Do you pay attention?
October 22, 2017

We were recording another hour of the talk show a while back when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’d been excited to talk with my guest, who was full of energy and on a mission to change a part of the world that needs changing. But with every question I posed, the answers grew increasingly unsatisfying. It was as if the guest wasn’t playing along. It was going to be a long hour.

And what was that noise? A babbling brook in the background? Now it was my turn to be distracted. What was it? I scribbled a note to Darrell, whose guess was “traffic.” Our guest, he was sure, was driving.

When we took the first break and he mentioned the background noise, the driving stopped. The show started back up a minute or two later -- but this time around both of us were engaged. We had the sparkling, useful conversation I’d imagined.

Darrell and I have a policy. No interviews if the person is driving. We don’t even have a quick conversation with someone who’s driving if we can avoid it. I mean, it’s happened -- people don’t always let you know they’re driving, and when they do it’s often as you’re winding down. But as soon as we find out, we wind down quickly.

Maybe you’ve heard that a conversation with someone in your car isn’t as dangerous as the one with someone on the other end of a phone connection. That’s because whoever's with you serves as another set of eyes and ears.

How could you forgive yourself if something bad happened and you were the reason a driver was distracted? I’ve never thought of the talk show as a life-or-death proposition, and most of the time it isn’t. We’d like to keep it that way.