Last week’s post about the time I interviewed Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig got a whole bunch of old cogs turning in my head and memories I’d long since forgotten have been playing all jerky and in sepia tones at the weirdest times.
The one where I ‘interviewed’ the then minister of arts and culture, Dr. Zwelidingo Pallo Jordan, jumped randomly into my head outta nowhere and I burst out laughing in the middle of a teleconference call with Ireland.
I was 22 years old at the time and facing the biggest hair crisis of my young life. During varsity I cut my hair about four times in as many years. I looked like a roadie for Metallica, which was great, at varsity.
Back in the real world (ie Joburg) people looked at me like I was something that had dribbled out of a garbage bag they had just lifted from the bin.
So I reluctantly agreed, in the interest of securing gainful employment, to get a haircut. But the next question I faced was what kind of haircut? At that stage in my life I’d only had 3 – a ‘pot cut’ from when I was born up until I was about 13, then a middle parting throughout highschool and then shoulder-length, greasy, grunge-rock hair from when I arrived at varsity till when I left.
Stupidly, I told the hairdresser to keep it pretty long and defaulted to the middle parting I’d worn back in highschool.
It was fucking cringe-worthy. Remember Will Ferrell in ‘One Night At The Roxbury’? No? Let me jog your memory.
Yeah, it was that bad.
So anyway, the group of journalists I was working with at the time managed to set up an interview with the Minister himself, ol’ Zwelidingo, at the ministry in Pretoria and so we set out early one morning to get there by 9 and conduct an ‘interview’ with him (ie. try to sell him advertising in the bullshit report we were compiling).
In order to make what we were doing look legit, there were a number of essential tools we used, such as:
- Expensive-looking suits (ties and all)
- A thoroughly researched list of interview questions (no shit, if we didn’t at least get this part right, no one would take us seriously enough to buy advertising)
- A ridiculously overpriced ratecard and legal documents that were anything but
- A dictaphone that used tiny old-school tapes, and
- A digital camera that took fucking crap pictures
About halfway to Pretoria, my colleague, a Hawaiian guy in his thirties called Steve asked me if I’d brought spare batteries for the camera at which point I froze rigid.
‘What?’ he said, ‘Don’t tell me you forgot spare batteries.’
‘I didn’t forget spare batteries,’ I said, still rigid.
‘I forgot the camera.’
‘Oh, what the fuck dude?! What the fuck are we supposed to do? We can’t go back now, we’re nearly there, the interview’s in 20 minutes!’
‘Fuck, just relax, that thing takes fucking useless pictures anyway, we’re not going to use one fucking picture we’ve taken so far, they’re all shit.’
‘Yeah, but that’s not the fucking point! The fucking point is to look like we’re journalists and journalists take fucking pictures! God! How could you forget the fucking camera!’
‘Stop being such a prick about it I’m sorry! What else do you want me to say! I’m sorry! Fuck! At least I remembered…’
‘What? What is it?’
‘Don’t say that. Don’t say ‘oh fuck’ like that.’
‘Dude. I forgot the dictaphone.’
We were royally screwed. We had no choice but to keep our eyes peeled for an electronics store on the way to the interview and though we found two, neither of them had dictaphones.
This left us with only one option, call the Minister’s PA, explain that our dictaphone was broken and find out of the ministry didn’t have one we could borrow.
She said she’d see what she could do. I still remember sitting in the ministry foyer, nervous as hell, jiggling my leg, drumming my fingers, praying for a miracle.
While we were sitting there waiting a man with a giant ghetto blaster walked past us and into the PA’s office.
I looked at Steve. Steve looked at me. His leg started jiggling.
‘Are you sure this will work?’ we asked the PA moments later.
‘It should – it has a record button and we found a clean tape you can record on, just make sure you sit close to it.’
And that’s how, on a random Tuesday morning, I ended up walking into the Minister of Arts and Culture’s office dressed in a 3-piece with a fucking terrible haircut and a ghetto blaster.
‘Ehhhh,’ the Minister said, frowning, not entirely sure what the fuck was going on, ‘are you going to play me a song?’
Believe it or not, it gets worse.
The ghetto blaster had the shortest cable known to man and no batteries, so in order for us to all be close enough to it so that we could actually record what was being said, we had to rearrange the fucking furniture in the minister’s office so that we could all sit at the boardroom table, around the gheto blaster.
Thank fuck Steve was with me, he kept the Minister occupied with polite banter while I made sure the tape was rewound, hit record/play and started saying ‘testing, testing’ in a voice loaded with the kind of quiet desperation people usually reserve for prayer.
I hit stop. The loud sound of the spring-loaded buttons snapping up made the room so silent. I hit rewind. Everyone’s attention was riveted on the gheto blaster. It got to the end of the tape and I hit stop again.
I shut my eyes. With a trembling finger I pressed play. The tape spools started turning and the next thing I new, clear as day we all heard…
The record/play buttons on the blaster were for recording CDs, or maybe even, if you were feeling daring, the radio, but that was it.
‘Um,’ Steve said as he realised how fucked we were, ‘Minister. I’m so sorry about this, but I think we’re going to have to reschedule…’
‘What magazine did you say you were from again?’ The Minister asked, too baffled at this point to be angry.
‘British Airways. HighLife Magazine,’ I replied, blushing blood-red.
‘Well that settles it then.’
‘Settles what?’ Steve asked nervously.
‘I want free flights. British Airways.’
I looked at Steve. Steve looked at me. I gave up. So did Steve.
‘Free flights,’ I said, ‘you got it.’
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how NOT to interview the minister of arts and culture, and yes, there will be a quiz later 😉
Have a killer day.