The On-Again-Off-Again Record

“Um...this is all off the record...right?”  The woman I’m interviewing looks up at me, eyes wide and white with split-second distrust.

Sigh, the life of a reporter. I click off my recorder, place my pen neatly down from its poised position and clasp my hands together tightly. As usual, we’re twenty minutes into an interview, and my interviewee is experiencing what I like to call “spoke-too-soon-remorse.”

“Yes, we’re off the record now, if that’s what you want,” I said to her with an upmost, polite-as-I-can smile. Sometimes I wish I could enter all of my interviews explaining that you can only take something “off the record” before you say it.

Perhaps then, my darling interviewees would think before they spoke. They would choose their words a little more carefully. They wouldn’t cast them so generously and recklessly before me and my reporter’s notepad like they were strands of Mardis Gras beads.

Luckily for my interviewees, I’m not a particularly vindictive writer. As many times as I have had the opportunity to “Woodward and Bernstein” someone because of a careless answer they’ve given me during an interview, I haven’t.

Because I’ve totally been there, too.

I’ve experienced the same wide-eyed, “I can’t believe I just said that,” shallow-breathy panic before. When words that I’ve spoken that can’t ever be taken back. And if you are immersed in any sort of social media site, chances are you have too.

Tweet for Tat: 140 Characters that Fired Back

“Brett, could you step into my office for a minute?” my old boss, the restaurant manager, said to me one evening.

“Sure!” I replied, as I cheerfully unlaced my server’s apron and followed my boss to the back of the house, and past the kitchen to his dingy, windowless office. Our restaurant’s fiscal quarter was coming to a close, and his special attention to me could only mean one thing: I was being promoted.

He motioned for me to sit, and I plopped in the chair in front of his desk, fidgety with excitement. I had been working twelve to sixteen hour shifts regularly. Covering for my coworkers when they were sick, coming in to work shifts on my days off. I had earned this.

“I have a few things I’d like to go over with you,” he said to me as he looked over his eyeglasses. He was shuffling through a few sheets of paper on his desk.

“I have here a few salacious tweets that came from a username, “thebrbb.” Is that you?” he asked.

Wuh oh.

I slowly nodded my head. My boss turned back to the pile of papers on his desk, and read off the top sheet.

“‘Pasta Night,’” he read. “‘The night that our restaurant tries to be the Olive Garden. Prayers please...’ did you write this?”

“Um, yes,” I stammered, feeling my face grow fifty shades of pink. Pasta night was the night each of the servers disdained working. Every Thursday night the restaurant would fill to the brim with swarms of children under the age of five--all of whom ate for free, wrecked the restaurant and spilled their juice or countless soda-refills, in-spite of their spill-free cups (yes, impressive, but annoying)--and the ever-low-tipping adults who belonged to them.

On Pasta Night, patrons could walk through the buffet line in our open kitchen and choose the pasta, sauce, protein and vegetables they wanted mixed together for their enjoyment. Like I said, made-to-order-Olive-Garden.

We all hated it. And each of us usually rebelled to the evening by posting some sort of cheeky, disdainful comment on our Facebook statuses or Twitter accounts. I had somehow overlooked the fact that my Twitter account was no longer set to “private.”