We arrived at the Uruguayan beach town, Punta del Diablo, at midnight, without having booked our hotel.
We were young; we were leaderless idiots.
Amid the hordes partying, we tromped with our backpacks. The reconnaissance we sent to the first hotel came out and reported:
“They said there are more hotels up this way.”
What they had really said was that this, the week after New Year’s, was the most packed week of the year, and that we would find nothing. We needed to get on the bus back to Montevideo.
We marched on, unknowing. One friend, who’d been drinking all day, grew more insistent that we all go to the bars, find people to hook up with, and crash with them.
Around 1 a.m. we seriously considered camping in a construction site, the walls half-finished. But I am a little b. about my sleeping arrangements. Baby needs a mattress.
In my desperation, I switched into Reporter Mode, a mindset of determination to solve a problem through relentless crowdsourcing.
I asked every single person we passed on the dark street. This meant approaching a stranger, unhinging the box to my humiliatingly undeveloped Spanish, and revealing that we morons were plan-less and bed-less.
Person after person shrugged, shook their head, and moved on to the bars, where we would have liked to have been. Reporter Mode can suck. It’s work. It’s awkward hellos. It’s dead ends.
But then, someone said, “perhaps.” They called a guy who called a guy.
At 2 a.m. we stood outside a thatch-roof A-frame, built by the man who rented it out and lived in the little room attached. My drunk friend tried to negotiate, and I laughed. We gladly paid $800 for the week.
In the morning light, we were able to appreciate the place. As a fan of quirky houses, I was delighted by its off-kilter floors, it’s top-side tiny sitting room with a view of the ocean and burns in the carpet. The indoor hammocks.
We would not have found this place without Reporter Mode. We would have asked hotels, stuck to the official, perhaps even turned back.
Reporter Mode says that humans are usually your answer. My client Joe always quotes the phrase, “Don’t ask how, ask who.” In the world of Google, we forget that we all walk around with our own personal folk wisdom, and that those around us have theirs, too.
If you’re struggling with a pitch or to find a story idea, if you’re looking for an opportunity or an agent, ask yourself what Reporter Mode might look like for you, and what could happen if you committed yourself to asking, and asking everyone, until you found what you were looking for.