Christopherson Column - On the job reference, U2, and the talking pet nightmare

Mike Christopherson

    I received an email on a recent morning, very official, from a school district in the region. A former Times intern/student writer had applied for a position there, and had used me as a reference. This is a frequent occurrence. I clicked the link and spent a few minutes filling the online form with positive thoughts on the job applicant.

    I still know where she’s at and what she’s up to. We still wish each other a happy birthday. So I texted her, saying I’d offered a glowing review as her reference, but I had felt compelled to report “all the cash” she’d “stolen from the Times.”

    I know...funny, right?

    She replies, saying she never stole money and doesn’t “go to (the school district I mentioned).”

    I reply, clarifying that the school district sought me out as a reference for her job application. I indicate I’ve already filled out the online form and submitted it. I received an official confirmation email instantly, I text.

    Then it’s crickets for several hours.

    Feeling a chill of uneasiness, I text again, asking if she had in fact applied for a position in that school district.

    No, she says. Never? I reply. “Ya never,” she replies.

    Now, I’m nervous. Has the school district somehow been hacked, or me? I decide to call the school district the next morning to find out what’s what.

    Then, another reply from her number: “Who are you?”


    “Mike who?” comes the reply.

    By this time, I’m trying to call her. Someone answers, but immediately hangs up. I call again right away and am directed to voicemail, and I leave one, trying to explain and decipher what’s transpiring.

    “Mike WHO?” comes the next text second later.

    I reply, saying to listen to the voicemail I’ve left a moment earlier.

    Then comes the text reply that begins to lower my blood pressure: It’s the former intern’s much younger sister, who at some point had been the recipient of a handed-down phone and phone number. I reply, confirming who I am and that no one is being hacked or otherwise messed with. I ask if I could get her older sister’s number so I can call her and clear all of this up.

    “oh ok,” comes the reply. The younger sibling provides me the number, I call it, and over the next couple of minutes, the former intern is heave-laughing as I detail the events of the day. I tell her to call her younger sister and put her mind at ease.

    The lesson in all of this? Really, there is no profound lesson. Maybe just stay on your toes, because, these days, you never know.

    • When it comes to fandom for the iconic Irish rock band U2, I’ve always occupied the muddy middle. I remember, as part of a promotion way back in 1987 when my dad bought some killer Bose speakers, he received 10 free compact discs of his choosing, from a limited selection. (This was a big deal in the early days of CDs, when they were $20+ each.) One I helped him select was U2’s album that opened up the whole world to their talents, “The Joshua Tree.” Then we listened to it and offered a collective shrug. Hey, I was 17. My favorite band was Def Leppard.

    I’ve been lukewarm on the band in the decades since. I simply do not enjoy their recent work. I think, sort of like a newspaper columnist, the more you write after many years have passed, the more specific and perfect you think you have to be, to prevent anyone from thinking you’ve packed it in and are out of fresh ideas for a new generation of followers, readers, listeners, or whatever. To me, that’s U2 today.

    Then I watched the guitar-geek’s dream documentary a few years ago, “It Might Get Loud,” featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Jack White from The White Stripes, and The Edge, from U2.

    Going into my first viewing, I recall wondering what The Edge had done to deserve screen time next to Page and, to a much lesser extent, White. But as my mind opened as I watched, it became clear that The Edge is a master of guitar effects, pedals, and everything else that makes it possible for a guitar riff or solo, more than any other instrument or voice, to help a song survive the often cruel test of time.

    Still, while U2 may have their epic hits from decades past, and they will always be iconic and deserving of their accolades, even the most devoted ear grows tired after a while, does it not?

    But, in a pleasant surprise, I’ve rediscovered two gems from U2’s heyday, and, lately, whenever I’m jamming with friends or family, I play them, back to back, “All I Want is You” and “In God’s Country.” And it’s The Edge’s guitar that drives both songs.

    Fight me.

    • Is there a worse nightmare than your pet – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a cat or dog – all of a sudden learning how to talk, and then starting to blab about everything they’ve witnessed you do over the years?

    It would be a huge deal, a pet or animal of any kind learning how to talk, and not just like a parrot who can mimic or say a few basic words, but have full command of the English language and be able to engage in any type of conversation.

    This would make headlines worldwide, so, after your talking pet makes the rounds with your family and close friends, telling them everything you do when you’re by yourself, he’d be on every news program, every daytime TV gab-fest, every late night TV talk show, spilling his guts. Spilling your guts. He’d dictate a best-selling book (paws can’t type), “Things the Person Who Feeds Me Does When No One’s Around.” Then you’d have to go on every news program and daytime and nighttime TV talk show defending yourself. Of course, you could try to turn the tables and share with the world the disgusting behaviors your pet is capable of, but he’d be, like, “Dude, I’m a cat. And, also, my bowl is empty and I’m starving.”

    Or, am I the only one who ponders such horrific scenarios?