Few people know this, but after finishing a grueling four years at a quality institution of higher learning–majoring in waitressing, I mean, Russian–I applied for, and got through several cuts in the selection process for MTV’s Real World. It was the second season, which would have landed me somewhere in Los Angeles, if I recall correctly.
Auditioning for a reality TV show is all about creating a character, though I would not have known it at the time, because reality TV was brand new. The only two really shows around were Survivor in its infancy, and The Real World. Heck, in those days–hard to imagine, MTV even had music, not pregnant teens and Rhode Islanders hogging all the hair gel fighting with non natives of New Jersey after having way too much to drink. Reality TV shows were cool. I thought cool would be a good career interlude.
At the time, the auditioning process involved first sending in the actual application and getting through a few rounds of pre-screening. The premise is this–shows cast people from all over the world to live together to see who will kill whom first. They stole the idea from the cult classic Highlander, which was about a bunch of immortals roaming the world killing each other and assuming their power under the premise that “there can be only one.” Same thing with reality TV. The one that defeats the other for screen time gets the best makeup, hair gel, bad fashion and endorsements–heck, I saw one relative victor advertising, um, pickles, and another recently got to make his own alcoholic drink, so that every time he overconsumes from here on in, he’ll get a slice of the profits. He should do pretty well on that own.
Of course, I wouldn’t have seen that glamor then–the genre was still too new. I would have cast myself as the “vegetarian weightlifter guitar playing Gandhi loving pacifist.” Although it seems like there would have been plenty of them in LA already, my guess is that there probably weren’t because they kept calling me for the next round.
As is the case with so many perfect opportunities in life, I got scared and backed out of the process just when it appeared success was on the horizon, choosing instead to work for a multi-million dollar corporation in a cubicle. Although I didn’t get to sign any autographs, I did get to put pictures on my desk.
I always wonder what life would have been like if I did had followed through to the homestretch, been chosen, and then subsequently survived the show–would I have been able to drink that much herbal tea in opposition to the forces of people punching each other, engaging in romantic interludes, vomiting and backstabbing in front of all of America? Would someone have named a tea or brand of granola after me and allowed me to be the spokes-hippie? These are questions I’ll never be able to answer and reasons I always advise people to follow their dream. Alas, I’ll never be a Vee Jay. But that’s okay, because Vee Jays no longer exist since there isn’t any music on MTV. And I was too old to get a slot as a pregnant teen.
What can I do to recapture the moment? I’ll tell you what–I will start my own reality TV show, right in my very own classroom. It’ll reach cult classic status before you can say Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Here’s what you’ll see:
Two hundred fifty amazing students fighting the odds to get an A from Casey, who will give anyone an A as long as they keep doing the work until it reaches “A” status.
The Underground Teacher Food Swap–three food-freak colleagues swapping home-raised chicken eggs for goat cheese and bread.The horror on the face of one when she sees the crackers are not gluten-free. All drink iced tea from mason jars and are avoided by “normal” staff who fear they might have their Easy Mac infected by the macrobiotic swill. All recipes must pass by Gluten-Free woman, natural-food woman, vegetarian homesteader-wanna-be, and no processed ingredients are permitted. That leaves various varieties of lettuce and iced tea in mason jars.
This individual go through the quarterly begging for paper inquest, “Didn’t you get paper in September?” Why, yes I did, but you see, I have 252 students. I stole some from the guy who has twenty. You know what, forget it, I’ll send them into the bathroom for sheets of one-ply. That should do it if I keep my notes to a minimum.
This individual try to keep up with the changes in ed reform–that would include memorizing three books–two on Common Core State Standards, which I can now recite better than a preacher at a bible convention, and a 101 paged guide on the new teacher evaluation system, which threatens to be the death of me as I attempt to collect data on 170 of my 250 students. That will be the best episode of them all–a veritable miniseries of episodes watching me track, coordinate, cry, file, and break down on a scale that even the Housewives of Orange County have never seen.
Camera guy, listen up: Pan in on the breakdown shot. If you’re good, and not the guy who took my picture at the DMV, you should be able to get a nice shot of me borrowing some saffron robes from the monks up the street from my house, and a parting shot of my self-immolation. Self-immolation always makes for good press, much better than emotional breakdowns. At a bare minimum, you should be able to get some film of me throwing the much-prized ream of paper into the air and sprinting for an application to the closest fast food restaurant. This is a good Plan B season finale–who doesn’t want to see a vegetarian making Big Macs?
If you don’t want to watch a reality show involving my classroom because perhaps you already spent enough time enduring social studies in your own school career, I’ll pitch a few other shows–we could sneak into San Francisco and steal all the iPhones and watch the fallout like one of the doomsday apocalypse prep shows. We could follow the kid who got locked in gym lockers for most of school, give him a job in an upcoming start-up hiring all the kids who bullied him, and watch him beat the Trump of them. We could drop some people opposing marriage equality in the middle of Provincetown, Morgan Spurlock 30-Days style, and see if we could get them to become more open-minded, or we could put a camera in each side of the Senate and House chambers and watch our elected officials make amends, cross the aisle and solve the problems of this nation or demand that they, themselves, be the first to jump off the fiscal cliff. Oh, right, those cameras already exist.
You know what–I think my IQ just dropped by ten points even thinking about this today. I’m going to just go and read a book.