Let me tell you about the first real article I ever wrote for a newspaper. Unsurprisingly, this story overlaps with my first ever all-nighter.
Second semester, freshman year of college. After spending the previous semester writing exclusively first-person essays, I had my first real bit of 'news': The nursing department obtained some new training equipment through a grant and I was to cover it. Rather cut-and-dry and boring, but I was a happy little puppy when I left the office, finally with an assignment.
I wouldn't take a journalism class until the next year. All of my writing up to this point had either been MLA composition or free-for-all creative writing. I had always been an okay writer and that was the problem. I could write, but I hadn't considered the technical differences between a seven page paper on serial killers for composition class and a newspaper piece. Don't mistake this for confidence. It was all dumb naivety.
I met with a representative from the nursing department for an interview. I brought five pens and a full blank notebook. And wouldn't you know it, she was just so easy to talk to, like a friend, and so nice. Interviewing wasn't about asking tough questions- it was just talking! Talk, talk, talk, about life and nursing and oh yes, nursing is very hard, my mother is one, so I know, and my aunts too, and la la la, this new equipment is very important, la la la, something something about the grant funding, la la la.
"Oh, and one last little thing," she said as we wrapped up. "Do you think you could e-mail me a copy of the article before it goes to print?"
"Oh." I was stunned. "Um, I guess so?" I thought it was strange, but she so nice that I didn't want to not be nice back. Embarrassing to say I was still concerned with such crap at 18, but it's true.
Deadline was Friday, and as I do when I'm nervous about something I need to write, I procrastinated. I was terrified that if I didn't get it to them as soon as possible on Friday, it wouldn't run, and my nerves kept me from concentrating. After a few sentences in which I announced the nursing department's good fortune, I was stuck. I kept going back over my handwritten notes, trying to extract an extra morsel or two of anything. What more was there to say? They got new equipment, THE END. Still, I knew that I couldn't just hand in a couple of paragraphs, so I unpacked my adjectives. Fantastic! Helpful! Necessary!
My anxiety increased with the hours, until bleary-eyed, I emailed it at 3:45 a.m. But there's no sleep for a worried freshman. I was afraid if I went to bed that I wouldn't wake up for my 9 a.m. photography class. I worked on a class paper until it was time to trudge to the other side of campus. I had never truly stayed up all night before; even at my most insomniac, I still got a few hours of sleep. My ass hurt from hours in my desk chair and my eyes were dry from staring at the computer screen for so long. I didn't drink coffee back then and I truly cannot remember how I went on without it.
It was after photography when I was eating lunch with a friend that the editor-in-chief tracked me down. "We need to talk," she said. "Meet me back in the office."
She started off by slapping on the desk a printed copy of the e-mail I sent with 3:45 a.m. circled. "First off, why the hell are you sending this so late at night?"
"I wanted to make sure you got." I knew that was the stupidest thing I could say as soon as that came out of my mouth. Admitting that I e-mailed a copy of it to the nursing department was also a mistake.
"Never, ever, ever send anyone a copy before it runs. Ever."
Then she went over every error, each eyesore circled in red.
"You wrote out every number. You don't do that. It's 13, not thirteen."
"This sentence is in passive voice. Don't do that. The less words, the better."
"Why are you using adjectives?!"
Eventually I had to admit that I never took a journalism class. She gave me a copy of the AP Stylebook off the bookshelf and told me to study it. She also found something of interest in how the grant was obtained and called up the nursing department to ask a few more questions. I was to come along to see it was done.
One of the most uncomfortable moments of my life was sitting in that conference room with the editor and the nursing rep I had previously chatted like an old friend-- not interviewed, let's get real. I'm older now than the editor was at the time, but I'm nowhere near as tough. She didn't hold back, firing questions with confidence and authority. With the editor, the nursing rep was a different person, defensive and quiet. The only witness to this awkwardness was the tape recorder sitting on the table between them, something which I neglected to bring the first time around (Editor: "What do you mean you didn't tape record the interview?").
There turned out to be no shady business with the grant. We went back to the newspaper office and I worked on the article under the editor's guidance. Around 3 p.m., I finally made it back to my dorm and immediately passed out. I woke up hungry six hours later in complete darkness.
Tempted as I am to only play up my mistakes, I don't think that'd be fair. I was a kid. A trusting, eager-to-please kid, the kind who are pushed over by niceness. Looking back, that editor taught me that the threat of seeming not nice should never get in the way of doing a good job. Unfortunately, it took a few more lessons for this kid to get it.
One thing did stick right away. A week later, I bought my own tape recorder.
- Clipping his own toenails.
- Signing me up for catalogs, magazines and mailing lists.
- Skypeing with his friend and former roommate ("Mousie, I wish you were here so we could watch Pretty Little Liars together." "I know, Harold. Steal a bit of cheese off her plate for me.")
- Trying on scarves, practicing his French accent, blowing kisses into the mirror.
- Sampling the tea stash (we're low on raspberry... again).
- Meowing into fans so it comes out sounding like meeeeeoooooooooowowowowowowowow.
- Rearranging important yet mundane items (scissors, tape, flashlight, batteries), so they can never be found in emergencies.
- Playing hide and seek with himself.
- Staring into the sunset, thinking about the futility of life and how lucky he is to never get a sunburn.
Currently, all evidence suggests that he spends his days sleeping, but I'm not entirely convinced. Someone put me on the AARP list and he looks far too amused when the flyers show up in the mail.
First, break it. Doesn't matter how. Being drunk helps. You won't remember the details and until confronted with the reality, you'll think it was a weird dream.
Don't replace it right away. There are more important things: brunches to attend, commas to delete, Say Yes to the Dress to watch. The detached lid is as cumbersome as a Novocaine-injected tongue, always in the way, but you put up with it. You even get used to the wobbliness after a couple of days. But upcoming house guests are a good motivator to fix it.
There two options: Call the landlord or do it yourself. The landlord is a nice guy, but you have a feeling that he worries about you a bit, the building's token Single Lady. Mr. Roeper also has a tendency of not saying when he's dropping by and you'd rather not hear him buzzing your door while stepping out of the shower. It wouldn't be the first time.
Plus, when you mention to your most handy-dandiest friend that it broke, in an off-handed way loaded with meaning, he replied "That's really easy to fix."
At Target, when the redshirt asks what size you need, say "Toilet-sized." When he doesn't laugh, just pick one, any one, then take it and your dumb joke home.
Start unscrewing the nuts holding the bolt part of the seat in place. A wrench would be helpful, but you probably don't have one. We evolved to have five fingers for several reasons and here is one of them. Your mind will wander as your fingers move in circles.
You can't remember your parents ever replacing toilet seats. If they did it, it must have been at night, when they did other secret adult stuff that you had to learn on your own, like filing taxes and walking in heels. Or you may have been too busy watching cartoons (a possibility). In college, one of the maintenance crew fixed a broken seat in your dorm bathroom. He teased you for your 12-inch TV and the next week knocked on your door with a massive television he found nestled next to the dumpster. It was constructed during Reagan's presidency and still worked. Even though you can picture him- a bald Paul Bunyan with a hearty laugh who loved to tell dirty jokes- you can't remember his name. This makes you sad.
Quite some time will have passed with minimal progress. Frustration grows.
Enter the wishing stage. Wish you hadn't broken it. Wish you were sitting anywhere but this dusty bathroom floor. Wish you weren't sweating. Wish you weren't so proud. Wish you weren't alone. Wish you hadn't wished that. Wish wish wish wish. Turn turn turn turn.
Stop. Realize the entire time, you have been turning the screws the wrong way. The plastic is warped, but you can pull out the old seat, fit the new one in through the holes, and a minute or two later, the new seat is screwed into place, as if it was always there.
Stand up. Open the lid. Shut the lid. Open it, shut it. Wash your hands, please.
Have a beer, have a glass of cheap wine, have a tumbler of melting ice and sharp gin. Even a plastic mug of Kool-Aid will work in a pinch. The most important part is to stand a little taller.
(Thanks to the How-To Issue for the inspiration.)
The gang at Red Pop Shop organized the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer this past Sunday at the New Hazlett Theater. I think it was the quickest I've ever RSPV-ed to a Facebook event. A bunch of vintage shops selling their best finds with oldies playing in the background and a cocktail lounge a few feet away? Hell yes.
Here's Tony, modeling some of his purchases.
Here's my haul:
1) A blue bead necklace ($1).
It's long enough that I can loop it without choking myself.
2) This little green necklace ($1). Both necklaces are from Li Li Loom Vintage. I was afraid this one would look too much like a mid-90s choker (not that those aren't great, just not what I want with this necklace), but I like it. Kind of like a green version of Wilma Flintstone's necklace? Okay, I might be reaching with that one.
Somehow I went from from jaundiced to freezing to jaundiced again in the span of a few seconds.
3) Little mirror from Wildcard ($2). I haven't decided where to hang it yet. That little flowered bag next it held the necklaces. Someone said it looks like a rosary bag and it definitely smells like a church. To be more specific, it's the scent of a little old church lady who wears orthopedic sneakers with pantyhose.
4) This print AND frame ($5 [!!!!!!]). The guy selling it said someone else was eying it up and I bought it right away. That's how it goes, folks. I didn't get the name of their shop. They were in the back left hand side, so if anyone reading this knows, say the word and I'll add it.
I can't get a really picture of it without getting a reflection, but I lurrveeee itttttt. You can't really tell in the photos but the silvery part is metallic and the inscription on the bottom says it was printed in Israel. I think it says '56, though this looks more 60s or 70s to me than 50s. Maybe they were ahead of their time.
Yes, my apartment has a drop ceiling. Whatev, snobs.
All for the grand total of $9. I wanted to buy more jewelry, but the $1 necklaces spoiled me and I passed on the more expensive ones. You know, the bank breaking $10 necklaces. Next time!
And one last shot of the adorable Tone. Love you, boo.
Thanks Bess, Michael and Jason for a great event!