I’m 100% extroverted. I’ve never had any problems talking to people, performing on stage, and making my face known. What a surprise this project would be to me. For two weeks I carried the compact Towson University flip camera in my purse without using it, constantly telling myself that I would make the short drive into Baltimore today but then end up going back into dorm due to nerves. On November 11th, 2009 I drove into Baltimore talking to myself in the car, rehearsing my camera voice. I’m from Boston, so as soon as I got into downtown Baltimore I immediately compared it to my hometown. I felt uncomfortable and out of place walking down the unknown streets. The rain drove people indoors, so I had no luck finding people willing to be interviewed on the streets. There was one man, however, who was following me around. I finally approached him and asked him if he wouldn’t mind being asked a few questions concerning President Obama and the effects of his election. As soon as the word “election” came out of my mouth the man cringed his face and responded, “I don’t vote. I have a right not to vote, and I use it.” With that statement he tightened his grip around his rolled up newspaper and walked away. Surprisingly, this interaction did not discourage me.
I found a little shop with a few people inside working on damaged furniture. The store was called Maurice’s House of Art. I made some small talk with one of the employees and after he gave me the company’s card I asked him if I could interview him, very awkwardly. When does it become like second nature to talk to strangers? I wondered if all anthropologists conducting fieldwork still felt uncomfortable or awkward at times in new circumstances. The employee directed me towards his manager in the back room saying that I should interview him instead.
He seemed like a busy man with piles of papers strewn across his desk. He seemed perfectly willing to be interviewed. Although he did not want his face to be on camera, I recorded his voice. As soon as I sat down and asked the first question the uncomfortable feeling faded. He had a lot to say. As the interview progressed he made a comment that President Obama’s election extended privileges to the African American community. Wow, but I thought we were all equal? Right? It was at this point that, in my mind, this assignment became a little more than just a homework assignment. I was genuinely curious about his thoughts. Genuinely interested in his ideas. When I look back on the footage, I would have loved to sit and talk with him a while longer to ask him more questions. At the end of the interview I was simultaneously relieved that it was over because the nerves were coming back again, but I was also excited to possibly find other people to interview. The sky was still dark and there were no people outside when I left Maurice’s store. I went down a few streets, took a few turns, found my car and drove back to Towson. Those streets didn’t feel so unknown to me anymore.