Julia Spencer-Fleming: I’ve known Hank Phillippi Ryan for mumbledy-some years now, and for as long as I’ve known her, I’ve been amazed at the sheer volume of stuff she manages to get done. She’s an investigative reporter for WHDH Boston. She writes mysteries. She has her own blog and contributes to two more. She tweets. She Facebooks. Somewhere in there, she must get her nails done and work out, because she always looks fabulous. And the really amazing part? She does it all well. She’s won 27 Emmys, ten Edward R. Murrow awards, and the Anthony, Agatha and Macavitiy awards.
I figured her secret was cloning, but it turns out it’s something more subtle than making multiple copies of herself. It turns out she’s living in her own time zone. Hank time. Here she is to tell you about it:
Television is all about time. Getting breaking news on in time. How much time there is until the next deadline. How much time they’ve allotted for your story. How much time there is until someone is going to tell you you’re late. There is no late in TV.
But if you want to know what time it is, don’t ask me. I only know what time it is for me.
I see you looking baffled. But here’s what I mean. I don’t know what time it really is—because I’m fooling myself about it. And somehow, it works. How can we fool ourselves? I mean, we should know, right?
For instance. The alarm clock-radio on my nightstand is set nine minutes fast. So when it rings at 7:30, the time I usually have to get up, I creak open my eyes, try to focus on the green numerals, and my brain yells: GET UP! It’s 7:30.
Then there’s a pause, while the other half of my brain happily reminds me that it’s really 7:21, and I delightedly hit the snooze.
Why? Why not just set the clock for the real time? Then set the alarm for, say 7:21, then hit the snooze for nine minutes and get up at the real 7:30?
Because then I don’t get the precious nine “extra” minutes of sleep.
There’s a clock in the bathroom where I do my hair and makeup—I set that one about 12 minutes fast. Here I’m fooling myself to get me to hurry up. I look at the clock, mid-mascara: it’s 8 o’clock already! I panic. Hurry! Then I realize it’s actually just twelve minutes until 8 o’clock, and I have plenty of time, and I can relax a bit. I’m no longer behind—I’m ahead.
I do it with the clock on my wall at the TV station where I work as a reporter—I set that fast, too, but it makes sense in the world of unmissable deadlines. I suppose. I can’t be late, so if the clock is fast, it’s less likely that’ll happen.
My husband says: why don’t you just set the clocks to the REAL TIME? And I see his point. Kind of. But faking myself out works for me.
I also fool myself with money. On payday, I enter the income into my not-so-perfect checkbook register—but I put the deposit amount as less than it really is. So I have a little pad.
I also hide money from myself in my wallet. The other day, I unzipped a little pouch on the side and there was the secret 20 dollars I had tucked there for emergencies. But I had forgotten it was there! So much for the emergency idea. But see—I’ve done that several times. And I always forget it’s there. Then I’m always delighted to find it.
Is reality so complicated and unmanageable that we have to fool ourselves into making it all work? My little self-trickery makes me happy, and it makes my life work very nicely.
Do you face reality? Or do you have your secret ways?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. A television journalist since 1975, she has won 27 Emmys and ten Edward R. Murrow awards for her work. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution.
A best-selling author of four mystery novels–the newest is DRIVE TIME–Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her crime fiction. Her newest thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN, is coming in hardcover from Forge in 2012. (Lee Child says: “I knew Ryan was good, but I had no idea she was this good!” Lisa Gardner says: “A rocket ride of a thriller! Brava!” )
She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Washington Bureau, worked on the political column “Capitol Chatter” and organized presidential campaign coverage for Hunter S. Thompson. She began her TV career anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in her home town of Indianapolis and then Atlanta.
She and her husband, a nationally renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live just outside Boston, Massachusetts.