Nightmare Job: In honor of Labor Day in North America, tell us about the one (more than one) job you could never imagine yourself doing (but remember really doing).

As a retiree, I’ve had more than 40 years of work … and unavoidably, more than a few nightmare jobs.

There was the job for which I was paid exceptionally well. To do absolutely nothing. I was assigned to sit all day in front of a computer and look busy. Not fall asleep. I was not allowed to read, play a game, or write a personal letter. I had to sit there and stare at the screen. Worse, I had to “work” overtime. A standard 8-hour day was not bad enough. I had to continue the farce for 9 or 10 hours.

I am told there are people who crave such jobs. For me, it was as close to actual torture as you could get.

There was the job where I was paid top dollar, had a gorgeous office. And nobody cared what I did. They only hired me because a big contract required a manual. My job was to write it. No one read it, checked it for accuracy. I could have filled it with nursery rhymes. All they wanted to know was “Is it big and heavy?” and “Does it look impressive?” And people wonder why manuals aren’t as good as they should be!


Working under the micro-manager is another one of Those Jobs. Had a few of them. These are the bosses who stand behind you. You can hear them breathe, feel their hot air brush your neck. Icky. They watch to make sure you are doing Your Job and Nothing But Your Job. For me, that means I can’t do my job. I’m a writer. I can’t write with someone watching over my shoulder. The micro-managers also stands by the door in the morning hoping to bag any worker who has the temerity to show up a millisecond late. I was once called on the carpet — really tore me a new one — for being three minutes late. The good part? When I made a genuinely serious mistake — I forgot to place a full-page full color advertisement in the magazine — just left it out of the issue entirely, which no doubt cost the company serious money? It wasn’t any worse a dressing down than I’d gotten for being three minutes late.

It turns out if you yell at your employees for everything, after a while they become psychically numb and nothing you say or do has any effect at all. That’s also true for parents and pet owners. If you yell all the time, no one hears you at all or takes you seriously. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That works better, though it didn’t get him re-elected.

I had a stupid job at a college. Briefly. The work was easy, basically receptionist stuff. Some annoying women came in and asked me my name. I told her. She said, “I don’t like that name. Do you mind if I call you Jane?”

I looked at her, “Yes, I mind. My name is Marilyn. Mrs. Armstrong to you.”

I got fired. I didn’t mind. It was a horrible job anyhow.

This is not the time or place to discuss the wonderful jobs, the terrific bosses, or the great work I’ve had the honor to do. The awful jobs — mostly — didn’t last long. The good ones more than made up for the bad ones.

Retirement is the payback for any professional suffering I endured. I love retirement. It’s the best job of all.



Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.


The father of labor day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.


Though it has become another of America’s big backyard barbecue days, Labor Day celebrates the American worker and the labor movement. Of course, it also signals the official end of school vacation and the unofficial end of summer and the wearing of white — except that new fashion decrees we can wear white whenever we like. All you have to do is rename it Winter White and all will be well. Still, the white stiletto heels may still be a fashion no-no …




Horse and carriage

Real carriage. Fake horse.  It’s a small lane in the middle of the old Gettysburg.

This is one of the many things I love about tourist towns. I know people get all snobby about “tourist traps,” but towns set up for the tourists, while heavily commercial, also have plenty of places to eat, lots of motels, and activities for everyone. Best of all, they are always glad to see you.


That’s no small matter, especially if you have been harassed in less hospitable destinations. No matter what your color or nationality, your money is good in a tourist town. It’s also an easy venue for people who have disabilities and special needs. These towns are ready to cater to your unique requirements.

Blue and gray souvenirs

There’s always a reason a town becomes a tourist mecca. It holds attractions or is very near them. Nice beaches. Historic sites. Skiing. Roller coasters. Gambling. Fabulous food.Terrific views. Wonderful weather. Amazing shopping.

Gettysburg faux horse

A town doesn’t draw crowds without a reason.

The down sides to popular destinations are obvious. Higher prices, crowds and traffic. If you want to travel  where everyone else also wants to go, try to find schedule it off-season. Even a few days before or after peak can make a huge difference in the size of the crowds and the price of accommodations.

Ghoul Soldier


But check it out. Some places close down right after Labor Day, or have nothing open except during peak periods. Beach towns are particularly likely to be locked up tight by early September.

main street Gettysburg

Martha’s Vineyard, for example, bustles with life on Labor Day. The next day, more than half the restaurants and shops are closed. A few stay open longer or are open year round — but that may not be what interests you.

Just make sure the stuff you really want to do and see is available before you book a bargain vacation.

Gettysburg buggy


The Mirror Crack’d – You wake up one morning to a world without mirrors. How does your life — from your everyday routines to your perception of yourself — change?

selfie in gray teeNo mirrors? How about a shiny car bumper or the reflection in a shop window or do you posit the loss of all reflections of every kind everywhere?

Vanity will out. Those who need to study their reflection will find a way. As for me, I think I would be just as happy to not have mirrors. We don’t have many even now. Just the standard ones over the bathroom sinks so I can do my hair and Garry can shave and not cut himself.

I’m not sure I ever spent a lot of time hovering around mirrors. Probably more when I wore makeup and when we go out, I still give a final look in the mirror to make sure things are aligned properly, my hem isn’t caught in my waistband, and I don’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe … or some other equally embarrassing thing.

I could as easily just ask my husband if I look okay and he would tell me if I need fixing.

I don’t think my self-perception has much to do with mirrors — or ever did. Maybe smoke and mirrors in the sense of illusion and magic.

Many years ago, I went to camp in Maine for a couple of weeks with a bunch of friends. About half way through, someone asked if anyone had a mirror. No one had brought a mirror. There were 8 of us and there wasn’t a mirror amongst us. Maybe that’s your answer. Not necessarily the answer you were expecting.



All the other flowers are finished. The day lilies are just a memory. A few straggler roses cling to the bushes, but their time has past.


The hosta are in blooming, though. Not known for their flowers, hosta are the plants that will grow even in deep shade. But if you give them a little sunshine … they make flowers. Pretty blue flowers.



Rabbi Ben Hei says, “According to the pain is the gain.”

— Pirkei Avot 5:21 (second century)


If little labour, little are our gains:
Man’s fate is according to his pains.

Hesperides 752 (1650)

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no gains, without pains …

— as reprinted in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (1758)

Jane Fonda didn’t invent it. Neither did that guy at the gym you think is god.

The concept has been lying around waiting to become popular slang for almost 2000 years. It didn’t refer to matters physical, either. It referred to your soul, to charity, to work in general. It was never intended to be taken literally.

Just because words rhyme, doesn’t make them a concept, doesn’t mean they relate to each other. Or that it’s a concept that applies to your aching body rather than your dark, mean-spirited soul.


Pain is a body’s way of warning us something is wrong. Ignore it at your own risk. Acknowledging there are minor pains we all typically ignore because we know what they are, know they aren’t important, there are plenty of others you ignore at your peril.

How about the pain in your chest that signals heart trouble? How about that pain in your breast that says “don’t ignore that lump?” Or the shooting pain down one leg when you knock your spine out of alignment? How about the searing one when you dislocate a shoulder? Or the one, accompanied by an ugly snap which says “Hey, you just tore your Achilles tendon!”

Before you go ignoring a pain, make sure you know what that pain is trying to tell you. Try not to replace thinking with a motto.

I hate clichés. They are the latest fad in the long advance of stupidity.

Daily Post: Pains and Gains