“It's the Little Things - Part 2”
Our first storyteller is Jim Harte. Jim has always loved film, ever since he was a boy. When the distributors forget to send the second reel of “Wild in the Streets”. Jim gets creative in the way that he avoids giving refunds. Jim calls his story “More Than a Movie”
Jim Harte has worked in the film business for 45 years. He was raised in New Jersey and majored in Drama at Ithaca College in Ithaca NY before moving to Manhattan where he received a BFA in Film and Television at New York University. He lived in Manhattan in the 1970s and 80s before moving to Rochester NY where he was a film editor for Eastman Kodak Company and an Archival Projectionist at George Eastman Museum. Since moving to Missoula Montana in 2021 he has acted in several films produced in Montana. His favorite storyteller is Jean Shepherd.
Abigail Gilbert has to borrow a car when she is traveling for her job in a super small town in Nebraska. She ends up accidentally stealing a car in the process. Abigail calls her story “The Keys to Success”.
Abigail Gilbert is a professional actor, educator and director who originally hails from Duluth, Minnesota. She is proud to work at the Missoula Children’s Theatre as the Tour Marketing Associate and Social Media Specialist and at Studio M as a teacher and vocal instructor. On stage, she was most recently seen as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live right here at the Wilma and as Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods at the Missoula Community Theatre. She was recently voted Missoula’s Best Actor in the Missoulian’s “Best of Missoula 2022” contest. She would like to thank her mom, Lisa, and Miles for their support!
Next up is Regina O’Brien. Regina was unable to afford housing and was living in a tipi in the desert. Living in a tipi causes one to notice so many little things that others might miss. Regina calls her story “Little Things Aren’t Little.”
Regina O’Brien put herself through college, working a montage of odd jobs for eleven years. She graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, and eventually got a career with the federal government. After years of seeing people staying in positions they hated so they could have a secure retirement, having that security bled out by illness, death, or catastrophe, and feeling stressed out and ineffective in her own job, she quit. She got rid of everything that did not fit into her midsize pickup and started driving. Regina has been living around the edges of mainstream society ever since. Regina is a relative newcomer to Montana, and currently lives in Potomac and works in Missoula as a massage therapist.
Closing out this episode of the podcast, Jeremy N. Smith, in 7th grade, walks around his teacher’s desk all day. The lessons he learned that day has lasted 30+ years. Jeremy calls his story “One Thousand Times”.
Jeremy N. Smith is a journalist, podcaster, and author. He has written for The Atlantic, Discover, Slate, and the New York Times, among other outlets, and he and his work have been featured by CNN, NPR, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and Wired.
Jeremy is from Evanston, Illinois, but has lived the last 20 years in Missoula—except for last year, when he spent a family year abroad with his wife Crissie and daughter Rasa in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
His latest interest is skateboarding, and he is looking for someone to help teach him how to ollie.
Learn more and make contact at jeremynsmith.com.
Transcript : It's the Little Things - Part 2
Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tele Something podcast. I’m Marc Moss . We are currently looking for storytellers for the next tell us something storytelling event. The theme is the first time. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4 0 6 2 0 3 4 6 8 3. You have three minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is February 20th.
I look forward to hearing from you this week on the podcast,
Jim Harte: when we came into the Dark room, he had already had this projector and the roll up screen set. And as we sat there on our folding chairs, we started up the projector with that wonderful sound,
Abigail Gilbert: and she’s screaming, I’m looking around like, she, she can’t be screaming at me. I, uh, I just
Regina O’Brien: got here. I no longer felt the cold. There was no moon that night and there were so many stars. My mind went numb and the sky was so incredibly, absolutely unforgivably. Black.
Jeremy N. Smith: She says, what’s going on? And Josh says, he’s going around your desk a thousand times.
She’s like, okay, Einsteins this. I want to see
Marc Moss: four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme. It’s the little things. Their stories were recorded. Live in person in front of a sold out crowd on December 15th, 2020. At the Wilma in Missoula, Montana, our first storyteller is Jim Harte. Jim has always loved film ever since he was a boy.
When the distributors forget to send the second reel of Wild in the Streets, Jim gets creative in the way that he avoids giving refunds. Jim calls his story more than a movie. Thanks for listening.
Jim Harte: This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken to an audience in a movie theater, which the Wilma was. It’s the first time I’ve talked about talking about it in a movie theater
So before I moved to Missoula, the home of the Great Roxy Theater, I was film projectionist at George Eastman Museum’s Dryden Theater, where I projected everything from silent movies to modern independence to flammable nitrate. And before every film, somebody walked up to a podium at the front of the sta uh, stage and gave an introduction to the film.
And when they were done, I slowly faded out their spotlight and started raising the curtain to the screen and slowly fading out the lights to the theater. And then I started the projector at just the right moment. So the movie hit the. When the curtain was up and the lights were down, and it was just one of the little things that movie theaters do to give more than a movie, and one time between Christmas and New Year, I had to introduce the film and project the film.
I told the audience this was because our fundraising goal had not reached its goal and we could only afford one person. There was still time to make a donation, so this doesn’t happen next year. ? Well, my first movie theater was our New Jersey living room. Dad was really serious about his home movies, how he filmed them, edited them, and presented them.
When we came into the Dark Room, he had already had this projector and the roll up screen set up, and as we sat there on our folding chair, He started up the projector with that wonderful sound. Oh, and his homemade title came up on the screen, ocean City, 1964, and we laughed as we saw ourselves dancing and splashing in the waves.
There were no mistakes. Dad cut that all out. These were real movies starring. Dad helped me make my first film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I played the doctor, my brother and my friends played the other parts. Dad filmed it and did his wonderful narration. I showed it at the Boy Scout Hobby Show in the little room they gave me that I turned into my own movie theater and I won first prize.
Our hometown movie theater was The Strand, like the Wilma movie Palace built in the twenties. It as a great theater, had really expensive popcorn . Now there’s an old saying in the movie business movies for Yucks, popcorn for Bucks, movies. Get the audience in the prophet. Is it the concession? So to avoid paying the high strand popcorn price, I walked down to the Woolworth store and bought a gigantic bag of popcorn for 10 cents and smuggled it in.
And I probably was responsible for the STR strand Closing 20 years later, . Now, back then, the only way to see a new movie was at a theater, and the only way to see an old movie was on tv. My mom and dad were really strict about what we were allowed to see, but fortunately there was the four 30 movie Monday through Friday.
Channel seven showed old films in series weeks. Science Fiction Week, monster Week, Western Week. and mom and dad figured what’s the problem? They’re old movies after school. Well, little did they know that they also had Crazy Lady Week with whatever happened to Baby Jane, which was definitely not a kid’s film and got an x-ray in England when it opened.
So I was learning about film and I was learning about life
And when I moved to New York City in the seventies to go to NYU film school, there were all these movie theaters that showed old films and they were called repertory theaters, and they were great. And after college, one of my first jobs was managing one of them, the Cinema Village, which is still. Down there in Greenwich Village and still owned by my boss, Nick Olou, the hero of independent theaters who is in the 2019 documentary, the Projectionist, which you should all see
It was a cash business. The customers paid their money, went through a turns style, and saw two films that changed every two days, and the beginning of one double feature on the first day. The first film was a 1968 film I’d seen on the four 30 movie Wild in the Streets. The plot was what would happen if 18 year olds got the vote, and what happened was a rockstar becomes president after his band dumps L s D into the Potomac River
And the Congress tripping their brains out passes a law that 14 year olds can vote, and the president sends all the old people over 30, including his parents, to concentration camps where they have to wear purple robes and drink acid and trip all day.
So about two thirds of the way into wildness streets. The projectionist calls me says, yeah, I thought you should know the film’s gonna end in 10 minutes. So I looked at the screen, I said, it’s supposed to end in 30 minutes. Goes, yeah, I know they didn’t send the last reel
Well, unlike today with digital projection where you press a button, it shows the movie straight beginning to end. With film projection, you had 20 minute reels, which you switched back and forth between two projectors to give the illusion of a continuing movie. So I told him, this is what I want you to do.
Before the reel runs out, close the lens to the projector so we don’t see white light on the screen, and mute the sound so we don’t hear snap, crackle. And raise the lights. I’m gonna talk to the audience. So I said, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Jim Harte, manager of the Cinema Village. I’m very sorry to tell you, they didn’t send us the end to the movie
So if you would like a refund, we’d be glad to give it to you as you exit the theater. If you like to find out how the film ends, you can stay, and I’ll tell you,
So they stayed and I told them the president stoned out of his mind as usual, is driving his Rolls Royce until he comes to a park and he gets out and he’s playing imagination games like a little boy until he comes to a pond with a small dock and he lies down on the dock and he sees a string going down into the water and he pulls the string.
There’s a crayfish on it. He holds it up to his face, and as he’s going to touch it, it bites him, , and he stands up and he stops on it. Three boys run up and say, what did you do? He was our friend, he was our pet. And the president scales down at them. It says, I killed it. What are you gonna do about it?
You’re not old enough to.
And as the president SAS off, one of the boys looks right in the camera and says, we’re gonna put everybody over 10 out of business. And the audience applauded and they were happy, and I was happy I had given them something more than a movie. Enjoy the show.
Marc Moss: Thanks, Jim. Jim Harte has worked in the film business for 45 years. He was raised in New Jersey and majored in drama at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York before moving to Manhattan where he received a BFA in film and television at New York. Jim lived in Manhattan in the 1970s and eighties before moving to Rochester, New York, where he was a filmed editor for Eastman Kodak Company and an archival projectionist at George Eastman Museum.
Since moving to Missoula, Montana in 2021, he has acted in several films produced in Montana. His favorite storyteller is Jean Shepherd. Next up is Abigail Gilbert. Abigail has to borrow a car when she’s traveling for her job in a super small town in Nebraska. She ends up accidentally stealing a car in the process.
Abigail calls her story, the Keys to success. Thanks for listening.
Abigail Gilbert: It’s the middle of March and I am in Sterling Nebraska, population 482. I am here because I am on tour with the Missoula Children’s Theater, and I have a wonderful tour partner named Michael. So our job as tour actor directors was to travel from town to town each week all across the country in a Ford F-150, and teach children a musical.
We would arrive in each town on Sunday, and on Monday we would cast the students in the musical Pinocchio. We would cast 52 60 of them. Then we would start rehearsal. We would teach them the show all week, and then by Friday or Saturday, they had a one hour long musical ready to perform for their community and their family and friends.
Michael and I would travel with all of the little pieces needed to put on this musical. In the back of our truck. We had the props, the set, the costumes, the lights, and then on Sunday we would pack it all up and drive to the next town and do it. This particular week in Sterling Nebraska, we were staying with a lovely woman named DeAnn who opened her home to us for the week.
It was Monday morning and we had a meeting at the school in town where we were going to meet the principal who was our point of contact for the week. Now, Michael and I had been on tour together at this point for about two months. So naturally I had already lost my set of. So to get into our Ford F-150, we would have to unlock the driver’s side door, and we didn’t have any automatic buttons to unlock or lock.
So we’d unlock the driver’s side door, reach across the cab, and then unlock the passenger door. So on this particular Monday morning, standing in deanne’s driveway, I decided that I was going to unlock the driver’s side door and throw the keys over the top of the car to. The moment the keys left my hands, I knew that they weren’t going to make it over the top of the truck.
Michael and I watched them fall between the cab and the topper, nowhere to be found. Uh, they didn’t fall through onto the ground. You couldn’t peer over the top of the car and see them. You couldn’t, uh, stick your hand in the grooves of the truck. They were lost. Deanne graciously offered for us to use her car to get into.
She drove a little black standard looking car with a push to start. Uh, so we headed into town and the town of Sterling was small. It was a restaurant, a few shops, the school we were working at for the week and a mechanic. Uh, we had just a little bit of time before our meeting, so I headed down to the mechanic to ask for help.
I walk in and the air is filled with smoke and there are two. Sitting in the back, dirty white tank tops, chain smoking. I walk in and I explain to them that I have stranded our truck in deanne’s driveway and can you help us? Uh, they said, oh, we know Deanne will head down there right now and get your car.
I thanked them profusely and headed back to the school. When Michael and I’s meeting concluded, I had a text on my phone from Deanne that said, Hey, they were able to rescue the keys. Is there any way that you can get my car back to me and come pick up your truck? She also shared with me that they were able to rescue the keys by laying on top of the truck and sticking a fishing line, uh, with a magnet on the end to get the keys.
Uh, I looked at the clock. I had just enough time to drive the 20 minutes back to Deanne’s house, get her her car back, get back in the truck, drive to the school, and be on time for the audition. So I told her I’d be on the way. I get out to the front of the school where we had left Dion’s car and I start driving back to her house.
When I arrive, I park in the garage. I meet her there, hand her her keys, she gives me the rescued truck keys, get in the truck, start my way back to the school, 20 minutes there and back. as I pull up back to the school, there is a woman standing on the sidewalk outside of the school and she is pointing at what appears to be me in my branded Missoula Children’s Theater, bright Red Truck.
And she’s screaming, I’m looking around like she’s, she can’t be screaming at me. I, uh, I just got here. I’m going through the list of everything I’ve ever done wrong in my entire life. And none of it involves Sterling Nebraska. I’ve only been here for 24 hours, , so I quickly parked the truck. I jump out and I, I can finally hear her and she’s screaming, you stole my car, stole my car.
And I’m still looking around. What does she mean? I stole her car? No, I drove deanne’s car here. And then I drove Deanne’s car back and DeAnn met me in her garage. I gave her the keys. She saw the car. What does she mean? I stole her car. I say, ma’am, I am so sorry, but I do not know what you are talking about.
And she said, my keys. My keys. They were in the cup holder and I have a push to start.
And then I realized that when I got into deanne’s little black Push to Start Car, I actually got into this woman. Janet’s pushed to start little black car parked in front of the school and drove it away. I stole her car,
I said, ma’am, um, if you just wait right here, I’m just gonna go get your car.
I race back to the truck race, back to Deanne’s house, 20 minutes, the longest 20 minutes of my entire life. I don’t cry very often in life, but when I say that I sobbed the entire way back to deanne’s house. I mean it, the Missoula Children’s Theater has been touring for 50 years. We’re celebrating our 50th year of touring.
Yes. Thank you. Across the world and the country. And the reason, one of the many reasons why people love to bring Missoula Children’s Theater back to their community over and over again year after year, is because of our incredible reputation.
And they hire tour actors who represent that image and represent that, uh, organization that’s bigger than themselves. Um, they hire people who are professional and kind and friendly and care about the mission of teaching life skills to children through the performing arts. Stealing a vehicle is not a part of that.
So I, uh, finally get back to Deanne’s house and I race into the garage and she meets me there cuz she hears me coming. And then she says, Abigail, why are you back here and why are you sobbing? I said, Dan and I pointed to the stolen car in the garage. I said, Deanne, this is not your car. And she took a long, hard look at the car and she said, you know what, Abigail?
Now that I take a closer look , that is not my vehicle, and Sweet Deanne, she put her arms out and I just melted into her, in, into her and, and she said, Abigail, I think you just need a hug. This woman that I just met 24 hours ago, just holding me in her garage next to a stolen car, . And I said, finally, I said, Deanne, I have to get this car back to the school.
I get in the stolen car, of course it pushes to start right away because sure enough, the keys are right in the cup holder drive back to the school. 20 minutes. I am white knuckling the entire way back because I’m in a stolen car and it’s icy and snowing Nebraska in March. Uh, when I finally arrive back at the school, Janet is sure enough waiting right where I left her and I hand her her keys and I said, I am so sorry that I stole your car.
And she said, I am so sorry that I yelled at you, and I am rethinking leaving my keys in the car . Now, at this point, I am very late for the audition that I’m supposed to be at. So, um, I at some point texted Michael who’s running the audition by himself because he’s amazing. Hey, uh, so I’ve had a little situation.
I’m okay. Everything’s fine. Uh, but I’m gonna be a little. I get back in Dion’s car, 20 minutes back to her house. I get back in the truck, 20 minutes back to the school. At this point, hours later, I have just barely stopped sobbing and uh, I get ready to go back in the school. I’ve got the truck, I’ve got the keys.
And I pace a smile on my face. And sure enough, I walk into the gym and Michael is perfectly beautifully running an audition with all of these children who are hoping to be a part of our cast of Pinocchio. And I look at Michael and I give him a nod that says, Hey, everything’s okay. Um, but wow. Do I have a great story for you later?
It’s the little things. Losing the keys. Throwing the keys, the push to start not recognizing the wrong car in the garage. Sometimes the little things have really big consequences. Thank you.
Marc Moss: Abigail. Abigail Gilbert is a professional actor, educator and director who originally hails from Duluth m. She is proud to work at the Missoula Children’s Theater as the tour marketing associate and social media specialist, and at Studio M as a teacher and vocal instructor on stage. She was most recently seen as Columbia in the Rocky Horror Picture Show and as Little Red Riding Hood in into the Woods at Missoula Community Theater.
She was recently voted Missoula’s. Best actor in the Mozillians. Best of Missoula, 2022 contest. Next up is Regina O’. Regina was unable to afford housing and was living in a tepe in the desert. Living in a tepe causes one to notice so many little things that others might miss. Regina calls her story.
Little things aren’t little. Thanks for listening.
Regina O’Brien: Thank you, . I lived in a Tepe for a year and a half in the Hammus Mountains in North Central New Mexico. . I had gotten a job in one of the little villages there, and housing was really tight and the tepee was a good alternative to nothing. and, uh, living a life like that, you’ll learn a few things now.
Most people know what a tepee looks like and what they know is the skin, and that is essentially a big umbrella. It keeps the rain off, but it’s really drafty. What makes it work is the canvas liner on the inside. It is connected to the tepee poles at about chest high, and it goes all the way to the ground.
This liner, basically, it keeps the draft from going into the living area and funnels it up to the smoke. It does not do a good job at keeping out the neighbors . The, you know, the, the ones who, who were there first? The mice, the rock squirrels. , the tarantulas , and knowing that I could have surprise visitors at any time, I learned to pay a lot of attention to my surroundings.
It’s one of the benefits of tarantulas, , tvb TVs have no windows, and I couldn’t look outside, and I found that, well, I don’t know if my senses became more acute or if I just paid more attention to. Or probably both, but I found that I could identify the birds flying overhead by the cadence and the sound of their wing beats.
I learned that the wind going through a pinon pine sound is different than the wind going through a ponderosa where a juniper. What I didn’t realize until I left the tepee was how integrated my senses were to my awareness. When I left the hammus and wound up in a real house, I felt safe. I had real walls.
I had windows I could look out of. I had a door I could lock, but when I went to bed that first night and I started going to sleep, , I had this strong sense that something was wrong, something something was wrong, something something was wrong. And I wound up going from room to room to room, trying to figure out what was wrong.
And I realized I was looking out of all of the windows. It was night, it was dark. I couldn’t see anything. And what was wrong was I didn’t know what was going on outside in the tepee, you have this constant flow of. Going through and that airflow let me know what the weather was doing. I could feel the temperature change, the, the moisture in the air.
I could smell the pinon pine. I could taste the dust. I could hear the coyotes in the cars from miles away and in the house. All of a sudden, my senses were confined to the inside of the house and I learned, I had to reassess what safety meant to.
When I first moved into the tepee, it was late summer, but I was at over 6,000 feet elevation, and I knew winter was coming pretty soon. So I went to talk to my landlady, Ariana, who lived like 50 yards away in a two room dirt floor shack. She was upscale. She had a wood stove, and I said, how much firewood do I need?
You know, how, how cold does it get? And she goes, you know, I got rid of my thermometer years ago. I, I did not need to know it was minus 20 inside my house.
Good to know. , I got some cinder blocks and I raised my sleeping platform. I had two rugs. My insulated, uh, sleeping pad, a winter weight sleeping bag, a queen size alpaca wool blanket folded in half on top of the sleeping bag, another blanket on top of that, and my coat, which doubled as my robe. My sleeping attire consisted of thermal under.
Heavy duty sweatpants and hoodie, at least one pair of socks, a knit cap and roll gloves, fingerless. So I could find and use the zipper in my sleeping bag in the long evening, hours between sunset and bed, I usually had a cup of tea On one particularly cold evening, I made the mistake of having two cups of tea,
And even though I used the chamber pot after I went to bed, nature called, and it was really nasty because I had to do more than Pee . I had to go outside and use the pit underneath my special tree.
The fire was out. It was dark, it was freaking cold, and I knew if I procrastinated, it would only get worse. So I unzipped my sleeping bag and I found my flashlight turned it on, and you have to bear in mind that this next part, I was trying to keep as much heat inside the sleeping bag as possible. So I pulled my coat up to myself, put it on, and I could feel my body heat going into the coat.
I checked my shoes to make sure that I was the only one in them . Got outta the sleeping bag, put my shoes on, and I could feel the cold seeping through my socks. I got up, picked up the, the flashlight, and was headed towards the door and something made me check my chamber pot and the clear fluid that was in it was now opaque and kind of slushy.
I realized that Ariana was right. There was some things you really did not need to know, . So I went to the door. I untied the Fong that kept the liner in front of the door, pulled that back, took a breath, ducked down because the opening was like this tall, pushed the drape outside, went outside, and I was transfixed.
I no longer felt the cold. There was no moon that night and there were so many stars. My mind went numb and the sky was so incredibly absolutely unforgivably black that it looked solid. The night sky. It was, it was. It didn’t just look, it was a black, solid dome, about 20 feet over my. The stars were not little orbs in the sky.
They were pinpricks. They were perforations in this solid black sky. And I remember thinking that if I had a ladder, I could climb up there and I would could push against the sky. And I, I was wondering what it would feel like.
I don’t know how long I stood there. I know that I visited my pits and made my tree happy, but I don’t remember doing that. And I remember beginning to shiver because even though I wasn’t aware of the cold, it was still affecting me and my brain kicked in and I know I needed to go back to my bag, but I don’t remember doing that either.
All I really remember is a phrase that I heard from a Celtic storyteller years ago, and at the time I didn’t understand it. He was describing something as having a terrible beauty. And when I looked at that sky, I was so intimidated and so amazed that sky it unfolded it like it. I was immersed in that sky.
I would just could just feel myself expand. And that sounds stupid even to me. I mean just, but all I could think of, I could feel that incredible beauty to my bones
later on. It was, it was my second, my second winter. It was February 1st, seven. I was doing my morning routine. The fire was burning well. My coffee was, was brewing. I was fixing breakfast and overhead. I heard this weird sound. It was a staccato, warbly, shrieky, mony, Rony sound. That lasted all of three seconds.
No idea what it was. I shrugged it off. Took care of my breakfast. I still had to make lunch and I’d get ready for. . And when I got to work a little while later, the ladies at the front desk were talking about the morning news and I said, that’s what that sound was. And they looked at me, they didn’t hear anything.
They were inside their house. And another woman who was standing there and goes, I heard it too. She was outside feeding her chickens. And that sound that I shrugged off so I wouldn’t burn my own meal was the sound of seven people dying. As the space shuttle Columbia broke up apart and its pieces and the bodies tumbled across the sky over my head
in a month and a half, that’ll be 20 years ago, and I can still hear that sound.
Little things that make a difference in your life. , the things that you ignore, you don’t acknowledge, uh, a piece of information you hear the, the movement of air against your cheek, a three second sound bite. Those kinds of things will change your perspective. Open your world, nail an instant to your heart for the rest of your life.
Those little things are not.
Thank you. Thanks, Regina.
Marc Moss: Regina O’Brien put herself through college, working a montage of odd jobs for 11 years. She graduated with two bachelor degrees and eventually got a career with a federal government. After years of seeing people staying in positions they hated so that they could have a secure retirement, having their security blood out by illness, death, or catastrophe, and feeling stressed out and ineffective in her own job, she quit.
She got rid of everything that did not fit into her mid-size pickup and started driving. Regina has been living around the edges of mainstream society ever since. Regina is a relative newcomer to Montana and currently lives in Potomac and works in Missoula as a massage therapist. Closing out this episode of the podcast, Jeremy and Smith in seventh grade, walks around his teacher’s desk all.
The lessons he learned that day have lasted 30 plus years. Jeremy, tell us his story 1000 times. Thanks for listening.
Jeremy N. Smith: 1990, mid-December middle school, it’s lunch period and my fellow nerd, Josh Engleman and I are hold up in our social studies. Teacher, Mrs. Fisher’s classroom, working on an extra credit project on if and where to locate a third airport for the city of Chicago. . The discussion is so intense I start pacing around Mrs.
Fisher’s wooden desk. Josh thinks this is funny, so he grabs a piece of chalk. And starts tallying my laps on the blackboard. 1, 2, 3, with a big X when I get to 10, because Josh thinks it’s funny. I think it’s funny, and I say, I’m gonna go around this desk 1000 times and 20 minutes later. When the bell rings lunch over, there’s already about a hundred marks on the board at this point.
Mrs. Fisher enters. She is a stern white-haired woman wearing her customary shapeless, sort of moomoo style polka dot print dress. I, we have never seen her smile, much less laugh, but she must have had a couple extra shots of something in the teacher’s lounge. retirement is on the horizon. It is winter break next week.
And so when she says What’s going on, and Josh says he’s going around your desk a thousand times, she’s like, okay, Einstein’s this. I want to see our classmates roll in. A few seconds after that, they say, what’s going on? And Mrs. Fisher points to Josh. Josh points to me, and he says he’s going around her desk a thousand times.
And they’re like, yeah. And so for the next 45 minutes, in 25, perfectly healthy, intelligent students. Instead of learning social studies, watch me go around in circles. 1 50, 200, 2 5300 times. And then the bell rings and people laugh and they clap and they leave. And we have science now. Josh and I, and I looked to him like, what are we going to do?
Right? We’re we’re extra credit kids. We don’t ditch class. We like stand at lunch to make an extra one . But then the next social studies class rolls in and they say, what’s going on? And Mrs. Fisher points at Josh and Josh points at me and he says he’s going around her desk 1000 times. And they laugh and they clap and they cheer and like I forget about the airport.
And extra credit. And for credit. And for the next 45 minutes, we ditch science and 25 more perfectly healthy, intelligent students. Instead of learning social studies, watch me go round a desk. 3 50, 400, 4 5500 times. Next is math class. Oh, well, we ditched that and then finally, fittingly, final period. We miss Jim
At this point, I have been walking with purpose for like two to three hours. I’m a chubby kid with glasses and my like ankles are, and calves are throbbing. My chest is hollowed out. My glasses are like coming off my sweaty head. I don’t know how this started like, but this is like, this isn’t just what I do.
This is like who I am now. Okay. I’m like, uh uh, like a marathon, desk circling machine and like the whole school knows about it. I’m legendary in progress, and I said that Josh was my fellow nerd, but. Josh actually doesn’t have glasses, and Josh is a relatively more athletic roller Blader and Josh has twice experienced something that I haven’t even dreamed of, which is having a girlfriend.
So this is it. This is my moment in the social spotlight. I can’t keep going, but I have to keep going and so I power on. I stumble forward and finally the whole class stands and they chant together the final steps of my journey. 9 97, 9 98. 9 99 a thousand just as the bell rings. Last class, last period, schools out.
I did it
and everyone’s the cheers, the applause. High fives louder than ever. And then, They shrug and they gather their stuff and they go , and then j Mrs. Fisher’s shrugs and gets her stuff, maybe goes back to the teacher’s lounge and goes, and then Josh shrugs and gets his stuff and goes to meet his girlfriend.
And it’s just me in the classroom with the blackboard with a thousand marks and the carpet I’ve worn circles in and like my great white whale of this desk. And I shrugged too and I get my stuff and I limp home. and I have had 20, no 32 years. To figure out what happened. and I’ve come up with these three lessons.
First, there is a reasonable debate people can have about whether 1000 of something is a little or a lot. It is more than 10 and a hundred. On the one hand, it is less than a million or a billion on the other. And I’m just here to tell you, I know , okay? I, I lived, I have the experience. If you do anything at all 1000 times, even walk around a desk, you will know that a thousand of anything is a lot
Number two, if you marry repetition to ambition, you can accomplish. Great things,
I have, uh, spent the last 20 years lurking as a writer. That means I’m basically professionally a desk. Circler. . And so I know intimately well that if you write one page in a day, that’s not very much. But if you write one page a day for a thousand days, wow. You have just written a whole book.
Third last, and most important, the reverse is true too. Even if you have done something a thousand times in a. Even if it’s how everybody knows you, for better or for worse, , if even if it’s not just what you do, it’s who you are. If it’s not serving you anymore, you can stop
I went to school the next day and I got a very stern talking to in science. I got a makeup test in math and limping, wincing. I was made to run laps for 45 minutes in gym, but before that, I went into social studies and there was the blackboard, fresh, clean, newly erased. There was the. Vacuumed carpet, not a trace in it.
And there was the desk eye, me saying, want to go again?
And I just shook my head and I stumbled forward and I went right to my seat, and it was just a little thing. But let me tell you something. So little has rarely.
Marc Moss: Thanks Jeremy. Jeremy N. Smith is a journalist, podcaster, and author. He has written for the Atlantic Discover Slate and the New York Times among other outlets, and he and his work have been featured by cnn, npr, R N NBC Nightly News, the Today Show and Wired. Jeremy is from Evanston, Illinois and has lived the last 20 years in Missoula, except for last year when he spent a family year abroad with his wife Chrissy and their daughter Raa in Puo, Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
His latest interest is in skateboarding and he is looking for someone to help teach him how to Ali. Learn more and make [email protected]. Thank you to our stewardship sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. Learn [email protected]. Thanks to our storyteller sponsor Viga Pizza. You can find them and place an [email protected].
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