Monday, September 1, 2014
Whistle While You Work
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Once again, it's Labor Day, the American holiday that honors workers by giving them the day off their jobs (unless you're in retail, in which case you're punching in on Labor Day and at 3pm on Thanksgiving, too. Maybe we should bring back Blue Laws?) Two years ago, we wrote about the worst jobs we ever had. Lucy won that one hands down, with her college job feeding chunks of raw liver to axelotls.
This Labor Day, I thought we could dish on the best jobs we've ever had. For me, it was being a docent at The Dumbarton House, a beautiful Federal house museum in Georgetown in DC. I was working on my masters in museum studies at George Washington University, and this was literally the perfect job. I took visitors through the meticulously restored rooms, explaining the history of the house, furnishings and the family. Since Dumbarton House was one of the lesser-known gems in Washington, I had a lot of free time. I would hang out in the cozy kitchen, drinking tea or getting home-baked goodies from volunteers. The house is the headquarters of the Society of Colonial Dames, so they were all lovely older ladies who thought becoming a museum professional was about the best thing ever. Or, I would spread out my books and papers and work in the library. When my stint was done, I would walk through the leafy, cobblestone streets of Georgetown, admiring the restored house facades, and then do a bit of window shopping on Wisconsin Ave. before catching my bus to the Cathedral area, where I lived. It was the only job I've ever had where I ended the day more refreshed and energized than when I had started.
How about you, Reds? Have you ever had a dream job?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, I love my job right now! And I almost always have, ever since my first real job as a radio reporter, then for Rolling Stone Magazine, then a US Senate staffer, then a TV reporter. All wonderful! But as a teenager, I did have a dream job. I worked in a record store.
Records. You know records, right?
It was called Lyric Records, and it was a tiny one-room store in downtown Indianapolis. (It also had those little booths where people could take records and listen.) Part of my job was to select the record that would be on the store's sound system. To make it more fun, I would suss out each customer who came in, and see if I could pick a new record they would love. Everything sounded so good on the store's speakers! And it was really interesting to see if my intuition clicked You'd see the customer's head come up, and they'd stop, and listen, and then come up to me and say--what's that playing right now?
And I knew I had scored.. (Malcolm Gladwell would love this, right?)
I sold a LOT of Harry Nilsson.
LUCY BURDETTE: I truly enjoyed my work as a psychologist, but I can't think of any jobs I love more than being a writer. I certainly don't love every minute (like now, for example, when I know I need to be getting four-five pages done every day for the next few months and I'm not sure where the plot is headed...) But I love so much about it--an idea that comes out of nowhere and makes your hair tingle...seeing the book cover or the page proofs for the first time...hearing from readers...and most of all, the dear friends I've made. I consider myself beyond lucky to have this job!
HALLIE EPHRON: Most challenging, most rewarding job I ever had was my first year teaching. Fresh out of NYU with an MA in education, I was hired to teach a sixth-grade class of "non-English-speaking" kids at PS 189 on 189th Street and Amsterdam in Manhattan. I had no idea what I was doing (I was not trained to teach non-English) and there were NO materials. Zip zero zilch, other than first-grade readers which were so inappropriate for 12-year-olds and 6th-grade textbooks that they couldn't read in other subjects.
So I winged it. I remember Roberto who was just off the boat from Cuba. Evaristo and Evangelina from Greece. An adorable Latvian kid and his twin sister. Poor Xiomara from the Dominican Republic who was so confused that by the end of the year she barely still spoke Spanish. Solemn-faced Roxanna who was so bright and I hope turned out to be a writer. I can remember almost every child in that class, and to say I learned as much as they did that year would be an understatement. I hope the NYC public schools now have materials for kids like mine - they deserved better.
RHYS BOWEN: I've been a writer for most of my life and that seems to be the perfect job for me--especially since they invented laptop computers. I can sit and write under a palm tree on a beach or a mountain top. I get to live in a pretend world. However my first real job after college was in the BBC drama department and sometimes that seemed like a dream job. I got to work with the biggest names in British stage and cinema. Imagine me as as twenty two year old telling Sir John Guilgud where to stand! When we had the perfect cast, a wonderful script and on the day we were recording we sometimes went on until midnight. Then we'd all go out to a pub to celebrate and when I came in the next morning there would be flowers on my desk from the producer. I remember telling my parents I couldn't believe I was being paid for it!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, you are all so glamorous! Before I sold my first book, I had a couple of either dull or really awful jobs. Other than those, I worked off and on in my family's business for more than a decade. My parents were manufacturer's reps in the theater concession business. I liked the business but was never passionate about it, unlike my dad, who had built it up from scratch. I think if I hadn't become a writer, my dad would have been heart broken that I didn't want to carry on his legacy. As it was, he was hugely proud of my achievements. And the business taught me a lot about people skills--invaluable for a writer.
So I think I can safely say that writing is THE BEST job I've ever had, or ever dreamed of having, even with those nasty deadlines...
How about you, dear readers? What were your best jobs?