Excessive Celebration

Tractor Boy, Andy

I wasn’t always the chill, relaxed sports writer that you know today. I’ve had my moments in the dirt, scrounging to stay ahead in this world. I’ve had to lie and cheat to keep my head above ground, and today I’m willing to share the story of perhaps the greatest lie I’ve ever told.

When I was fresh out of college, I was desperately in need of a full-time job. I was engaged to be married, I had a degree but basically no work experience and I had a volcano of student loan debt, the same debt that still haunts me in my dreams today.

I had just ended a part-time stint as a camera man for a tri-state news station in Quincy, Ill. During that time, I had been secretly living at my Alma Mater in Hannibal, traveling the dorms and ducking RDs so I could skip out on paying rent.

Despite my clever ruse, I was still eating fast food for every meal and spending the rest of my money on gas, so I was basically breaking even. I knew I couldn’t keep it up, and I knew I had to make a move fast.

Luckily, I was given the offer of a lifetime by the eventual best man at my wedding. He told me I could come live with him in Kahoka, Mo., just as long as I paid rent.

My degree was in Communications, but unluckily, there aren’t any big Public Relations firms in small-town Missouri, so I was forced to pick between a very small handful of jobs. I could work at the grocery store. I could plow snow, or I could go for the big bucks and work for the local tractor dealer. I chose the big money.

There was only one problem. Despite living in Iowa my whole life, I didn’t know anything about tractors. I had never operated one and couldn’t really tell you how one works. I thought Kubota was a Japanese food dish.

The good news was that my friend knew the owner and was able to get me an interview. The bad news was that the only position available was “parts specialist.” The even worse news was I probably couldn’t name five different parts of a tractor, and honestly I probably still can’t.

The great news is that I’m awesome at job interviews. I once got a job that required hours of highway driving when I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t even know how to operate a camera when I got this sports editor job.

Here’s a life lesson. As long as you pretend that you know what you’re doing good enough, you can mentally dominate people into giving you what you want. Money, power, immortality. It’s all available just as long as you know how to play pretend.

I went into the interview confident. I had nothing to lose. I sat down in the interview chair and lied like O.J. Simpson in a courtroom. (Allegedly, I should say for legal purposes).

The boss man told me I needed to know two things to get this job. I needed to know how to work a tractor and how to work a computer. I was 50 percent qualified, but I knew if I could convince him I was at least 75 percent qualified, I had a shot.

“I’m great at computer stuff, and I think I’ll be able to pick up the tractor part in no time,” I lied.

This battle of the minds lasted about 20 minutes before the boss eventually offered me the job. I was pumped. I had just gone from Andy Krutsinger, the unemployed broke loser to Andy Krutsinger, trusty farmhand.

My job was pretty simple. Someone would come in the store and tell me what was going on with their equipment, and all I had to do was identify the problem, figure out what tool they needed, find that tool and then sell it to them. No sweat.

Except it wasn’t no sweat. It was a big sweat. My first day on the job saw customer after customer come in, explain some complex issue and then look at me for an answer I didn’t have.

My strategy for dealing with the customer was simple. After they told me the problem, I’d turn around and look at the inventory. Then I’d turn back around, mumble a bunch of nonsense and aimlessly type random letters into the computer.

Often I was bailed out by a fellow employee stepping in and answering the question themselves. I would pretend I was just about to say whatever my co-worker said and just trust that they had it all figured out.

If there wasn’t a co-worker to tell me what to do, I’d usually just fib and say we were out of whatever the customer needed or pretend to get sick and run to the back. I was flying by the seat of my pants every time somebody walked through the door. It was such a rush.

Sadly, I knew I couldn’t keep up the charade for long, and I could tell everyone else was starting to figure out just how lost I really was. It was evident to everyone by day two on the job that I was more lost than Charles Barkley at a Chippendales photo shoot.

When my second day of living on the edge was almost up, I decided to finally do the right thing. I told the boss we needed to talk and went into his office, ready to spill the beans.

“I think by now we both know I have no idea what I’m doing,” I said. “I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to help you guys out.”

The boss just grinned and nodded his head. He paid me for my two days and I said goodbye.

Months later, when I was working for a radio station in Keokuk, I decided to travel back to downtown Kahoka to pay my old crew a visit. I walked in with a smile on my face, ready to catch up with my former crew members. Sadly, nobody there really remembered me so I just awkwardly talked about the weather for a couple minutes and then walked out with my tail between my legs.

The moral of this story is that the truth will always catch up to you, no matter how good you are at hiding it. I reckon I’ll never be back in the tractor game, but at least I walked out with a valuable lesson.