Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be Baffled By Something.

But what?

School's out. I'm not teaching this summer.

Wife seems to like me this week. Kid is okay. Animals okay.

But I must be baffled. It's my schtick, after all.

I guess, how did I end up a college proffie? There are so many other things to be, and I certainly did a wide variety of jobs as a young man. I was good at a lot of things.

I remember being great at selling telephone book space, you know, yellow pages, back when people still used them. I had a laminated card of prices. I knocked on business doors. People seemed to like me. They often wrote me checks write there. I'd fill out the details of the ad. Put the check in my briefcase, go to the next shop.

One time a nice guy at a deli bought some space and gave me a free lunch. What?

Of course other times I got shooed away at the door, like I had a vacuum cleaner trailing behind me. I never begrudged them.

What would I have become if I kept doing that? How different would my daily concerns be? Would I have different friends? Of course. I'd keep different hours. I'd be tired in different ways.

I can't even imagine it.


  1. I threw newspapers with a guy for a few weeks back in the early 80s. I knew about ten guys who had super-large routes and made a ton of money. Their lives were lively and amazing. I know I would have become a very different person had I hung in there and built a route like they had.

    Interesting to think about our paths.

  2. Maybe the nice deli guy was thinking, "I wonder what Hiram the Salesman's concerns are?"

  3. I tended bar when I was younger, and I loved it. I loved the hours, the people, etc. I lived in a smallish college town and the bar was a great hangout place. If I'd had any money at all, I might have bought into the place. The owner was always trying to sell a half share.

    I am about 90% sure I would have always loved reading and writing, but I found real joy in the work at that bar and my life would definitely have been different if I'd stayed in that world.

    I often think about the choice to stop working there and focus on grad school. I miss a lot of that experience.

    1. Kimmie, over the years I've had several students tell me the reason they could not make time for writing essays, etc, was because they were too busy making 1,000 per week as bartenders. Some claimed to make more. Without exception, I told them that sounded wonderful and I thought they should focus on building a career around that and forget college! With complete sincerity, I might add. It sounds like a fun, fast moving, lucrative job.

  4. I'd still be a practicing engineer. Salaries have gone up quite a bit since I left to go back to school. Not that I chose this for the money. . . .

    1. The only reason I started teaching was that I couldn't get an engineering job at the time. At first, I thought that it was better than what I had to put up with in industry but I eventually figured out that I merely exchanged one set of miseries for another.

  5. I often wonder what would have happened had I gone into business with my parents. They ran a really successful diner in a small Midwestern town.

    As a kid, I hated working there in the summers, but my parents have been fantastically happy their whole adult lives, have lifelong friends, have been a hub for their community, and I've chased around shit jobs in shithole towns and have zero friends and nothing but failed relationships.

    Baffle that one, Hiram. Ugh.

  6. I think I'd be lonely and isolated working in a profession that didn't value intellectual endeavor. I love that my colleagues and I have a strong set of shared values and mission. I can only take so much discussion of real estate and TV shows. Plus, the more I have to deal with my fucktard administration, the more passionate I am about teaching young people to think clearly.

    1. I had similar views when I started teaching but I became tired, frustrated, and cynical over the years. At the place where I used to teach, no good deed I did went unpunished.

  7. I'm reminded of that scene in the movie American Beauty where Kevin Spacey's character is fondly reminiscing about his minimum wage job when he worked at a burger joint, with no responsibilities, and therefore no worries or stress.
    However much I hate this job sometimes, and all the worry and stress that goes with it, I can't imagine doing something else. Although, similar to Kevin Spacey's movie character, I had a youth with an awesome low wage job where I had a blast, I'm not sure I'd still be having a blast 25 years later.

  8. Yeah, I don't have to imagine. I did every job under the sun before landing in IT, then did that for about a decade, and basically said "screw this" to the private sector. I know I couldn't do anything else through empirical observation. I've hated every other job I've ever had save one, and I like this one a lot better than that one, even with dumbass administrators and annoying students.

  9. I've had an awful lot (carefully chosen words) of jobs too, including some with no responsibilities, allowing for long evenings of pinball and bong hits. Ahh, the days when brain cells seemed so inexhaustible that one could waste a few regularly.

    My current position, however, is the only job I have truly loved and looked forward to, despite the snowflakes and occasional bureaucratic misery. Retirement is far away, which is just fine with me.

    But there was a time when I knew that my talents and heart lay in the arts. Drawing and photography kept me absorbed for hours, and my art teacher was steering me towards our local, internationally known school of design with tours and application coaching. She saw me as a scientific illustrator. My parents thought this was ridiculous, too wild, and not likely to lead to me supporting myself. They said they wouldn't pay for art school if I got in. They did generously pay for a BA at a well-regarded SLAC, and eventually I buckled down to get a PhD in a field that interested me enough.

    Today I understand their caution, but many times in grad school (especially when filling out tax returns about nonexistent income) I thought that with a degree in illustration I would already be 10 years into a career, with retirement savings. Is that true? Where would I be living? Would I have medical benefits? Enough financial stability to support kids? Would the pressure of deadlines and the feast-and-famine nature of the work be causing chronic stress? Are these sour grapes? Do I have any right to pine about the road not taken when I have a permanent, meaningful, challenging job with good benefits, surrounded by people I (mostly) like?

    A Thirsty last week asked where we'll be this summer. I'll be in the mountains at an intensive drawing class. Finally.


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