Garry and I had interesting careers. To some degree, the work we did made a difference, though how much difference is still a point of discussion. Garry covered news. Trials, murders, fatal accidents, crime, politics, celebrities, opening days at Fenway, following Presidents and other VIPs.
Garry’s professional life put him in the spotlight. He was regionally well-known and a daily presence on local television. Sometimes nationally. People forget which station he worked for, but they knew his face and felt he was part of the family. After all, he showed up every night just about supper time.
Garry met celebrities. He followed stories that could also be seen in newspapers and sometimes made national or even international news. He was on television pretty almost every day. People knew him or felt as if they did.
My work was important. I worked on projects on which we depend these days like wireless computers and gigantic databases (like Google). But my work was technical. We had our own celebrities, but you had to work in the business to know them, so most people never have heard of them.
Describing what I did made most peoples’ eyes glaze over. Trying to explain the differences between object linking and other table-based databases to someone who hasn’t yet mastered the basics of their home PC was an exercise is futility. Eventually, I stopped trying to explain what I did unless I met someone who happened to work in my field. Then we had a grand old time rattling on about what we did and how we did it. Such moments were rare. Mostly, I said, “I write technical documents and manuals for software and hardware aimed at professional developers.”
I had interesting stories about Israel and interviewing people who are now famous, but weren’t back then — like Netanyahu who was Minister of Education when I was running a features newspaper in Jerusalem. He was a regular guy then, worried more about getting money to better fund schools. Times change. My stories are far less entertaining than Garry’s, so I let him have the floor.
Garry, on the other hand, is a ham. Ask him. He’ll tell you. He loves the spotlight. If there’s a video camera anywhere, he’s there. He’s not chatty at home, but give him an audience and he’s off and running.
No one was interested in my work except those who did the same kind of work. Nonetheless, I earned a good living and didn’t have to work 16-hour days. Or wear a suit to work in the middle of the summer heat or stand in a blizzard to explain to viewers that it really is snowing. To this day, I wonder why they send reporters into the bitter cold to tell people the weather is bad. Everyone could look out the window.
We did interesting things. What I did is a more interesting now than it was then since so many more people are involved with computers today. I was there when they were figuring out how to make wireless connections and was assured ten years before it happened that soon everything would be wireless. Now people are interested because these obscure things are very now. They are part of everyone’s life and we depend on them. Also, grandma’s boring career is less dull when you need help with your computer or software.
I’m not as sharp about software as I was “back in the day” because I haven’t kept up with changes. Retirement is an opportunity to not be involved in all the things you did while you worked. The only time I miss work is when something goes wrong with my computer and the operating system is sufficiently different that I have to figure out where Microsoft has hidden the information this time.
All the original information is still in Microsoft OS, but they move it around. On a lot of levels, personal computers have not changed as much as they seem. They are a lot faster and there are more applications, but underneath the “user interface,” the computer functions pretty much the same way it always has. It just does it much, much faster.
I’m glad we had interesting times. A lot of things Garry thought weren’t interesting are more interesting now and surprisingly current. For me, some of the people I met and interviewed are a big deal in today’s body politic — or in science or technology.
We don’t have money, but we have memories. Sometimes, we have some peculiar personal relationships to people and events that took place many years ago, but changed the world. Like those five years at The University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory where I saw what is going on in today’s battered environment. What a pity we knew so much way back in the early 1980s — and much earlier — and did so little to fix it.