Thursday, June 24, 2010

Position Wanted: Questionable Skills Provided

From time-to-time, I envision reinventing myself in a whole new career.

But who would hire me? Alas, the demand is low for employees who like to sleep until noon, can’t find something they possessed just five minutes earlier, and believe staff meetings in the conference room should be replaced by Happy Hours at the closest bar.

Not that I don’t have job potential, people. I’m so full of talents and skills that I’m practically regurgitating them. A few of my job possibilities:

Airplane Pilot: I have decades of flying credentials, albeit as a passenger. I might successfully fly the plane too, as long as I could maintain a steady IV drip of Bloody Marys. And as long as my copilot doesn’t mind my constant whimper of, “We’re gonna crash. WE’RE GONNA CRASH!”

I’ve worked alongside accountants for eighteen years straight, and I’ve come to believe they know nothing about job efficiency and time management. Need an account balance? Just glance at your banking website, nod your head assuredly, and plug that number into your spreadsheet. It works for my checkbook. Corporations have overdraft protection, no?

Surgeon: I have an iron-clad stomach and no fear of blood. Sure, the only tiny detail might be my eye-hand coordination. Sherry, in the operating room: “Oops! Well, hell, I didn’t mean to cut THAT thing!”

Drycleaner Worker Person: First, do you think they’d give me a title other than Worker Person? Second, will they mind that I happen to shrink every freaking piece of clothing I touch? Third, I won’t have to operate some type of industrial-sized iron, will I? Isn’t this why God invented “Permanent Press” and “Wash and Wear?” (Question: Wouldn’t the iron be the first thing you offer your ex in a divorce settlement? Discuss among yourselves.)

Telemarketer: I’m certain my interpersonal skills and honesty would be terrific assets. My well-scripted phone calls would go something like this: “Hey, between you and me, you don’t really want to buy one of these products. Seriously, talk about an overpriced piece of crap.” (These jobs are never monitored nor based on commission, are they?)

Housecleaner: Wait, no. Just no.

Personal Trainer: Could I do this job online, or would I actually be forced to get off the couch?

OK, so maybe I’d better not quit my day job quite yet. Unless any of you are looking to hire?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bruno: A Bear of a Man

His name was Bruno, German for "brown bear." A fitting name for a man who was tough as a grizzly, lovable as a stuffed teddy.

Emigrating to the United States at the age of 12, he was plunged into a distinctly different culture, a whole new world. At his new American school, without knowing a single word of English, he still managed to achieve all A's--except in his English class. He spoke of this many years later, in now perfect English, with pride and just a twinge of disappointment.

But education was a luxury for most immigrant families in the 1920s. He left school just after the eighth grade, his carpenter father insisting that boys must learn a trade. Bruno was smart, inquisitive and good with his hands. He became a machinist, a humble occupation which brought little wealth or fame, but ensured a decent living. It was enough. Decency was what truly mattered to Bruno.

If he'd been born wealthier and half-a-century later, his calling would have been that of an engineer or a computer scientist. I remember a holiday gathering, when he was about 80, just after computers had become common household fare. He leaned forward, his bushy gray eyebrows knitted together, and his blue eyes intense, as he quizzed my computer salesman brother-in-law about his job. "But explain this to me," he said, in his legendary questioning of everything in life. "How exactly does a computer work?"

It was often difficult to satisfy his insatiable curiosity. It was even tougher to deter the man's determination. Of that, we were always envious.

After a heart attack, when he was only in his forties, he fortified his will to live. That heart attack was his first and last.

When the company for whom he worked for more than thirty years folded, when Bruno was in his sixties, he lost not only his job but his entire pension. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and despair, he simply persevered and found another job.

Years later, a horrific car accident left him with injuries including several broken ribs and a pulverized face. (His jaw would be wired shut, rendering him literally speechless and on a liquid diet for weeks.) The day after the accident, he ignored the hospital staff's heeding and stoically marched down the hallway to be with my grandmother, who'd suffered a broken neck.

Bruno didn't believe in giving up on giving his all.

That's what I remember most about my grandfather. Plus his habitual hugs. And his often repeated words, "I'm so proud of you kids."

Bruno outlived his wife of sixty-two years, who never fully bounced back from that accident. He also outlived my father, who was never his son-in-law but always his son. My dad died from cancer, at age 53, only four months after that car crash which, ironically left him the only uninjured one of the vehicle's six passengers. My father-in-law died just two years later (also at age 53), when my two sons were just babies. Although he was their great-grandfather, Bruno is the only grandfather either of them remember.

Bruno lived to the ripe age of 89. Although he's been gone for nearly ten years, I see his warmth and fortitude still in his daughter, my mother. I'd like to believe I, too, possess a bit of both of those qualities. And when I look at my two grown boys, I know I see remnants of their great-grandfather.

Yes, he was a Great Grandfather.

Happy Father's Day, Grandpa.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Summer Whine

As a midwesterner who abhors the cold, I'll take June over January any time. Yet, like most adults I know, my outlook about summer has morphed a bit through the last forty years.

Do any of us reason about our summer priorities the same way we did at nine-years-old? I think not. Let us compare our way of thinking, now and then:

Summer Saying at Age 9: "Could I have a sleepover tonight?"
Summer Saying at Age 49: "Could I possibly manage to sleep through the night tonight without waking up every freaking hour?"

Summer Saying at Age 9:
"But the ice cream truck is here! I swear one popsicle won't ruin my supper!"
Summer Saying at Age 49: "But someone needs to finish this ice cream in the freezer! Surely just half-a-carton won't ruin my diet!"

Summer Saying at Age 9: "OK, if you won't give me the $5 for the new Partridge Family album I want, could I do something to earn it?"
Summer Saying at Age 49: "OK, if I don't have the $5,000 to buy the new central air conditioner we need, could I just win the damn lottery?"

Summer Saying at Age Age 9: "Kool-Aid! Yay! Can I drink it with supper?"
Summer Saying at Age 49: "Margaritas. Thank God. I'm drinking the whole pitcher. Screw dinner."

Summer Saying at Age 9: "I'm so bored. There's nothing to do today."
Summer Saying at Age 49: "If I only had a personal housekeeper, gardener, carpenter, painter, mechanic and chauffeur, I might get through my to-do list today."

Summer Saying at Age 9: "Can I put on my bathing suit and run through the sprinkler this morning?"
Summer Saying at Age 49: "Can I possibly avoid trying on a bathing suit this entire summer?"

We're not old and cranky. We're... mature. And... contemplative.

Yes, summer is still the best time of the year, even at 49.

Especially with a pitcher of margaritas for dinner. And a half-carton of ice cream for dessert.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Leaving a Legacy

I sit on a university scholarship committee which, among our interrogations--I mean interviews--of candidates, annually poses the question: "What was your greatest contribution to your high school, and what will be your legacy there?"

Not an easy question for any incoming college freshman, even one with a 4.0 GPA, a near perfect ACT score and an impressive resume'.

It's an even tougher query for the average high school graduate, particularly one whose high school legacy (theoretically speaking of course) was being named Best Party Giver.

Fortunately, the value of one's contributions in life are not based solely on their high school experience. We all have a lifetime to accrue personal achievements, to impact other people, to make our mark on the world--however tiny and intangible it might be.

Some may be recalled for success in their chosen career. Others may have selflessly volunteered in their community or for a particular worthy cause. Others simply may be remembered for perhaps the greatest and most socially underrated accomplishment of all: being loving and nurturing parents. Most of us won't go down in history for monumental achievements like inventing the internet or bringing peace to the Middle East.

Yet each of us will be remembered by someone, for something.

Legacies are shaped, not just through our changing the world, but by our benefiting a few lives.

It's never too late for each of us to make our mark.

So, what do you hope will be your legacy?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

WWFS? (What Would Freud Say?)

Early last week: I stare, slack-jawed, at my exam schedule. What the hell is this on the list? I never attended a class by this name! I don't even remember ever registering for it! I missed a freakin' class the whole semester, and now my final grade depends on my passing the exam?

The exam location is mysteriously not listed on the schedule. I rush to the office.

The entire football team is in line in front of me. My exam starts in five minutes.

My panic mounts. Perhaps I have a copy of my original classroom schedule in my locker. But wait... what is my locker combination? Six, thirteen, twenty-one? No, thirty-six, twenty-four, thirty-six? Shit. I can't remember. In fact, I can't even remember where my locker is located.

I am so, so screwed.

Yet this fiasco is nothing compared to the events of last weekend.

Mother nature calls, with a violent urgency. I scramble to the nearest commode, yank down my pants and sigh with relief.

Then I glance up to see a crowd of people surrounding me--all studying me at the most personal of moments, while I'm seated on a toilet which I now realize is strangely situated in the middle of a very large, very public lobby.

I jump up and run, discovering too late that my pants are still down.

And don't even get me started on yesterday, when my doctor informed me I am... *gasp* pregnant!

Fortunately, before I endure any additional stretch marks, I wake up.

Not sure what Freud would say, but I'm guessing he'd have a word or two about my pitiful subconscious.

So, have any interesting dreams lately?