Ask Away

The other day, I overheard a man saying that when he meets someone who has recently moved to Portland, he gives the newcomer “The 30 Second Challenge.” He tells them to stand on a corner, looking confused, for just half of a minute. He guarantees the person that within that time, at least one person walking past in this sympathetic Stumptown will offer to help with directions.

Fortunately, this man’s quaint experiment has proven true, because to be frank, I hate asking questions. After spending my life doing everything within my power to avoid them, you can imagine (and hopefully relate to) my utter panic in moving to a new city to start a new internship, without access to Siri nonetheless. What does the word new bring? It brings questions. Here’s how I’ve made them count during my first three weeks as an editorial intern in good old PDX:

1. I’ve realized there is such a thing as a stupid question.

My internship supervisor is busy, so before asking him how many spaces I should put in my snazzy new email signature, I decided to instead use the intern manual.

2. I’ve learned to write things down.

Why I accepted a work call in the hallway after locking my notebook and pen inside the office, I’ll never know. But having to call the person I was talking to in order to re-ask the questions I already presented was embarrassing. I’ve learned not to get so flustered with curiosity that I forget to soak in the results.

3. I’ve seen that people actually like answering questions.

After thanking the publication’s veteran intern approximately two thousand times for responding to my cluelessness, she kindly (firmly) told me to shut up. She said that when she was a new intern, the old pros guided her and she appreciated the chance to help someone else learn the ropes.

My new Rose City internship has taught me to do my research, to remember the answers I’ll need, and not to fear asking the past masters for some quick advice because they’ll probably be glad I did.

Tamara Feingold

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5 Responses to Ask Away

  1. pdxsx says:

    Good job, Tamara! That old gentleman was right, people in this town will offer to help without being asked – it’s very quirky. Good job on figuring out the ropes and learning from your mistakes. Everyone gets to be the new person at an organization at least once. 🙂


  2. katshannon says:

    Well put Tamara, I really like this post. I completely understand the fear and avoidance of questions; which is frankly just not possible anymore. I think your three points are awesome and very true. And I agree that good questions are great because you get to learn something you didn’t already know (otherwise why would you ask?).

  3. I love this post. It’s very relatable and I feel like I just realized many of the same things. I recently realized my memory isn’t as great as I thought it was. Now I try to carry my pen and notepad at all times.

  4. cmckee2 says:

    Nice post! Sometimes I find asking questions can be intimidating, but it’s better than not knowing what you’re doing. Maybe I should try the 30 second challenge for myself…

  5. I too have learned how to ask questions, even though I hate asking them. And you are so right about taking notes, but also it is important to remember where you wrote something down. The skattered pieces of paper on my desk are hard to find things on, I’ve been using Stickies on my computer for my internship to-do list.

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