Excalibur’s first year online: Can expectations alter our reality?

(Courtesy of Riddhi Jani)

A long time ago in the distant lands — or somewhere in the United Kingdom — rose a legend that foretold the tale of a young boy destined for greatness when he pulled a magically- and conveniently-placed sword out of a stone, making him king. This sword was called Excalibur, and no, none of this actually happened. But what if it did

What if The Sword in the Stone — a novel by british writer T. H. White — actually happened, and was the inspiration for York’s community newspaper? It’s a wild thought, to be honest, but I’ll leave the ‘what ifs’ to Disney+ and Marvel.

What is the point of mentioning this fictional story? Why ponder on whether it could be real or not? Afterall, isn’t fiction just real-life stories in a made-up world?

Well, a world without COVID-19 seems pretty fictional right about now, and it’s often led me to wonder what the past year and a half would’ve looked like if there was no pandemic. Who knows if I would have even joined Excalibur.

But I did — and here we are: stuck in a pandemic that has overstayed its welcome. This pandemic has taken too many things from us, so let’s talk about one stupid little detail it took away from me and the team: a legitimate office experience.

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We all know the show The Office. With an ensemble cast and an excellent writing team, the show that played on the harsh reality of working a mundane job was almost destined for greatness.. You see, I binged the absolute hell out of that show when they announced it was leaving Netflix, and it turns out the show was only leaving Netflix in the U.S. Whoops.

As I was watching the soon-to-be-on-my-top-five-shows-list show, I started to question what life at Excalibur would be like if it weren’t online. What would my work life be like if we worked in the office?

Of course, I imagine myself leaning back in my wheelie chair as I nonchalantly scan over an article with a cup of hot cocoa in one hand. Fortunately, I actually did get to do that at home (on the days I actually got out of bed.) Sure there’s the lengthy phone calls, dozens of daily messages, and the occasional random email — it was mostly spam though — but not once did I do any of that in the office. All of those phone calls, those messages — and yes, even those pesky spam emails — were processed in the comfort of my own home.

What does the Excalibur office even look like? Is there a giant poster on the wall that has Excalibur’s motto and mission statement? Is there a cubicle layout or is it more like the bullpen from Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Does the copy editor even get their own desk? Maybe there’s a massive yet noticeably-fake boulder with an equally massive yet also noticeably-fake sword plunged inside of it? Is that Excalibur, sword of legends? Is that how they choose who becomes editor-in-chief? No, it’s not. But wouldn’t that be cool?

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It’s wild to think about this, but I’ve never met the team in person. Nobody talks about it, but it’s incredibly difficult connecting and relating to your coworkers when you never see them. At that point they don’t even feel like coworkers, just people you communicate with to get the job done. Not once did I ever barge into the editor-in-chief’s office about a breaking story, or casually walk into the news room to hear the latest gossip, or even share small talk by the water cooler with a pathetic paper cone for a cup. As weird as it is to say, I wanted those experiences — or maybe I just wanted to put someone’s stapler in green Jell-O. Who knows.

Instead, I bonded with the editor-in-chief thanks to our similar past work experiences. The assistant news editor and I bonded over our mutual love for all things horror. Despite never meeting any of my coworkers in person, I still put in the effort to act like coworkers — or, at least I tried. 

Turnover is rough. You hear it in the restaurant industry — where employee turnover is incredibly high — but you never expect it at a student-run newspaper. The team we started the year with was very different from the team we ended the year with. But things happen, and as the saying goes, it is what it is.

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The biggest question I have — which may or may not be a subquestion to the main question of this uncategorized creative piece I’m writing here — is “would I have performed my job any differently if we were in an office?” Would my features and editorials look the same, let alone be on a similar topic? Would my satire pieces be as ‘out there’ as they were? Would I be able to actually focus in the office at all, compared to my distraction-filled bedroom?

The question might even go unanswered. Will we go into the office when the winter term starts? It’s certainly a possibility I’d prefer to be a reality, but señor Delta keeps getting in the way. Maybe one day I can finally meet the Excalibur family. Maybe we’ll end up grabbing a drink to catch up.

Only time will tell, as cliche as it sounds. Last year was an unforgettable one, and I know this year we’ll have a blast. 

So if you’re reading this, stay safe out there. And stay frosty, Lions.
P.S. There better be a massive yet noticeably-fake boulder with an equally massive yet also noticeably-fake sword plunged inside of it in the office, because if there’s not, I will be disappointed.

About the Author

By Jonathan Q. Hoidn

Copy Editor

copy@excal.on.ca

Jonathan is a Canadian multimedia writer and student who has a passion for storytelling. Despite his preference for writing poignant and humorous tales, Jonathan loves to challenge himself with new topics, mediums, and perspectives. When Jonathan isn’t editing articles, you can find him tackling his backlog of movies, TV shows, video games, and comics; being the nerd of the group; writing down jokes that come to him in the middle of the night; watching the Raptors game; planning out several screenplay details in the seemingly endless “Story Ideas” folder; staring into the void; walking his dog (which is notably the cutest in town); looking into the camera, breaking the fourth wall; and hunting down that pesky little radioactive spider.

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