Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Things Equal

A few years ago I acted as driver for a friend who was going to a weight loss clinic. There were weekly weighings, etc., and special foods to be purchased, and a studiously lean selection of staff members in the lobby/waiting area. For the benefit of those of us waiting, there was also a big poster illustrating the weight gain potential of alcoholic beverages. I suspect it was aimed at college women in particular, but it compared beer and wine and mixed drinks to ice cream sundaes.

Now, I don't have ice cream sundaes very often. Like most people, I think of them as a fattening self-indulgence. But a beer or two, every now and again, is a much easier thing to say, "Yes," to. Which was the point of the poster. The equivalencies were a little disturbing. Booze is fattening.

Of course, being the independent thinker I am, I got something entirely different out of the moment. Looking at the poster, and thinking about my occasional beer, I thought to myself, "I should be having more ice cream sundaes."

Saturday, April 3, 2010


A couple of months ago I happened to start a list of all the types of employment I've ever had. I sort of startled myself, and I don't know what to make of the list. Of course, I didn't know what to make of it years ago when I read of all the jobs the author, Jack London, had held. Did it represent courage and adaptability, or a short attention span and an inability to maintain good employee/employer relationships?

I'll leave off the employments I never got paid for, like martial arts instructor, poet, and painter. And I'll only do a rough approximation of chronological order. But follow me for a moment, if you will.

Newspaper delivery boy
Library assistant [alphabetizing cards for my mom]
Kitchen drudge/dishwasher [an Orange Julius restaurant in Albuquerque]
Agricultural laborer [detasseling corn]
Summer Child Care/Nanny
Construction work [KU football stadium renovation]
Assistant Soccer Coach [Grinnell College]
Figure Model [for drawing classes, yes nude]
Linen Boy [Hospital worker, shifting laundry, both clean and dirty]
University Ceramics Lab assistant [KU and the University of Iowa]
Ceramics Instructor [children, adults, community center and College]
Full Time Potter
Home Repair Guy
Writer [essays]
Writing Teacher
Factory assembly worker
Loading Dock worker
Furniture Mover
Prepress technician [Allen Press, Lawrence, Kansas]
Pressman's helper
Access Control Officer [credit card manufacturing security officer]
Clay Supply Warehouse worker
Medical Supply Delivery driver
Proofreader/Copy editor
Art Museum Security Guard
Bus Driver
SafeRide Driver [free late night taxi service for college students]
Library Assistant
and now, a Manuscript Specialist at a University Archive.

I'd prefer to mark all the changes down to geographical moves and improved opportunities. Almost none of the jobs involved getting fired or laid off. And several were the sort of part time work you count yourself lucky to find when you're also trying to be a student. I suppose student is a job, too, though almost no one will pay you to do it.

The long and the short of it is that I've got a lot of story material based on diverse work experiences. And I have a hard time understanding how someone stays with the same job their whole working life. It either indicates a brilliance in finding the perfect first job, or a complacency about life that borders on the vegetative.

Paula Poundstone was right. We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up because we're still looking for good ideas ourselves. I hope my current new job [combined with my old interests] lasts a good long time. Stability can be a change.