When the World Cup rolls around, there’s inevitably some footage of a barefoot Brazilian child playing football with a soup can against the backdrop of his favela. The kid stands still, placing one foot on top of the soup can and you just know he’s dreaming of playing in the World Cup. It then time lapses and the soup can is now a ball and the kid is actually Neymar and scoring the winner in the World Cup final.
Now picture me in wellies and a woolly hat forking in silage to a hundred cows and stopping like the Angelus bell just rung, praying my scene would time lapse to me banging ferociously on a keyboard. I’m trying to make my deadline for the Sunday paper outlining the latest treachery within Dublin’s crime gangs. That was my childhood dream. Not a firefighter, astronaut, or World Cup winning Brazilian – I wanted to be a journalist in Ireland.
I was so invested in this journalism dream that I went to see a career guidance guru in Sligo when I was in my final year of school. I had no idea what I wanted to do – aside from Journalism but I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I was pretty into the Veronica Guerin movie at the time and assumed that’s what Journalism was – informants, bullets through windows, and getting the shit knocked out of you by coked-up gangsters. That all sounded fine to me, but I did have a couple of minor problems – I was terrified of making phone calls, and probably wouldn’t get the points required anyway.
Leaving Cert year was a carousel of Groundhog Days, getting called in by the Careers teacher for my latest aptitude test results. She would furrow her brow and I lazily dreamed of squeezing the wart that had found a home between her nasal bridge and left eye. She would finally look up from the paper and tell me the same thing she told me every time we did this dance. “It looks like you’re pretty much average or above average on everything, but you’re not really great at anything.” Thanks very much, I thought, I look forward to being perfectly adequate for the rest of my life.
I went to this guy in Sligo who was going to sort my life out in a single hour. He had all the answers! Unfortunately those answers came from a series of questions that were grouped together to form another fucking aptitude test. Prior to taking this glorified questionnaire, the faux guru sat me down and told me that whatever the results say will determine what I do with the rest of my life. The test doesn’t lie, he claimed.
The same could not be said for the man who prepared it as he went through my results and tried to convince me that I did not want to be a journalist. This despite the fact that the quiz overwhelmingly pointed at a career in Journalism being my only viable option. It would be the equivalent of me going to a Tarot Card Reader and pulling Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper, and Joseph Pulitzer from the pack and the reader trying to convince me that I was looking at Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, and Robert Kardashian. They were OJs lawyers. He was trying to convince me I wanted to be a lawyer.
I hated every law class I took in college – because I obviously took his advice and pursued a back door into law – before graduating with a meaningless degree. I held a special poison in my heart for this quack who shattered my dreams of becoming the next Jim Carney – until I moved to America. America, that’s where real journalism gets done, I thought. Hard-hitting news around the clock. The great bastion of journalism defending the world against tyranny, informing public opinion, and stoking the collective consciousness.
And then I started watching local news.
Every single day, a reporter trudges out with a cameraman and a microphone to report on the fact that someone has accidentally driven their car into a Dunkin Donuts. I’m not talking about the parking lot, I mean the building. Sometimes an amateur sleuth has sent in a grainy photo taken on a potato of the scene immediately following the crash. The news report switches between this image and video footage of an empty parking lot. The journalist interviews somebody who just happens to be popping in for an iced decaf and a cheeky pre-dinner Boston Kreme after work.
“I wasn’t here for the incident Janet, but I can tell you there is definitely a hole in the side of the building. Looks like it was made by a car-shaped object. Can you blur my face? My wife thinks I’m on a diet.”
To be fair, it is only a Dunkin Donuts about half the time. The rest of the time it is a lesser known coffee shop, supermarket, or the person’s own house. This morning, it was actually a liquor store but it was reported as BREAKING NEWS and they had a reporter live at the scene at 5.30am on a cold and snowy Tuesday morning.
People of a certain generation gain comfort from the misery that emanates from the headlines of the local news. If it bleeds, it leads. They believe that gun battles are raging in no-go areas across Boston, that there’s mosques being built by ISIS at a rate that rivals the number of Dunkin Donuts, and shady sex offenders have moved into every suburban neighborhood. Half of these alleged sex pests have applied for licenses to run creches, while the other half have been spotted driving around in white vans with candy cascading out the back doors to accommodate all of the kids that are climbing in.
Any Middle School student who isn’t taking Molly must be addicted to Meth, and are getting each other pregnant at a rate that rabbits would be envious of. All High School in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has had a hazing incident that has been taken too far and a parent of a child with absolutely no involvement is inconsolable about the whole thing. Won’t somebody please think of the children?
When they move on to University, someone inevitably sprays some racist graffiti on campus and we are all left to wonder if the university is a breeding ground for neo-nazis. When they graduate college, they all go on to be teachers and have inappropriate relationships with several students who are on meth or molly. When they retire, at some point they accidentally press the gas instead of the break and drive their car through the front door of a Dunkin Donuts and the cycle is complete.
More at 11.