Backstory: Before She Could Work at Seven Days, Our Summer Intern Had to Learn to Drive | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Backstory: Before She Could Work at Seven Days, Our Summer Intern Had to Learn to Drive 

Published December 27, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge Tall Travis at the Dog House in South Burlington - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Tall Travis at the Dog House in South Burlington

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2023.

It's bad to lie in a job interview.

It's especially bad to lie during a job interview when the lie is that you meet the basic requirements of the job and, in fact, you do not.

But in my defense, I really wanted to intern at Seven Days.

I was thrilled when publisher Paula Routly answered my cold email in March and suggested a Zoom interview later that week. At the end of our chat, she offered me a job.

Then, just before I hung up, she interjected: "You can drive, right?"

"Uh, of course."

But I could not drive — at all.

click to enlarge Street-legal Abigail - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Street-legal Abigail

In New York City, where I grew up, learning to operate a car simply hadn't been necessary. Suddenly, though, I had no choice but to get my license, fast.

As soon as Yale University's spring semester ended, I threw myself into driver's ed, learning months' worth of material in a matter of days. This was made possible by my superhero driving instructor, Big Mike (his chosen name). I owe him everything.

I passed the road test on May 25. I moved to Vermont five days later. Living in Burlington doesn't require much driving, but reporting for Seven Days took me beyond the city. In a car I'd borrowed from my cousin for the summer, I white-knuckled it to Jim Westphalen's Shelburne art studio and Clearwater Sports' Waitsfield HQ.

I even managed a treacherous drive to Waterbury, hard-hit by flooding. The soggy terrain was a new challenge. I received warnings: "Don't drive through water, even if it seems still." "Use a paper map. Don't trust your phone." It had only been a month since I learned three-point turns. Who knows how I made it home in one piece.

Eventually, my luck ran out. It was mid-July, and I was in a place far scarier than a flooded country road: the downtown City Market, Onion River Co-op parking lot. Locals know that it's a driver's hellscape. Backing out of my spot, I hit a parked car and left a nice, juicy dent in its backside.

The situation worsened when I exited my car to leave a note on my victim's windshield and saw the members of Tall Travis — the band I was profiling for the paper that week — walking across the lot. I remembered someone at the paper cautioning me that reporting in Burlington meant you'd have to face your subjects at the grocery store. Not if you hide, I thought, ducking behind the car I'd just hit. (It was a personal low.)

I left Vermont with incredible memories, mostly of creemees and James Kochalka. The few coworkers I confided in vowed secrecy. On rare occasions, I see the contact "Isabelle Fender Bender" in my phone and shudder, but mostly I've tried not to think about my perilous time as a closeted new driver.

Then, this month, I got an email from Paula: "You didn't actually know how to drive a car even though you said you did! And you had an accident?"

I couldn't lie my way out of that one. Consider this piece as my penance, an offering of the things Seven Days editors love most: a good story, and the truth.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Biggest Lie"

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About The Author

Abigail Sylvor Greenberg

Abigail Sylvor Greenberg

Abigail Sylvor Greenberg was a Seven Days culture writer intern in 2023.


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