Living Out Loud: : The Runaway Columnist

I'm gonna be rich too!

When Jennifer Wilbanks went missing from her Gainesville, Ga. home in late April, days before her huge wedding to John Mason, I thought it was news. I was curious and concerned as to what happened to her.

But when it turned out she was simply a runaway bride, I quickly lost interest.

The media didn't. She showed up on the cover of People magazine with those big eyes staring at you. All the networks still carried stories about her, as did the rest of the print media. Now we're into June and the Wilbanks story just keeps getting bigger.

Last week Wilbanks did an exclusive interview with Katie Couric on Dateline NBC. The ratings went through the roof. She has a book deal pending.

She has a movie deal pending — and something tells me this is just the beginning.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if she becomes the television spokesperson for the Greyhound Bus Co. or if Fox Television wants to develop a sitcom around her. (I would recommend the title, "Where the Hell is Jen?")

And John Mason still wants to marry her? That's a whole other story in itself. Come on, John. When you see a "flake" in your life, you're not looking into any kind of cereal bowl, you're looking at those big blue eyes of Ms. Wilbanks.

But maybe love is blind and maybe I'm a fool. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if this mistake in Wilbanks' life nets her millions and millions of dollars.

I need to learn from this woman.

I want to run something by you, my readers. Since the editors here at CityBeat pay so little attention to this column and what I write about, give me your thoughts on this idea. I'm being serious here.

I'm going to become the Runaway Columnist. Editors John Fox and Greg Flannery will be looking for my copy on Friday, my deadline. They won't receive it. They'll come looking for me in the office, but I won't be around. My co-worker Sara will tell them she hasn't seen me in days. Phone calls to my home will go unanswered.

When you, the reader, go looking for my column, you'll see blank space. You'll become concerned and will start pressing my editors to find me. They will call the police and a massive search will be implemented on my behalf.

Days go by and I can't be found. I miss writing the column for another week and you, my public, start to panic. The FBI gets involved, as does the national media. John Fox goes on CBS's The Early Show to plead to all viewers, if they know anything about where I am, to contact him. This is good for my plan, because John seldom answers his phone. Posters with my picture on it will be plastered all over Cincinnati. CityBeat will offer a $20 reward for any information leading to my whereabouts.

Then suddenly I call. Out of money and out of cigarettes, I call Editor Greg Flannery and say I'm at a pay phone outside of Rabbit Hash, Ky. and need a ride home. When he asks me what happened, I'll say I was abducted by two members of the editorial staff of Cin (Corporate Issued Nausea) Weekly, who want me to write for their publication.

When the police question me on this statement, I'll quickly fold. The truth will be I had nothing to write for the column and felt panicked about it. (Well, that really won't be the truth either. I just wanted to Web-surf, drink and not do anything for a couple weeks). I'll go into hiding for a little bit, then seek treatment — for what, I'm not sure.

When I emerge, I'll be rich. I'll have a book and movie deal. My column will become nationally syndicated. I'll meet Jennifer Wilbanks and she'll invite me to appear in her sitcom. I'll decide she's not a flake at all and we'll fall madly in love. She'll forget about dopey John Mason and I'll ask for her hand in marriage. She'll say yes and we'll invite 600 people to our wedding. A few days before it, she'll become panicked and the saga will start all over again. I can see all that money right now.

So there's my plan. Pretty well thought out, don't you think? I'm gonna get rich, right?

Your dead silence is telling me an earful.

All right, see ya next week.

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