THE BEST JOB EVER

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.

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. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

One day, I got a call. A large HMO was looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing.

I went to the interview.

Bad news? It was a part-time job, paying (25 years ago money was worth more) a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, about $10 less than my usual rate.

Good news? It was a retainer. All the freelancers out there know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into an office. At all. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the summer-house on the Vineyard.

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

I took the job. This was a job from Heaven. 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 and 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 a couple of years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case. It was the dream job: getting paid and not having to work for it.

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 absolutely 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. My 2-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever. But.

Never again would I feel comfortable in a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Just having to be in one place for all those hours made me itchy. I got my work done and done well, but I was spoiled. No regular job felt right.

I was ruined for the real world.

31 thoughts on “THE BEST JOB EVER

  1. I worked in outside sales for about 15 years. The company was looking to reduce my hours, and offered me a transfer to a semi-managerial spot — I was exploring it, until the senior manager commented that “the good thing about this job is that we’d always know where you are.” Even in outside sales, they always knew where I was (sometimes, on the way to ~ ~ ~), but that statement meant that I’d always be at my desk. After 15 years of being all over Southern California, the idea of staying at a desk for 40+ hours a week was so repugnant that I refused the transfer. It wasn’t long after that that I decided it was time to retire! It’s sad, but regular jobs don’t feel right after one works the dream job for any length of time!

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    • I was too young to retire but I had a really HARD time staying in the office, I got incredibly restless. Bored too. I liked what I did, but to be locked into a little office was hard going. Most of my jobs let me work at home at least a couple of days a week, but the freedom to get the work done and live life too was impossible to beat. I LOVE RETIREMENT!

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      • Restless, bored, locked into a little office — not the ideal after working at one’s own pace or in the field, etc. The “freedom to get the work done and live life too” creates an ideal that is hard to beat except in retirement. I, too, love retirement!

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      • You had a GREAT job. No, it couldn’t last. Yes, I LOVED my job — for many years — despite the hours and the inevitable toll on my body. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

        Ditto on retirement, especially now in the day of the locusts.

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  2. We all see the thrill of TV work, but do not realize the input needed for the job. Mr. Swiss and I both had 9 to 5 jobs, but I always had to take the back seat. We had 4 school kids for about 10 years and if anyone had to be home for something, that was me, getting the time off and working to compensate afterwards. Luckily I had my own car and worked near. Mr. Swiss had up to an hous drive on the motorway. I don’t know how I managed It all then, it was stress. The funny thing was I was happier working than a stay-at-home mum.

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    • I liked my work, but i got very restless in an office. Just being in one of those cubicles for eight or nine (or more) hours a day got to me.

      Garry worked insanely hard. It’s that kind of job. You really have to love it or you can’t do it.

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      • I was very much internally connected by phone and otherwise and often had personal contact with our foreign agents. It could often be fun, especially when I had to translate and I made many friendships from all over the world

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        • I loved the writing and even more the publishing of the books I wrote. I still have many of them. There is something really satisfying about having an 800 page book that you wrote, designed, and printed. My problem was as I got older, just sitting still — almost rigid — for 9, 10 hours was a lot. EVEN with breaks, ti was a lot and it got worse as I got older and stiffer and more arthritic. It wasn’t not liking my work. It was not liking the physical conditions of my work. And, unlike you, I had little outside activity to what i did. Sure i could chat with my co-workers but mostly, writing is solitary work. You spend time collecting information, but after that, you just write. Edit. Write. Edit. Until you are done.

          It is a primary reason I don’t want to write another book. The idea of spending that much time basically in solitary is very unappealing. I’m done with my endless days at the computer. When I was writing my book. I spend pretty much every day writing. I barely left myself time to eat and then I was back at it until I was done. I can’t do it again. And to be fair, I don’t want to. I’m done with that. I really AM retired πŸ™‚

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  3. I can understand that…a lot of my jobs came with roads and I love to be out there. I’ve loved the office bound jobs too, but aways got itchy feet and missed the travelling.

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  4. I don’t think I would enjoy working in an office environment. Work is the only exercise I get. At home, I’m usually glued to the computer, and being glued to one at work too would probably be very dangerous to my health. I like to move, and I like to move fast at work…. so much so that I drew a comment from one (very slow) co-worker the other night asking what I take before I come in to work to give me all that energy. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if I chugged coffee like some of the others….

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    • I love my computer, but I also love not having to BE at the computer. I developed a real dislike of being tied to the office chair. I suspect I had been going that way for a long time. I was always on my way out for breath of air, even when it was raining because my feet were twitching. I think modern office work is a LOT harder than it looks on the surface. The endless hours using all your little muscles but never getting to stretch the big ones causes more problems than anyone realizes. I have pains in muscles that are there because I never USED those muscles and other pains in hands and shoulders and neck from sitting and not moving for hours and hours at a time. They keep saying they are trying to fix some of this stuff, but they haven’t because the nature of the equipment is what it is.

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