About two years ago, I decided to do what millions of college-aged kids have done since the days when Jesus and the Dirty Dozen toured as a traveling family band: print out a resume, put on the greatest pseudo-smile Monopoly money can buy and apply for a job.
Wearing an outfit that screamed "Attention everyone, I'm doing something very, very important today; that's why I stole this outfit from my father's closet," I walked down to 1105 W. University Ave., home of the Independent Florida Alligator. They were having their open house and hot damn wouldn't you know it, the sports section was hiring.
The sports guys didn't know it at the time, but the second coming of Al Michaels, the illegitimate love child of Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, was about to walk through the door and lay a smackdown of awesome on them. I had the metaphor magic of Rick Reilly, the drunk-uncle-at-Thanksgiving dinner brashness of Woody Paige and the ocular capabilities of Stuart Scott. I had the total package plus the "fuzzy" channels grandpa watches at 2 a.m.
I stuck to the playbook during my interview, an epic man-flirt session with three guys in a back room office. I sat up straight, kept my composure and didn't tell any Helen Keller jokes - not even the one about her pet dog! In one 15-minute sit-down, I spat out more stats than Bing Crosby's kids spat out teeth. "We good," I told myself.
But here's where the story goes Howard Dean. About 48 hours later, right after I had recovered from a weekend of celebrating my forthcoming coronation, I got this email:
"CJ - Thanks for applying for a position with Alligator Sports. Unfortunately, we can't..."
How could this ... wait a minute! Was it because I told them I liked Notre Dame? Did they find out that in six years of fantasy football I had yet to lock up a playoff victory (damn you, Steve Smith!)? Did someone leak them footage from my rec basketball league (think Jimmer Fredette under the influence of an elephant tranquilizer after having his kneecaps bludgeoned by a crowbar)?
Before I could put on "The Notebook," crawl under the blankets and sob while I took scoops of Ben and Jerry's "Chunky Monkey" to the face, I received another email, this time from the Alligator news desk. They had received my "second-string" application and were willing to give me a shot at some basic news stories, to be done for nothing more than an opportunity to get another one and a pat on the back if I was a good boy. My first byline came in a story about a sitcom launched by a UF improv group. It appeared right underneath the week's weather forecast.
But I kept at it. Over the next four semesters, I got to do things that don't normally come up in Friday night barstool talk. I got to meet everyone from city commissioners to U.S. congressmen, meth addicts to Mormon missionaries and everyone else in between. I've had the most bizarre, twisted definition of fun one can have with their pants on and a BAC clocking in at zero.
Now, as the editor-in-chief of the largest student newspaper in the United States, I, the backwards hillbilly from Brandon, Fla., who was told by his 8th grade teacher, a sexually repressed ex-nun with linebacker shoulders, that he wouldn't amount to anything, invite you to come by this Friday between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. for our open house.
You don't need to be God's gift to the written word. We're looking for help in all areas. It doesn't matter if you're a geek, a Greek or a Jesus freak, if you are looking to learn and gain some experience, we'll be happy to meet with you. Just bring a resume, writing samples and some ideas.
Oh yeah, and love America.
C.J. Pruner is a journalism senior and the editor-in-chief of the Independent Florida Alligator.