I drove my boss’ car today to get some Popeyes. It was my first time driving in Detroit. Did I just enter Detroit car culture? Turning into what seemed like 16 lanes of traffic on Gratiot felt like some kind of initiation. Otherwise, I’m handling cultural cues as well as I can in interviews, especially. I’m rephrasing questions and adding on as I see fit, based on my interviewee’s role with ONA. I’ve talked to some residents whose memories I don’t want to avoid hearing because my questions are too narrow; I’ve talked to a partner who has information and statistics on one specific period of ONA’s life, but not much sense of the Osborn community; I’ve talked to another partner who let flow entire theories and system-level thinking; and I’ve talked to a city-commissioned urban planner about what small community-based organizations should do, practically, to enter the ring for funding, which is unbelievably helpful and completely off my list of questions. These people reflect a range of ethnicities and experiences, and I notice that even my chat before and after the questions needs to be carefully and intuitively tailored to the person. It feels like a skill I can and should grow (as I cut off my third interviewee at the end of the call, misjudging their concluding tones, or whatever. Would love to get better at that and face-palm less.)
The other cultural cues I’m navigating, I’m not totally ready to put into words yet. In the office, with just the roughly four of us, we joke about my learning to cook from zero and my blindspot of technological skill in printing from my own computer. We look for our similarities and traits less touched by differences of class or life experience. It’s easygoing, and we’ll only get more comfortable being around each other and more probing in our conversations.