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Good Night, And Good Luck

James Tate
Oct 1, 2007
0710_sccp_01_z+james_tate_editorial+under_hood Photo 1/1   |   Good Night, And Good Luck

I was about to start by whining about how much I hate airports. I grew up overseas and still associate them with painful goodbyes. Halfway through my gripe, it occurred to me there's something I actually like about these damnable structures. They represent change. Unless you're rich enough to commute through airports daily, you're embarking on something fresh or closing something you'll never forget every time you're in one.

I often write my columns in airports. Maybe the shake-up of flying is what I need to spill my guts each month. Either way, it's the only piece I'm responsible for that doesn't require constant reference to spec sheets or Jay's telemetry data, so it can be composed anywhere.

You're reading my last one. I'll make it short and sweet because, like I insinuated, I hate goodbyes.

I wondered for a long time what I'd miss most after leaving and, to my bewilderment, I think it will actually be talking to your nagging and complaining asses on this page every month. It would be nice to meet in person everyone who ever sent me an e-mail-maybe you thought they went straight into some giant junk mail folder, never to be seen again. But I read every single one. I thought of them as letters from friends I hadn't yet met.

There's a popular question I feel I should answer before I leave, maybe the most important one I get asked: "How do I get a job at Sport Compact Car?" So many know-it-alls are sure they have the answer. Years of journalism courses and rigorous engineering curriculum topped off with a massive dose of luck is a common guess. The truth is, it's like any other job. Which is to say it takes 85 percent drive and maybe 15 percent smarts and paperwork, and whatever other fancy-pants crap you may be able to bring to the table.

The most common mistake people make when thinking about jobs like this is classic. It goes something like: "Yeah, of course that'd be sweet, but imagine how many other people have applied for it. What are the chances?" That argument is complete and utter bullshit-for a couple of reasons. One, if every monkey is thinking it, guess how many people actually end up applying?

Two, chances and odds are for monkeys. Don't be a monkey. if you're worried about the odds, you don't want it bad enough. Think about the times you've forced yourself to forget the chances when you really wanted something-like a ridiculously rare car or an impossibly expensive engine swap. Life favors those who can ignore the odds.

So you see, it's much more about determination than it is about where you went to college, what you studied, or even how bright you are. The one thing you need over the next monkey is the thing you already have: gasoline in your veins. If you're a decent writer and you're driven too, there's little that can keep you from eventually getting somewhere.

So eat the ramen and sleep on the floor if you have to. Do you want it or not? And to the promising e-mails I've read and the sample articles you've sent: apply for the job, you jackasses. Send more samples. Find cool cars and write about them. Call editors until you're more worried about getting a restraining order than you are about getting voicemail.

You may even read these columns and think: "Shit, I can write better than that." But the difference between you and whoever has this sweet job by the time you read this is drive. Work takes too much damn time to not be doing what you love. Do what you love, not what you're expected to do.

So much for breaking the tradition of sucky airport goodbyes.

By James Tate
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