It was another night in the Lobby and I once again found myself procrastinating on an assignment. This time, however, completely avoiding it until the day it was due would be impossible. I was tasked to conduct a live, professional interview in class, and I had to find a person with a “newsworthy” story to interview. Not only did this extra effort burden me, I was scared that my “who had the wildest Saturday night?” idea of newsworthy wasn’t what the professor, a former news anchor himself, was looking for.
When I offered this predicament up to the Lobby crew, I thought maybe someone on the school’s basketball or football team would do it. Even though they were really just regular people, because they played a sport the campus ground they walked on was practically worshipped. At the very least, the sports fans and most of the girls in my class would find it interesting, for sure. Unfortunately, when it came to school, these athletes tried even harder at not trying than I did. They passed.
“It can be anyone?” Jimmy asked.
“Why not me?”
Hmmm. There was an idea. It didn’t take long to learn that when you are in the presence of Jimmy, you are in the shadow of Jimmy. It was impossible to go anywhere without him seeing someone he knew or running into a friendly stranger who sparked a conversation. He obviously had some sort of magnetic pull, and there’s nothing that screams newsworthy like a disability. People like talking about it, exploring it, and, most of all, showing that they support those with it. And Jimmy was cool with coming to my class—he loves meeting new people and talking about himself. I told him when and where the class was, and boom, my interview prep was complete. I figured Jimmy basically had a PhD via his life experiences concerning his own condition, and was proud for finding a story that pretty much wrote itself.
On the day of the interview, I met Jimmy outside of my class.
“I didn’t know you owned anything other than sweatpants and t-shirts,” Jimmy said, commenting on my suit.
“Don’t be jealous because my entire wardrobe costs less than your outfit.”
“It’s not jealousy, Eddie. It’s definitely not jealousy.”
After we watched a couple of my classmates go through their interviews, it was our turn. As I sat down on the set, I took my new self-consciousness regarding the thinning of my hair, which I was so lucky to acquire due to the recent and repetitive mentions from my wonderful roommate, and spun that self-doubt into self-motivation, thinking that I could very well be the next Matt Lauer* poised to give the best dang interview this class has seen. After the scripted introduction, I turned to Jimmy, thinking the hard part was done and he would carry it from there.
“I understand you have been in a wheelchair all of your life. Could you tell us more about that?”
“I have spinal muscular atrophy, it’s a form of muscular dystrophy. It’s a progressive disease, but other than that I don’t really know the science behind it.”
Then some more pause.
I looked at him like, Dang it Jimmy, I wasn’t supposed to have to work for this. “Anything else?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was two. And my muscles are pretty weak.”
Surprised was an understatement. If I get a bad cough and a stuffy nose, I’m on WebMD for three hours coming to the conclusion that I’m most certainly going to die. Here’s a kid who has never been able to walk because of his condition and he’s telling me he doesn’t know anything about it? I was expecting him to carry the interview, and instead he throws me a curveball like this? I attempted to get him to elaborate—to get him talking about treatments, doctors—anything.
“Well, when I was younger, I was offered the chance to be a part of medication trial studies.”
“Did you do it?”
“No way. I’m not a freakin’ lab rat.”
Hm. I guess that made sense. Never thought of his situation like that before. Though it had nothing to do with the assignment, that fresh perspective satisfied my learning quota for the day. That was it for my effort in conducting a professional, interesting, and informative interview. The ensuing three minutes were full of nonsense and fluff, Jimmy and I trying to contain our own laughter as we talked about silly things like what he does for fun and his favorite part of campus.
. . . . . . . .
For the rest of the chapter, and more short stories like this, snag a copy of "I Hate You Jimmy" today!
* For the record, I am referencing the Matt Lauer America knew and loved back when I was in college. Not the creeper Matt Lauer that was discovered literally during the final stages of editing this book. Ain’t it crazy how a couple pieces of new information can shift your whole perspective on someone?
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