My “Hate-Affair” with Cars

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American men are supposed to have a love affair with cars.  I don’t; never have.  Particularly ironic since I lived in Detroit for ten years.  Perhaps you can blame my feelings on the fact that the first car I owned was a baby-blue, 1977 AMC Pacer Wagon.  Think Wayne and Garth in, “Wayne’s World”.  Think John Denver’s character in, “Oh, God!”.  The Pacer was always utilized for comedic effect; James Bond never drove one.  Consider the level of self-loathing such a purchase might inspire.  I bought it from my dad, for $3,000.  That was a lot of money for a penniless college student in 1979.   AMC produced some ridiculous vehicles in the ’70’s.  My Pacer Wagon, which my roommate labeled, “the rolling aquarium”, wasn’t even the silliest car AMC marketed; my older brother drove a brown, 1972 Gremlin, with its bizarre take on a back seat.  That’s right. . .we were a two-AMC family.

Sunbird

The next car I owned was purchased with my wife, concurrent with our getting married, and moving to a new apartment.  I remember it as an extremely hectic, change-centric time in my life, imposing significant financial pressures on me.  The car, a 1984 Sunbird, was a relatively serviceable vehicle, for a reasonably long period of time.  It was one of the few cars I owned whose useful life outlived its debt payments.  The clearest memory I have of the Sunbird was the day it expired.  I was driving to my office in downtown Chicago from our home in the Northern suburbs, on the Kennedy Expressway, when it simply quit.  I had it towed to a garage somewhere on the north side of Chicago, where the mechanic later rattled off the long list of issues which would need to be fixed on the car.  I pictured him pulling the hand-crank on an old-fashioned calculator as he detailed each item to be fixed.  I said, “No, no, you don’t understand, I just want to get the thing running again, I’m not aiming for museum-quality.”

“That’s what I’m describing for you,” he responded.

“Well, the car is probably not worth that much,” I speculated.

The mechanic shrugged, and said, “I know a guy who comes in here sometimes; he’d probably give me $100 for the car.”

I considered that, and asked, “This guy who comes in here sometimes – do you think he would give you $200 for it?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he would only give me $100 for it,” he said.

And that was that.

Escort

Our next purchase, intended to accommodate our growing family, was a late-80’s-era Ford Escort Station Wagon.  At least, we thought we were buying a station wagon.  Those of you who are familiar with late-80’s-era Ford Escort Station Wagons will understand that that particular vehicle was a tiny little crackerbox of a car, and can in no way whatsoever be described as a station wagon.

Quest

Our first foray into the minivan world was with a Nissan Quest.  It was very much like every other minivan ever produced; nothing whatsoever distinctive about it.

Neon

After the Sunbird expired, in the interest of minimizing cost, I opted for a Dodge Neon.  My wife insisted that the Neon, particularly in red, the color I chose, was a “Chick Car”; she may have been right.  It didn’t help that the car didn’t have power windows, a rarity in the late ’90’s.  I vowed never to make that mistake again.

Sunbird

With the coming of the new millenium (actually those who have devoted their lives to the study of calendar dynamics – who are called what? Calendarologists? – insist that the new millenium began on January 1, 2001, although if you recall, the Y2K furor occurred a year earlier), I purchased a 2000 Malibu, which lasted a solid twelve years, and clipped 200,000 miles, with only a minor bit of rust near the end of its life.  Now, you would think that kind of longevity would have provided me with some small sense of satisfaction.  Nope, cars suck!  Why couldn’t that car have provided another three or 4 years of faithful service before being smacked by an unsafe driver as I was entering a parking lot?  “Totaled” was the insurance company’s unceremonious conclusion.

Conversion Van

Now this next one was an interesting purchase – a Chevrolet Conversion Van, complete with a TV screen for the kids to watch videos and play games while we traveled.  The downside of this car was that, when we weren’t traveling, we were using it to run errands, to the grocery store and to the cleaners.  That is, until my wife decided that I should drive it to work every day, some thirty miles or so into Center City, Philadelphia, from our home in the Northern suburbs; her idea of a joke, I’m sure; not the most cost-effective commuter vehicle.  I also remember my daughter walking up to the front of the car (not possible in a normal-sized passenger car), at about age four or 5, and accidentally stepping on the cupcakes we had purchased for my wife’s birthday.  I thought that was funny, and that it would be a precious family memory for years to come, as I served the smashed cupcakes that evening.  I was wrong; my wife was not amused.

Trailblazer

We went through three or 4 of these Chevrolet Trailblazers, upgrading to a newer, improved model every couple of years, all the while steadily increasing our monthly payment (they call it “rolling over” your loan in the automotive financing business), until we reached the point where it would have been less expensive for us to have financed the purchase of a helicopter.

Vue

Next in our lineup of expensive hunks of metal was a 2009 Saturn Vue, a minivan produced by a company slated for extinction.  If you’ve ever tried to repair something that is no longer being produced you know the challenges we have faced with this fine vehicle.  Those of you who own Edsels can appreciate the issue.

Fusion

And, finally, the 2012 Ford Fusion.  It’s not a bad car, and I have to say that technology has come a long way in the last twelve years, at least in the area of sound systems.  But the proof of the pudding will lie in its ability to hold up for at least twenty years, without requiring more than $50 in annual maintenance cost, and log more than 500,000 miles.  That’s a car I could truly love.

So, I feel as if I’m missing out on something, not having had that American male love affair with cars.  But, cars suck!  From cradle to grave; from that first moment when your wife says, “Hey, let’s go test-drive cars today,” to that moment when the mechanic says, “No, I’m pretty sure that guy will only give me $100 for the car,” and every step in between, cars provide me absolutely no satisfaction or joy.  But I do like hotdogs and apple pie.

Thanks,

B.S.


The Royal Gardener

 

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When we moved into our new home a couple of years ago, we inherited the guy who had been cutting the lawn for the previous owner. . .for seventeen years.  As it was late fall when we moved in we allowed the guy, Joe, who was in his mid-60’s, to complete the lawn-cutting season, which amounted to three or four weekly visits.  The next spring I researched lawn-cutting options, and engaged a service to perform the weekly lawn-mowing responsibilities.  The cost was virtually the same as we had been paying the old guy, and I felt as if I wouldn’t have to worry about someone dying, in the course of having our lawn mowed.

My wife pointed out to me one afternoon that Joe was on the job, meaning he was perched on his riding mower, cutting our lawn.  She said, “I thought you hired those other guys to cut the lawn.”

“I did,” I responded.  So I trotted outside to explain to Joe that we had hired another company to provide lawn maintenance services for us, and pointed out that he hadn’t even bothered to provide us with a flyer detailing services he could provide, and, more importantly, the cost he would propose billing us for providing those services.

“But I’ve been cutting this lawn for seventeen years,” he protested.

I replied, “I don’t care.  It’s not as if you’re the Queen; it’s not an appointment for life!  Besides, the guy who hired you doesn’t own this house anymore.”

Joe groused about how the only thing that mattered to me was the cost, while he packed up his equipment.  If he was truly interested in learning about the variables I examined when making my purchase decision, I would have highlighted for him the higher quality of the work that the new team was delivering: they edged the sidewalks and driveways every week, and tidied up the flower beds weekly – something Joe never bothered to do.  I would also have pointed out the professionalism exhibited by the new team: they provided a written estimate, asked that I sign a contract with them, and mailed invoices to me, rather than randomly stuffing a handwritten invoice in my mailbox, as Joe did, which led to it blowing away in the wind on at least one occasion.

This experience caused me to consider the sense of entitlement which exists in many employment or contract situations.  In my own business, we employ a number of workers who possess lifetime job guarantees, provided many years ago.  These employees will no longer be required in the business, as we will be outsourcing certain functions, saving a tremendous amount of cost.  These guarantees, and other entitlements provided in union contracts, as an example, completely ignore economic realities, and instead insist that companies owe their workers a living.

I disagree with that contention, believing throughout my professional career that I needed to “earn my keep”, and reinforce every day with my employer that I was providing value to the organization.  In this way, my employer would feel good about the contributions I was making to the company’s success, and want to continue to employ me.  If I was no longer providing value to the organization I would no longer wish to work for them; I would want to move along to work in a situation in which I was making a contribution, for which I was being fairly compensated.

Isn’t that the “American Way”, in which hard work and effort enables you to advance and improve your circumstances?  I fear that the philosophy of entitlement has found a home in American business with its workforce, and that has a detrimental effect upon business innovation and growth.

Firing Joe may seem like a harsh remedy, after seventeen years of faithful service (to the other guy, not to me), but I would argue that termination was a far more compassionate solution than the fate suffered by other Royal appointees in history, some of whom were beheaded.

Thanks,

B.S.

Typecasting (Part II)

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The hooker with the heart of gold.  The biker who would donate a kidney, if you needed one.  The Goth, misfit youth who takes your daughter to the prom, and stops to rescue a wounded kitten.  Hollywood loves these types of characters, because they play against type.  Very entertaining, yes, but most of the time, not true.  Most of the time, in real life, these characters perform exactly as their stereotypical role demands.

While out driving around town recently, I found myself turning left into a strip mall.  From a left-turn lane.  Heading in the wrong direction.  Yes, I freely admit that I was inadvertently violating a basic traffic law, and endangering myself and other motorists in the bargain.  But, is that any reason for the biker coming directly towards me to violently thrust his arm towards me, middle finger prominently extended?  I can see several of you, there in the back, nodding your heads, saying, “Yes, we agree with the biker’s reaction; today’s rules of the road clearly state that, ‘Upon encountering a motorist who has violated a basic traffic law, the proper reaction is to flip-off said motorist, at a minimum, to be supplemented with shouted epithets, if time permits.'”

Alright, I deserved it.  But, if it were Hollywood’s version of “biker-guy” astride that Harley (actually, I have no idea if the biker in question was astride a Harley; not being a biker guy I have no idea what make his motorcycle was), he would have lightly tapped his horn in warning, and gently gestured to me to return to my proper lane, offering a friendly wave as I did so, and as he motored along past me.  So Hollywood, in their quest to provide that cinematic twist, which moviegoers find so entertaining, gets it wrong.

And the hooker with the heart of gold?  Sorry, that’s not in their nature.  Now, I do not personally know any hookers, with either a heart of gold, or the other kind.  So, perhaps I’m passing judgment here that is undeserved, but I read the papers, and the hookers I read about are being arrested for, you know, prostitution, and not charming businessmen and concierges alike.

And the Goth, misfit youth?  Nope, he’s not coming near my daughter.  And she wouldn’t have him near her.

It works the other way, too.  If you saw the movie, “Ted”, you know what I’m talking about.  In my experience, teddy-bears are soft and cuddly, and don’t smoke weed, and date slutty cashiers.  So don’t feel badly when you encounter a stereotypical character, and immediately form an opinion about that person, based upon long-held beliefs; 98% of the time that opinion will ring true.

Thanks,

B.S.

A Lifetime Game of Gin

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My daughter and I are engaged in a lifetime game of gin.  Currently, she is beating me by a score of 915 to 870 – not an insurmountable lead, but given that we play infrequently these days, one that is likely to stand for quite a while.  We began playing several years ago, when she was a surly teenager, and I was searching for a way to calm her.  She’s now twenty years old, and off at college.

In the early days of our lifetime game, we played a lot.  We began playing on July 9, 2008, and five of the 10 index cards containing our game tallies were completed during that first year.  As you can see, we’ve slowed our pace somewhat.  She’s also less surly at twenty than she was a few years ago.  And, perhaps I am as well.

Gin is a great game to relax the mind and to relieve stress.  While playing gin, one must focus to a degree on strategies and progress towards the goal.  It doesn’t require the level of concentration demanded when performing open-heart surgery.  But it does require more attention than, say, mopping a floor.  The rules of gin are fairly simple, as is the ultimate goal of the game.  And, a game can be completed in a matter of minutes, providing a quick and easy study-break.

Our game has commenced at times without a word; one or the other of us would simply pull a deck of cards out of the drawer, and motion to the other to sit at the table, and begin dealing the cards.  It is rare that an invitation to play has been declined.

Why did we begin logging game scores, almost immediately upon beginning our lifetime game of gin?  Why didn’t we simply play the game for fun?  We’re both pretty competitive, and it seemed a natural thing to do, to want to keep score.  There are no participation trophies here, this game is for keeps.  I recall coaching my kids’ baseball teams, when we weren’t supposed to keep score; every game was a tie.  We weren’t fooling anyone – the kids kept score in their heads – they knew who won and who lost. 

The game score has been pretty close over the years; at times I took a commanding lead, and at other times my daughter crested well ahead of me,  We’ve had sessions during which one or the other of us has won ten straight games.  The oddsmakers couldn’t predict those results.  She’s held this lead for a while now.  But, given the chance, I know I can catch up.  And, there’s time – a lifetime.

Thanks,

B.S.

What’s in a Name?

Perhaps you’ve acquired a nickname or two over the years, as I have.  Most of mine have been pretty unimaginative, usually playing off my last name, “Southern”, or my initials, “BS”; some are unprintable.  A former colleague of mine called me “Slingblade,” or “Blade” for short, for a time, although I can’t for the life of me recall why.  I’ve also been referred to affectionately as, “Beans”, a play on the word beancounter, sometimes used derisively to refer to accountants, which is my day job.

I’ve supplied some nicknames to others, including one of which I’m particularly proud: I anointed a younger co-worker with the name, “Skippy”, because his hair sort of stuck up at an angle, and skewed him younger than he really was; he simply looked like a “Skippy”, lifted straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Another member of our staff was called, “Snappy”, because he snapped his fingers as he wandered down a hallway.   “Stumpy” was another nickname applied in an office in which I have worked, attached to one who was physically pretty short, and, well, stumpy.

Some guys don’t really fit their nicknames.  A boss of mine was known universally as the folksy, “Griff”, a shortened version of his last name, but, although he was a nice guy, he was a bit stiff and formal to be a “Griff”; he truly was his first name, “Howard”.

Physical abnormalities, ethnicity (a colleague of Italian descent quite naturally became, “The Italian Stallion”), and supposed defects, such as occasional stuttering (the latter earned the bearer the honorary title of, “Flounder”) all became fodder for crafting nicknames.  Recall the sacred ritual depicted in “Animal House”, in which each incoming fraternity pledge was assigned a nickname; “Flounder” brought that to mind.

A little guy I grew up with became, “Scooter”, presumably because he could scoot underneath defenders on the football field.  Another friend, born in the United States, but with Chinese parents was nicknamed, “Fuji”, after a character on “McHale’s Navy”; never mind that that character was Japanese.

The importance of nicknames cannot be underestimated in the world of sports.  Consider for a moment, David (“Deacon”) Jones; or, Dick (“Night Train”) Lane; or, William (“The Refrigerator”) Perry; or, Elroy (“Crazylegs”) Hirsch; or, Joe (“Broadway Joe”) Namath; or, Chuck (“Concrete Charlie”) Bednarik; or Joe (“Mean Joe”) Greene; or, Pete (“Pistol Pete”) Maravich; or “Michael (“Air Jordan”); or Julius (“Dr. J”) Erving; or Earvin (“Magic”) Johnson; or Eldrick (“Tiger”) Woods – betcha’ didn’t know his real name was, Eldrick!  It’s a bit more open to debate whether or not success in business or other fields hinges upon having a cool nickname.

In thinking back to my own fraternity experience, I cannot recall many cool nicknames.  A few come to mind, including, “Bosco” (no idea where that came from); “Rabbit” (apparently related to an old book title); and “Waylon” (a consequence of rhyming with a last name).  I blame the lack of creative nicknames in my fraternity on the fact that many of the guys’ real names were pretty colorful, or unusual in their own right.  Included were “Blake” (memorialized as, “Buh-Lahk-ay” in Key & Peele’s rendition of “The Substitute Teacher”), “Ced” (short for Cedric, I believe), “Slade”, “Tag” (a shortened version of a middle name, “Taggart”), “Ernie”, and “Wood”.  With names like those, who needs nicknames?

Thanks,

B.S.

 

 

The Piano Teacher in the Green Peugeot

When I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument as a youngster, my mom insisted that I take piano lessons for at least two years first.  This technical musical training, she believed, would properly ground me for future musical success.  And so, I took piano lessons from Miss Logeman, a spinster in her 70’s who drove an old green Peugeot.

For two years, Miss Logeman picked me up at school at lunchtime, and drove me to our house for my piano lesson, and then dropped me off back at school when we were done.  This two-year stretch was in the late 1960’s, or early 1970’s.  Although I successfully graduated from my piano lessons, and even performed in a recital or two, I no longer possess the skills necessary to bang out even the most rudimentary tune on the piano.

I indeed went on to learn to play the clarinet (and eventually the tenor saxophone), and played in school bands and orchestras for the remaining years of elementary school, high school, and even in college.  I still have those instruments, and dust them off occasionally, and can still play capably.  But the piano, not so much.

One piece I recall working on for a very long period of time was called, “The Whale”, which calls for a flourish at the finish, requiring the pianist (thank God there’s no “Auto-Correct” function at play here, such as you might experience when texting) to conclude the piece by crossing over with his right hand to play the final note near the far-left-hand-side of the keyboard.  Very theatrical indeed!

But the most memorable part of my piano lesson experience was the car driven by Miss Logeman: a green Peugeot.  Although my dad later purchased a Peugeot himself (not lime-green, mind you), at that time that was a pretty exotic vehicle.  I don’t believe Peugeot had any dealerships in the U.S. at that time; securing one had to be a complicated process.  Not as complicated as “The Whale”, of course, but nonetheless a pretty bold choice for a spinster piano teacher in her 70’s.  I wonder if she set out to find one in green.

 

 

Me and Miss July

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I’d like to relate a story about my encounter with Miss July, even though it doesn’t reflect well on me.  It was early evening of a midsummer day.  A local city club, to which I belong, was hosting a cigar sampling event under a tent in its parking lot.  There was a registration table set up by the tent. at which attendees were expected to check in, and receive the obligatory “goodie bag”, stuffed with promotional items provided by the event sponsors.

Behind the table were seated an attractive, young, blonde woman in a skimpy black dress, and an older, matronly woman (neither “older” nor “matronly” are particularly flattering terms to describe any woman, but when you sit next to an attractive, young, blonde woman in a skimpy black dress, you have to accept the risks that go along with that; that’s why a proven strategy is to sit next to a relatively plain woman, because you look stunning by comparison; a related strategy in an office environment is to work with intellectually “plain” coworkers, because you will stand out as a smart guy; you’ve got to be careful not to lean too far in that direction, however, and work with morons, because, then, well, you have to work with morons).  But, I digress.

As I was checking in with the two women, I noticed a stack of glossy photos sitting in a pile in front of the young blonde.  These photos featured the young blonde.  And, I further noted that “Miss July” was printed rather prominently on the photos.  Glancing from the young blonde woman down to the stack of photos and back to the woman, I innocently asked, “Oh, ‘Miss July’, eh, Miss July, what?” thinking that perhaps she was “Miss Snap-On Tools July”, and was featured on a calendar hanging in local auto shops, or something like that.  I mean, this was a parking lot with cigars, for Chrissake!

The young woman’s response was priceless.  She look at me, confused, and said, “Well, 2009, of course.”  I nodded and smiled, and walked away thinking, “Jeez, what a bubble-head!” 

One of my colleagues, who had checked in with me, and was also walking away with me, pulled me aside, and gently asked, “Did you not see the bunny logo printed at the bottom of the glossy photo?”  Ah, that Miss July.  As I suggested, the story doesn’t reflect well on me.  In fact, the question of who was the more bubble-headed of the two of us would spark debate.

Postscript: No, I never took Miss July out on a date – I’m a married man.  But, I did chase down a copy of the July, 2009 issue of Playboy.  And, while it’s not a secret that photo spreads in many magazines, including Playboy, are heavily airbrushed, I was quite surprised to see Miss July sporting contour that I knew simply wasn’t there.  That accomplishment is more than airbrushing; that is a true feat of engineering.  Perhaps Playboy should redirect some of that energy investing in enhancement to their logo featured on glossy photos.

Thanks,

B.S.

 

Type Casting

A joke I once heard suggests that. . .

 

HEAVEN is where:

     The police are British

     The chefs Italian

     The mechanics are German

     The lovers are French and

     it’s all organised by the Swiss

 

HELL is where:

     The police are German

     The chefs are British

     The mechanics are French

     The lovers are Swiss and

     it’s all organised by the Italians!!

 

Gross generalizations?  Absolutely!  Likely racist?  You bet!  But, contained within that joke above are impressions regarding various ethnic groups which were formed long ago, and which are still in use today, although perhaps tempered by political correctness.  Think about characters you have seen portrayed in movies and television shows.  When casting villains you seemingly can’t go wrong by turning to a German or Middle Eastern stereotype.

Similarly, when seeking a well-mannered, charming character, inevitably a British accent surfaces (think James Bond).  Smooth and solicitous: French is the way to go; Fiery and potentially violent: you might choose an Italian character (Don Corleone, anyone?).  Southerners have often been depicted as slow and dimwitted; Midwesterners as naive; New Yorkers as fast-talking hustlers; and Californians as laid-back surfer-dudes.

I’ve noticed recently that television broadcast news operations appear to turn to their British newscasters when covering a story which requires a certain amount of gravitas, such as the seemingly endless coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner.  That same accent always seems to appear during the Masters coverage as well.  Perhaps that says something about the level of reverence assigned to the Masters.

If I were a filmmaker I would deliberately set out to break the type casting rules, and establish the Middle Eastern character as the good guy, and assign the villain’s role to the British guy.  It would make for a less predictable, more interesting story.  And, besides, most British guys I have known truly have been the bad guys.

Thanks,

B.S.

 

Living in a Neighborhood Where you Can Walk Home at 1:00 in the Morning, Carrying Your Pants

I used to live in a neighborhood where you can walk home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying your pants.  That’s the kind of neighborhood in which I want to live.  We lived in that neighborhood, the lyrically-named, Mallard Pond, located in the northern reaches of Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, for a few years, as our children were relatively young.

Yes, with young children, you want to locate in an area which features great schools, is close to shopping, is safe for youngsters, is convenient to work, and is affordable.  Mallard Pond was all of that.  But it also was a neighborhood where you can walk home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying your pants.  That’s a great vibe, and I’m surprised that more realtors don’t feature that description in real estate listings.

That description sums up a great many things that people find desirable in a community: neighbors are friendly, they like to have fun, and they’re not stiff and formal.  We now live in a terrific neighborhood in the Toledo suburbs.  People are very friendly, willing to help out, they will wave as they go by, stop to chat, bake cookies for you, escort their children through the neighborhood on Halloween via golf cart. . .That last one is a bit atypical, I’ll grant you.  But, all in all, a terrific place to live.  Yet, not once, in the eighteen months we have lived there, have I walked home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying my pants.

Why, you ask, have you not walked home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying your pants?  I blame my children.  As they are now older and out of the house, we have fewer occasions to connect with the neighbors.  When children are young, they are involved in bunches of activities, including baseball, soccer, school programs, and community events, for which parents gather on the sidelines, and spend time chatting, and getting to know their neighbors.  I can recall countless Saturday afternoons, or weekday evenings at the soccer fields cheering on my children, and my neighbor’s children.  I no longer have that touchstone, which enables me to connect with my neighbors.

And that’s okay; it simply means that we have to work harder at getting to know the neighbors.  I look forward to some day soon walking home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying my pants.  Because that means that I live in a neighborhood with a nice, comfortable vibe.  Although, I will probably try to hold out until the summer months, because it’s been a tough winter here in Toledo, and I’m not that committed to the concept that I would willingly freeze to prove a point.

By the way, if you were wondering why I walked home at 1:00 in the morning, carrying my pants, it was because we attended a pool party in the neighborhood, and simply stepped out of the pool after midnight and walked home.  Why, what kind of a neighborhood did you think we lived in?

Thanks,

B.S.

 

(Office) Space Available

ImageI have worked in offices during my entire professional career.  All three of my children are repulsed by the idea of working in an office, ever, in their lives.  My oldest son works as a paramedic, and in addition to the pressures of saving lives, he has been subjected to long shifts (up to 48 hours in some cases), strenuous physical demands, unusual working hours, and time spent traveling to rescue sites.  Admittedly, he is sometimes paid for sleeping on behalf of his employer, which has some appeal to me, but I find the sheer unpredictability of his job daunting.

My middle son is currently finishing a Peace Corps stint in Guyana, which is about as far from an office work situation as you could imagine.  It will be interesting to see where his professional trajectory next takes him, but I suspect that it won’t find him stationed behind a desk.  In fact, I hired him a couple of summers ago to perform some database management work for my employer.  That is to say, I paid him personally, and he came to my office for a few weeks, and assisted in cleaning up a database.  He told me afterwards that he felt so sorry for my colleagues, having to work in that (in his opinion) miserable office environment, that he spent most of his time trying to brighten their spirits with talk of happier topics than their own, (in his opinion) mundane work.

And my daughter is still in school, studying kinesiology, which I’m not even sure what that is, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t entail sitting behind a desk.  I can recall dragging my kids into the office on “Bring your son or daughter to work day”, which began as “Bring your daughter to work day” years ago as an attempt to demystify the concept of “work” for young girls, and to empower them to think in terms of establishing meaningful career goals.  A noble proposition indeed, although I think lately it’s devolved into “Bring your dog to work day”, which, let’s face it, is simply a scam, and is likely to piss off cats.

One of my sons, involved in a discussion at school about careers, when asked what his father did, indicated that he, “refilled the ice trays.”  Now, I’d like to think that he merely misunderstood the question, and didn’t truly believe that I had pursued a career in ice cube management.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that choice; I’m sure it’s a noble profession, if indeed there is such a profession.  The fact of the matter is that I had likely made a grand show of refilling the ice trays at home the night before the discussion, in order to “get credit” for helping out at home, and that made some sort of impression on him.  I hope that career discussion preceded his visit to my office, because if not, then I had really failed in my demystification efforts.

I lay the blame for my childrens’ office avoidance plans squarely on Hollywood and television producers.  Two prime examples jump out at me: “The Office”, a weekly sitcom which NBC produced for a number of years, and “Office Space”, a very funny movie, which lampooned many of the sillier aspects of life in an office environment.  One of my favorite episodes of “The Office” featured one of the characters (Jim) encasing the office supplies of a colleague (Dwight) in Jello.  Given these role-models, my impressionable children came to view office work as silly and non-productive.

Those of us who have spent entire careers working in offices can attest to the fact that sometimes silly and non-productive things do occur.  But, at times there is also cake.

Thanks,

B.S.