He thanked us and said he could walk back to get another car for himself. And that was that. Everyone went back to what we were doing without a second thought.
I think that's significant. The casualness with which help came speaks volumes about our community. It's freely given. Nothing is expected in return. It's never a bother, it's always appreciated and it's never far away. That's a pretty fair demonstration of what happens in a truly close community.
Thanks for setting an example fellas.