Whole Lotta Phone Calls Goin’ On by Ben Fong-Torres
In the Facebook box that asks “What’s on your mind?” I announced, the other day, “I'm supposed to be writing a book, but went & moderated a panel for the Broadcast Legends – including Hall of Famer Jon Miller. Fun. Tomorrow — Friday -- 5 to 7 pm -- I'm working the phones for KNTV (Ch. 3)'s fundraiser for the victims of the Japan earthquake. If you can, tune in, call in and ask for me. I'll do Elvis, Dino,
Dylan for you. Anything to get a few more dollars for the relief effort.”
As always, I got lots of supportive comments, of which my favorite was this, from author Susanne Pari: “This is all good, Ben, but I know writing avoidance tactics when I see them.”
Then Larry LeBlanc chipped in: “Yeah, we writers are like that.”
Yes, we are. But the earthquake relief fund was well worth falling behind a few pages. When I showed up at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Northern California’s building, where the phone bank had been set up, the tote board showed about $77,000 donated since 7 a.m.
It was now almost 5, and, as I took my seat, alongside TV journalists James Hattori and Wendy Tokuda, and playwright Philip Kan Gotanda and his wife, director Diane Takei (she directs plays; not her husband), and JCCNC board member Rumi Okabe, the phones went silent. It was 5 o’clock; the station hadn’t plugged the fundraiser; people were still at work or on the road.
We socialized, and some of us made calls to friends to pull in donations. We practiced looking like we were on the phone, for when NBC Bay Area/KNTV’s reporter did a live report. But the station didn’t mention the phone number, so we twiddled our thumbs again until the 6 o’clock news. The number was flashed.
Suddenly, the phones began ringing and we were at it non-stop, getting people’s credit card and other info and answering questions they might have about their donations. Runners took our completed forms...