In the fourth grade, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. That was it, that was what I was going to do. My mom bought a typewriter and a subscription to Writer’s Digest for me. My fourth grade teacher gave us cardboard, construction paper and wallpaper samples so we could make our own books. I filled notepads with my fantasy novels that are probably in my parents’ attic.
And just a few weeks ago, I wrote my first cover letter for a professional writing job. This one page was supposed to encapsulate everything that writing means to me, as relevant as possible to the job in question. It’s either remarkably absurd or close to the mark. Either way, it was fun to write and hopefully a joy to read.
I used to be the manager myself, surveying stacks of applications and reading endless cover letters. I wrote the letter I would like to have read, for better or worse:
To Whom it May Concern:
Please forgive the unorthodox style in which I have approached this cover letter for what can most accurately be described as a creative marketing position, but I hope the following narrative will illustrate my understanding of the job in question.
Seventeen months old, our son generally has two speeds: active and asleep. Near naptime on the day in question, he staggered from the living room to the kitchen, in a generally good mood, yet teetering toward disaster. His red eyes and disheveled hair would hint for the uninitiated just what crisis he could bring to bear at a moment’s notice in this condition. My wife stood by the electric bottle warmer in the kitchen, preparing his milk. I walked alongside him, my hand hovering nearby in an attempt to protect him from his own fatigue-ridden clumsiness. Then, without provocation, he turned and walked headlong into the wall. He bounced and grabbed his head, his mouth curling around a burgeoning scream. A massive meltdown loomed, and not even a bottle or hug could bring him back until the storm had run its course.
It must be said that no pain is more debilitating to a toddler than teething discomfort. The swirling combination of constantly throbbing gums, random attacks of intense pain, and a general irritability brought on by restless sleep can, coupled with hunger and a random bump on the head, culminate into a dangerous swell for those final moments before naptime. Imagine the dark epicenter of storms gathering into a super cell over the Midwestern plains and you have some inkling of the fate his reddening face portends. In this space between the moments, where time seemed to pause, I drew from a deep well of experience including more than 20 years of customer service, eight years of management, four years of hospice care with dementia patients and a Master’s Degree, now all exposed as nothing more than hubris. Time slowly returned to its normal flow and still I hesitated. My son’s mouth gaped wide, impatient for its wailing salvo. Humbled by my impotence to change his mood, I decided the best course of action was to join him.
I turned and hit my head against the wall. “Ouch!” I said, rubbing my head. My son laughed, turned to the wall and pretended to run into it again. We did it together, again and again, bouncing our heads off the wall and laughing like mad men. The timer sounded. His milk and nap were ready and all was right with the world.
The simplest answer is often best, and the oddest of experiences may guide the will to fascinating discoveries.