Monday, December 27, 2010
The Best Job by Niles Reddick
For whatever reason, I remember people asking me what I'd like to be when I grew up. At some point, I think I wanted to be a policeman or fireman because I loved accidents, especially car accidents at the racetrack or on TV shows. Later, I wanted to be a preacher or a doctor. As the years passed, I really had no clue in high school what I wanted to do with my life, but I basically saw three choices: college, a full time job, or the military. I went to ask my high school counselor what she thought I should do and she told me to go to college. When I asked what I would major in if I went to college, she said it didn't matter, not to worry about it, but just go to college. I honestly thought it was the stupidest advice ever, but it wasn't, and years later, I told my dad if he saw her (she was a customer of the automobile dealership for which he had worked for 45 years) to tell her she was right and I appreciated it. She got the message at some point and was thankful. I learned that all things lead to something else, and the many jobs I had really did prepare me for what I finally did.
First, I had mowed grass with my push mower for older people in the small town in Georgia where I grew up. I hated it and always found myself thinking about other things while I was mowing, not paying attention. That's what got me in trouble with Ms. Etta. She came hobbling out of her house, cane in hand waiving it at me, and shouting, "Your skinning my grass." She also called me Lyles. Niles and Lyles are a little different, but I chalked it up to her age. Yes, I has skint her grass and hadn't even noticed my wheels were set too low. Then, I took on the yard of Ms. Emma and Mr. Virgil, the town banker and his wife. I don't know how old they were, but they seemed old to me, but then everyone seems old to someone who is 12. Ms. Emma gave me a fishing pole and made me beat the leaves out of the trees, so none would fall after I raked, thus saving them money by not having to pay me to come again. I took on a job as a janitor for a while at the First Baptist Church with my friend the preacher's son, and we listened to KISS music, not knowing the Lottie Moon missionary committee was meeting in an adjacent Sunday School room and that they would try to get us fired for listening to devil music. At 14, I went to work at a convenience store (Suwanee Swifty), where I stocked shelves, swept, and occasionally rang up purchases. That didn't last but a few months because I landed a real full-time job and had to get a work permit, get involved in the Distributive Education Club at high school, which would allow me to get out of school early for work. Getting out of school early was the best.
I went to work at the Tasty World restaurant/Days Inn/gift-shop/gas station and I was a busboy. The first few days were hell on my feet and I stunk like combinations of foods that somehow always smell like rancid spaghetti sauce when I think of it. I worked myself up to dishwasher, waiter, cook (for a week, then back to waiter), cash register clerk, and finally I got out of the restaurant and became a desk clerk in the motel. This kept me afloat through college at different hotels and even as an auditor at an Air Force Base. Once, I even took on a part time job at a package store to make ends meet and pay for college, and I got a 10% discount, though I couldn't afford to buy the good stuff. Mad Dog and TJ Swann were my wines by price, but I had become a connoisseur of alcoholic beverages.
After college, and still no clue what I was doing (since my application to drive a MARTA train in Atlanta did not prove fruitful and no one called for me to teach on the many Indian Reservations to which I had applied), I decided Graduate school was the right choice, so I studied Psychology and even took courses in Parapsychology with best-selling author Raymond Moody and renown ghostbuster Bill Roll. I even went on a few ghost busting expeditions, but knowing that wouldn't pay, I became a counselor. I found myself writing when I worked the late shifts at a mental hospital. Somewhere between breaking up a fight in which I got beat up and the time the Viet Nam vet who was paranoid schizophrenic put a switchblade to my throat, I decided maybe it was time to go back to Graduate school, learning how to write and teach.
I started teaching part time in 1992 and I've been teaching and working in colleges in an administrative capacity for almost 20 years. It has been a rewarding and fun job for me, but my life wasn't complete until I became a dad in 2002 and again in 2005. Between all the different things I have experienced since Audrey and Nicholas came along, there are enough stories to last a life time, and I find this is the best job and the hardest job of all. It also doesn't pay (financially, that is) and actually costs everything, but it's a good job. We are blessed, and below are pictures throughout the year culminated in our Christmas card---piano recital, soccer, off to school, a sack race at a festival, a snowball fight at our house, all the things that keep me busy in addition to my paying job at the college. Many other events didn't get included in the card, and since I've got the whole week off, we're going to start working on next year's card by playing golf, going fishing, and working in the yard this week. I am hoping to teach them to rake the yard this week, clean the house, and wash my Jeep for free. After all these years of work, I need some rest. Being a dad was also the greatest Christmas gift. Sure, I got some new socks (since I often take my shoes off at work and people have noticed the holes, I felt socks would be an appropriate gift for me this year), a new pair of shoes, a couple of shirts and ties, but watching them open their gifts we bought and the twinkle in their eyes Christmas morning after Santa had come was the best gift of all.
Niles Reddick is the author of Road Kill Art and Other Oddities and Lead Me Home. He lives in Tifton, Georgia with his wife Michelle and children Audrey and Nicholas (and two Brittany Spaniels---Anna and Jack). His newly revised website is www.nilesreddick.com