Today I experienced my two almost-worst case scenarios while conducting interviews for my research.
1) Forced to drink coffee
I do not drink coffee. I don’t like the taste and the caffeine makes me jittery. When given a choice, I always ask for tea. However, sometimes in Lithuania, I am not given a choice and am simply served coffee. Worse yet, it is usually coffee made by putting a large scoop of coffee grounds in the bottom of a cup and pouring boiling water over it. The only saving grace is that the cups are typically small and I can add a lot of sugar. This morning, at the beginning of an interview, I was served a large mug of this type of coffee. The interviewee had fortunately added a bit of sugar, but didn’t bring out a sugar bowl. Out of politeness, I drank a few sips — but he kept insisting that I drink my coffee while we were talking. I managed to drink the entire mug without grimacing, but five hours later I still feel jittery. I might not sleep at all tonight. That, however, was the least of my problems…
2) Dead batteries
At the end of the interview, my digital recorder started flashing “low battery.” I removed the old batteries, opened a pack of new batteries and put them in. I happened to have a second interview immediately following the first one. During the second interview, I paused the recorder and it turned off. When I turned it back on, it flashed “low battery.” I was surprised, since I had just put in new batteries. I took those out and put in the other two batteries from the new package. We continued talking and, about ten minutes later, I noticed that the recorder had turned itself off. I had no other batteries and quickly began taking more extensive notes as my interviewee kept talking. I didn’t want to keep interrupting due to technological difficulties. Fortunately, we were close to the end of the conversation and most of it was recorded.
The new batteries were Philips batteries and well within their expiration date. I made sure to buy a name brand rather than the cheap ones. They are, however, zinc carbon batteries rather than alkaline batteries. I don’t know what the difference is, but perhaps my digital recorder doesn’t accept zinc-carbon batteries. After the interview, I immediately went and bought two packages of Duracell alkaline batteries so that I am prepared for tomorrow’s interviews.
My biggest fear in interviewing is that I would forget to turn on the recorder and discover that I had gone through a whole interview without noticing that it was not recording (and therefore not take thorough notes). That truly would be the worst case scenario. So far, I’ve been observant and haven’t made that mistake — knock on wood.