I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. Some of them were great, at least for a while – golf caddy, sportswriter, university professor.
Others? Not so much. Counting worms in a bait shop, hand-scrubbing algae off the hulls of boats at a marina, picking stones on a farm, stacking hay in the loft of a barn, painting houses, selling menswear, washing floors, working as a restaurant server/cook/dishwasher/cashier.
I’ve heard of other less appealing jobs. A reporter I knew once wrote a series of articles about the worst jobs in Alabama. Second prize went to alligator bounty hunters — a team of guys in a small boat, patrolling swamps, luring gators with spoiled meat. The tricky bit was getting the gator into the boat before they shot it; to collect the bounty, they had to produce the hide after all. First prize? A man who worked for the sewage department in Birmingham; I’d rather not describe what his job entailed. Another guy I knew had a part-time job collecting urine samples from horses at a racetrack. Hold still!
But I find myself reflecting sometimes on the jobs I wanted to have — until I really think about them.
I must say I dispelled quickly the idea of playing professional football; I once attended a junior try-out camp, but a stomach problem – no guts! – put an end to that pipe dream. Or delusion.
Other options were more realistic. For a time I wanted to be a radio DJ. A friend and I would listen to the local AM rock station all day long, we’d cue records on my parents’ stereo and practice song intros. He actually became a DJ. I moved on.
I thought about being a long-haul truck driver – the open road, tunes playing on the cab stereo, coconut-cream pie and hot coffee at the truck stop. But I’m not mechanically inclined, which is probably important, I get sleepy driving at night, and the one time I rented a big U-Haul for a move across Canada, I ground the gears every time I tried to shift for the first day and a half. I was totally confused when I stopped at a service station and had to determine which of the two diesel pumps I should use.
After having worked as a reporter at a number of newspapers, I’ve often dreamed of having my own small-town paper, filled, of course, with good reporting and insightful commentary. But if I didn’t have the stomach for football, I’m equally ill-suited to the business side of the operation – drumming up advertising and subscriptions and such. And this was before the internet.
I love pubs, especially those rustic country pubs with all their old wood furnishings, farmyard antiques nailed to the walls, maybe live music on weekends, with good burgers and a great variety of craft beers on tap. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place like that? Sorry, but my parents’ experience running a small restaurant, working often 16 hours on their feet all day, face-to-face with every type of customer, cleaning up and doing the books by hand at closing time, wakes me from that dream.
Same with the café idea. I love cafés, partly because I love coffee, but I also enjoy the scene, especially in those cozy cafés where there is soft music playing – maybe classical, maybe jazz or folk — where you can sit for hours, reading or writing, people-watching, or meeting a friend. Very cool. Or just eavesdropping on the neighbouring conversations. But then, see above; I don’t really want to be cooped up all day behind an espresso machine watching other people enjoy themselves.
The point – and I do have one – is that we tend to see the good parts, and only think later about – or discover for ourselves – the naughty bits. Sportswriters aren’t always as welcome in the locker room or the clubhouse as you might think, and not all athletes are friendly, engaging people – most, in my experience, but certainly not all. Being a university prof has many fine moments, but I never again want to grade a student’s paper; that’s where the money is earned. Golf caddy? My feet hurt just thinking about it.
And football? I read recently that the average NFL career is 3.3 years, and within three years of retirement, three-quarters of players are broke. Then what?
So, pour me a beer, grill me a burger, and I’ll just keep daydreaming, thanks.