Name of Interview: Meryl Evans
Date Interviewed: May 12, 2002
Location: Plano, TX
Miles Travelled: Part of Dallas Trip (1551 Plane, 477 Car)
DV Tapes Filled: 1 Hour

Don't ask me how this happened, but I didn't realize Meryl was deaf until an hour or two before the interview. I hadn't picked it up in the letter she'd sent me to register, and it wasn't until I was going over my notes before driving over that she mentioned her husband would likely pick up the phone if I called. Not that it ultimately matters; I just didn't know and I hadn't even thought if I would conduct the interview differently.

I had to modify my interview method one slight way: I have a habit of walking around taking pictures while questioning people (which is probably pretty disconcerting to some) and in Meryl's case I couldn't turn my head away from her and keep asking questions, because she wouldn't be able to read my lips. I think I did it twice anyway, just out of habit. As a result, there aren't many photos of Meryl here, and they're all pretty much taken when the camera wasn't rolling.

Meryl speaks to communicate, with the taught construction of sounds formed even though she can't hear them. By a really, really strange coincidence, I'd spent an hour the previous day listening to an NPR story in which the main subject was a woman who was deaf and spoke with the same taught construction of sounds. The story was fascinating so I'd listened intently and had learned really quickly how to understand the slight difference in syllables. As a result, even though I'd had no idea that Meryl would speak this way, I'd had an entire practice session the previous day! Now that's luck.

I asked Meryl if it was OK if I subtitle her answers, and she agreed. When you subtitle someone speaking english with english, it could be interpreted that you're saying the person doesn't speak english well enough to be understood on their own. This is not the case with Meryl; she's entirely understandable (a very clear speaker) but if you get a sound bite of her she'll be off the screen before your ear adjusts. Of course, there's an excellent chance we'll not even use subtitles and just have her "straight". But I wanted to ask permission beforehand.

Meryl also inspired me to guarantee, firmly and soundly, that this documentary will have subtitles; Meryl's going to enjoy the thing as much as everyone else, I promise.

We talked about the BBSes she ran, about the people she met through them, and about her experiences online. I don't know why I have a problem with this, but I find it creepy and wrong to focus on the "unusual" aspect of a person who used a BBS. Sure, Meryl was both female and deaf, which made her rather rare in the context of BBSes, but to make every single question revolve around that aspect of her would be limiting and foolish, in my opinion. So we covered the experience of running her BBS, of having people help her set it up and later crashing it, and of the difference between her BBS when it was in Texas and the time she spent on the East Coast.

Also, her husband did an excellent job of keeping little youthful hands from attacking my camera and lights, which they naturally wanted to do. Kudos.