The One That Got Away
I applied for my dream job in December of 2006. The advertisement went something like this: “Are you enthusiastic about the prospect of adventure? Do you love animals? Are you ready to scuba dive in Arctic waters and trek through Amazonian rainforests? Do you have a great sense of humor and are you between the ages of 22 and 35?”
Animal Planet needed a host for their new show, Ms. Adventure. I panicked as soon as I read the ad on the website.
“I have to apply for this right now!” I shouted, to myself.
Hunched over the computer, I spent the next two hours banging out an application, highlighting my travel experience and love for animals.
If you counted a layover I had in Germany, I had already been to seventeen countries! Plus, James Herriot had been my childhood idol. This job was mine.
Several days later, I got a phone call from an anonymous number.
“Hi, is that Lauren?”
“Yes,” I said suspiciously.
“This is Amanda, from Animal Planet.”
I almost fainted. Be cool, I thought. Be cool.
“Oh, hi.” As if I took calls from TV networks all the time. “How are you?”
“Great,” Amanda chirped. “I was calling about your application. We loved it and wanted to make sure you sent in a video.”
“Really?” I yelled. Smooth, idiot.
“So you’re still interested, right?” she asked.
“Definitely,” I said. “I’ll send off my video by the end of the week.”
“Fantastic,” she said. “I look forward to it.”
Bridget, one of my college roommates, was enlisted to help with filming. We sketched out a skeleton of how the video would go.
Indianapolis in winter is decidedly lacking in adventure opportunities. My sister’s giant trampoline was the most extreme sport available, so we used it. After twelve takes of me leaping off the trampoline, shouting, “Hi, I’m Lauren! And I’m Ms. Adventure!” Bridget was satisfied.
Scene 2 – Rainforest Simulation
With the addition of two potted trees from the dining room, the upstairs bathroom was transformed into a rainforest. Running a hot shower gave the illusion of steam, and jungle-appropriate stuffed animals were the finishing touch. In an inspired move, we brought in the family cats. Princess scratched the door while Mittens laid in the sink and meowed unconvincingly.
“Rolling,” Bridget said. The red light glowed from the camera.
“We’re here in tropical Brazil,” I said, “on a quest to find the elusive Brazilian panther.”
Princess jumped into the plastic tree behind me, stuck her back leg in the air, and licked her butt.
“Look!” I gasped. “The even rarer Brazilian leopard. There hasn’t been a sighting in at least fifty years. Thanks to human intervention and deforestation, there are only about 23 left in the wild.”
Princess sneezed and stalked out of the frame.
Scene 3 – Convincing the Judges
I held a globe and talked about where I had been, then gave the camera a brief rundown of my love for animals and general sense of adventure.
Scene 4 – Bathtub Scuba Diving
My parents’ jacuzzi bath doubled nicely as an ocean. I put on a scuba mask and submerged myself in the water, face up. Bridget launched plastic sharks and alligators into the frame, demonstrating my previous experience diving with sharks. What I lacked in realism, I hoped to make up for in creativity.
After four consecutive hours of editing, the DVD was ready. Amateur, maybe, but ready.
I tracked its progress obsessively as FedEx trucks delivered it to Bethesda, Maryland.
Then I waited.
In January, I got a phone call while I was at work. I worked in the office for a snow removal company.
“Lauren? This is Amanda.” She sounded pumped.
My mouth went dry. This was it.
“Hi, Amanda.” I tried to keep my voice down so that my only co-worker, Scott, wouldn’t come in to see what was going on.
“I’ve got some great news for you. You’re a semi-finalist for Ms. Adventure!”
Hell. Yes. I was so excited.
But for some reason, I couldn’t express that.
“Really? Wow!” Even I could hear the lack of enthusiasm in my voice. I figured it must be shock.
“Are you excited?” She sounded – disappointed?
“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Amanda explained that there were six semi-finalists. A panel of judges would choose three finalists, who would be flown to Bethesda for a screen test.
“Congratulations, Lauren!” she said.
I told everyone I knew that I was a semi-finalist. Mistake #1.
I started speculating on when I might be going to Maryland. Mistake #2.
I fantasized about where I might go first. Elephant-riding in India? Sloth-spotting in…wait, where did sloths live? Doesn’t matter. I would soon find out. Mistake #3.
The Crushing of My Spirit
I didn’t get a phone call. I got an e-mail.
Congratulations on making it to the semi-final round of Ms. Adventure. You should be very proud as we received over 650 applications and it was highly competitive. Thank you for your application and best of luck in the future.
Who starts a rejection letter with the word ‘congratulations?’ And where was my phone call? Surely I deserved a phone call, after all we’d been through. Or at least a personal e-mail?
I kicked myself for not being energetic enough on the phone. I imagined how it had gone down in the boardroom:
Judges: This Lauren girl seems alright. Creative, funny, obviously loves animals.
Amanda: (she wears thick glasses and has mousy brown hair) I’m not sure about her. She wasn’t very excited on the phone.
Judges: Not excited on the phone? We can’t have that.
My smiling photo is thrown into the bin, where dreams go to die. It is quickly obscured by snotty tissues and KitKat wrappers.
Animal Planet chose Rachel Reenstra, a thirty-something actress/comedian who had been working in LA for ten years. She immediately became my arch-nemesis, a symbol of the life I could have had.
I reverted to my Plan B and moved to New Zealand for a year. People back home gave me updates on Ms. Adventure, my new least-favorite TV show.
“I saw her on a float at the Macy’s Parade,” my sister said. “She looked old.”
“The show’s not even that good,” Bridget said. “She was holding a koala or something lame.”
I cyber-stalked this Rachel Reenstra to see what she had that I didn’t.
Turns out, a lot.
I found her application video online and watched it, full of bitterness.
I talked about sky-diving? She had clips of her actually sky-diving.
I splashed around with plastic sharks in my parents’ bathtub? She had footage of her doing a shark dive in the Pacific.
From beginning to end, her video completely kicked my video’s ass. She was funny, she looked good on camera, and she didn’t make a rainforest out of a couple of plastic trees and a soft-water shower. Also, her dog didn’t lick its butt on-camera.
I accepted the loss. I moved on.
But a tiny part of me spitefully rejoiced when the show was cancelled.