Twitter Story: How Chris Jones got a job as a writer at Esquire

Chris Jones describes himself this way: Idiot. Storyteller. Writing mostly for screens—including “Away,” coming to Netflix on September 4. Trying to make more corrections than mistakes. His tweetstorm story today:

Some followers and all of my friends know the story of my arrival at Esquire, but I wish to share it today, because it makes me happy. It’s a story about how much strangers can impact another stranger’s life. A janitor changed everything for me. He doesn’t even know he did.

One day in 2001, I’m in New York City to cover the Blue Jays for the National Post. At the time, Esquire—which I loved—operated out of a quaint, maybe three-story building in Midtown. Today it’s at Hearst Tower, and none of what follows would have been possible. (Sorry, kids.)

Anyway, I decide David Granger, Esquire’s esteemed editor-in-chief, would love to meet a 25-year-old baseball writer from Canada. I walk into the building and up to the security guard behind the desk in the lobby. I ask to see David Granger. The guard looks into my soul.

“Do you have an appointment?” I was like, Um… no. But David Granger must just be sitting in his office, sipping whiskey, and here I am, a writer of considerable renown. Perhaps you’ve seen my exploding hot dog story? Surely he’d want me to introduce myself.

The janitor tells me I need to speak to Andy Ward. Andy’s an editor at Esquire, he says. He likes baseball. (I had told the security guard what sort of writer I was.) “Call Andy,” the janitor says. I thank him and go back to the guard and ask if I could please call Andy Ward.

Guard rolls his eyes but for some reason lets me use the lobby phone. Andy picks up! I introduce myself: Hi, I’m Chris, I’m a young writer from Canada, and I would like to work for Esquire someday. Would you meet with me and tell me how I can make that happen?

Andy says—somewhat unbelievably—“Sure. When are you coming to town?” I was like, I’m in the lobby. Andy says, “Oh. I’m kind of busy right now.” I say, How about later? Andy says, Come back in two hours. Great. I tell the janitor that I have a meeting with Andy Ward. High five.

None of this seemed remarkable to me at the time, but I look back on all of that today and think: How ridiculous. I bounce along and decide I should bring Andy some baked goods as well as my clips. I buy two dozen Krispy Kreme original glazed and come back at the appointed hour.

I give a dozen doughnuts to St. Janitor, who seems delighted. I never see him again. I give a dozen to Andy. I sit, we talk. I ask him to read a clip while I’m sitting there. “I just want to know,” I said. “Do I have a chance?” AND HE READS IT AS I WATCH HIM READ IT.

Andy says, “We wouldn’t use so many one-sentence paragraphs, but it’s all right.” That’s all I need. Clearly one day I will work at Esquire. Six months later—long story short: some shit happened, and I’m unemployed and living out of a jeep in Flagstaff, Arizona—Andy emails.

Esquire has an opening for their sports columnist. They’re going to have ten writers each write a column. Best column gets the job. I can still remember the feeling in my stomach, reading that email. The excitement, the nerves. One-in-ten! Holy shit. Don’t blow this, idiot.

I have to pitch ten ideas. Andy bites on a profile of Barry Zito. I am delighted, because I know Barry. He’s awesome. “If you think something is meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Barry tells me. “You can make it happen.” I think very hard that I’m meant to write for Esquire.

I GET THE JOB. A few months later, I’m on the road when Andy calls. He’s going to GQ, which wants all of his writers but me. (Hurtful. Also: Oh no.) But Granger gives me a new contract. I stay at Esquire for 14 years, a blessing that began with an angel posing as a janitor.

Years later, I see Andy again: You know, I’ve never found any of the other people who tried for the job. He’s like, “What are you talking about?” And I say, The other nine? Andy says, “Oh God. I made that up.” He smiles. “I just wanted to make sure you wrote a good story.”

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