RUINED FOR THE REAL WORLD

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.

To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive.

And they have to look good while doing it. Without a break for lunch or even a bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

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His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken.

When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made.

One day, I got a call. A major corporation was looking for a technical writer to create documents for various computer programs aimed at end-users. Entry-level stuff. For me, this was a piece of cake — with icing.

I went to the interview. Bad part? It was a part-time job, paying a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, which was less than my usual rate. But it was a retainer. Freelancers know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours. I would not be required to go into the office. Ever. I’d work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the house on the Vineyard.

Although it was half the money I’d been earning, I could take free-lance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job and never looked back. When I accepted it, I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me. Didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything is fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep.

For more than four years, I got a regular paycheck for which I did nothing much. I did other free-lance stuff here and there. I had to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case. It was the dream job. I was getting paid and didn’t have to work.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.” I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. Stay there all day. What a horrible thought!

I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. The best colleagues and the greatest boss. But it was work. I had to think (a lot), learn (like getting a masters in advanced object linking in a couple of weeks), synthesize, design documents, write them. Back to meeting deadlines. Although my extended paid vacation had not lessened my skills. I was as good as ever, but never again would I feel comfortable in a 9 to 5 job.

Merely having to be in one place all those hours made me itchy. I got the job done — and done well — but I was ruined. No regular job felt right. Not until retirement would I find myself as happy as I had been during my retainer years.



Categories: Anecdote, Humor, Personal, Work, Writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth and commented:

    Oh to have that job again. The one where they keep paying you but you don’t have to do anything but deposit the money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had something like that and enjoyed it for a while. But I got bored after some time and went into something that took a lot out of me. Still, I enjoyed dealing with the problems that presented themselves despite the accompanying stress. Stabilized the situation and got out. I’ve been back to a work-almost-as-I-please mode since then. Working largely independently is something that’s hard to let go of.

    Like

    • I worked that whole time, but I mostly,just not for the people who paid me the retainer. I got to freelance with security, a rare and wonderful thing. I’ve done a lot of freelance work over the years. When it’s your whole income, it’s always scary and you’re afraid to turn down anything lest nothing come along afterwards. Most freelancers work terribly hard. They are afraid not to.

      A retainer you can live on takes the terror out of it.

      Like

  3. What a great job! Pay and no work? Perfect combination. Love the whole story.

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  4. “I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie”. Very true. And many are political addicts as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True. Garry was less obviously political, but now that he’s retired, he has a lot more to say about politics and especially, about politicians. He knows a lot of stuff that never was made public … and he is (what a shock) pretty cynical. Okay, VERY cynical. In this specific area, he is more cynical than I am. Which is saying something.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The adrenaline is gone. That’s a very good thing. I still keep tabs on stuff. Cynical? Probably. The usual suspects are plying their trades. Only the names and faces change. My patience is also on a shorter leash as people rant about the world going to hell in a hand basket. Most don’t know history. But I’m also an optimist. Chew on that for a bit.

        Like

        • Yes, you are. You are cynical about some thing, but you always hold out hope the people are better than they seem, that they can rise above their own worst impulses. Not that we have seen much evidence of this, but I would like you to be right.

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    • D.C. — probably the worst part of the job I loved? The bloody “suits”. In 40 plus years as a news mic holder — network and local stations — I had maybe 3 or 4 bosses who were tolerable. Only ONE – who was truly a genuinely nice person who always had our 6. I’m thrilled to be — on the sidelines – retired — looking at what today’s reporters must engage — just to do their job properly. And, there’s little respect for a very hard job. The guy who yells about “Fake News” — wouldn’t know a story if it bit him on the nose.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Our family joke at one time was that one of us might have to ‘get a real job’ one day – two consultants is risk in the same family. It’s so hard to go back. The trick is to ejnjoy it while it lasts 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “I got a regular paycheck for which I did nothing much.” I don’t know if having a job like that sounds too good to be true or if it would make me miserable. Of course, now that I’m considering retirement, I think it might be just what the doctor ordered.

    Liked by 1 person

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