Like Liam Neeson’s character in “Taken,” I have a very particular set of skills. Over the years, I honed them by poring over Google Maps, Wikipedia and Goodreads in my free time. But who cares about a random city’s population or a random book’s last line?
I do. And apparently cherubs do, too.
My odyssey of geeking out began two days in on the first day of the lede-writing class. Instructor John Kupetz read the details for the first lede, and once he finished, my fellow cherubs flooded him with questions. Some questions concerned the spelling of Waukegan, Illinois, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, the two cities mentioned in the story.
Kupetz asked if anyone knew the spelling of those locations. My hand shot up, and I rattled off each letter as though I were reading from a map. To my surprise, everyone clapped.
The spelling bee continued. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the city where the next lede took place, is in my state, so I was doubly motivated to prove myself. I raised my hand, spelled it and again came the applause.
After the class, a few unfamiliar cherubs came up to me and cracked jokes about my spelling. We walked to Andy’s Frozen Custard together, and conversation flowed from spelling to other topics. These new faces became new friends.
The next week during the descriptive writing lecture, my notoriety developed further. Kupetz produced his beloved, heavily annotated copy of “The Great Gatsby” to make a point about Fitzgerald’s breathtaking description. He asked if anyone could recite the last line of the novel.
At this point, I had met almost all of the other cherubs. This stunt provided new conversations, though, and I learned a lot about my friends’ opinions on literature. It even earned me an official John Kupetz certificate that I plan to frame.
Two weeks later, before the meeting coverage assignment, Professor Roger Boye talked to us about the Evanston District 65 Board of Education. He asked an off-handed question: Did anyone know Evanston’s population?
Little did he know I spent hours reading the Wikipedia page on Evanston (and Chicago, Wilmette and Skokie) months before I set foot there. I practically knew all 74,000 Evanston residents’ names. If Kupetz had asked me the population of Waukegan, Kenosha or Harrisburg during rotating rewrites, my heart would have skipped a beat.
My very particular set of skills is now common knowledge. Lily Dozier created a Redbubble sticker with the caption, “We don’t need Google when we have Emmet!” Heads turned my way when Kupetz asked us about obscure books and movies. Cherubs gasped when Megan McGregor, the winner of the AP Stylebook quiz in week one, steamrolled me in guest instructor Cynthia Wang’s Magazine Reporting spelling test. None did when I broke out the Shakespeare-themed Cards Against Humanity deck I brought.
And the best part? Everyone loved me despite my quirks. Perhaps even for them.