My father is a font of wisdom and once gave me this sage advice: if I enjoyed what I did only half the time, I would be fortunate. What brought this to mind is a Dallas Morning News poll asking readers to submit their worst jobs. It got me thinking which one of the many on my resume has been my worst.
The first job I remember was at a service station one high school summer. Not mechanically minded then‑or now‑I pumped gas, washed cars and cleaned up the place. During the next year I worked after school for a custom furniture maker. That was interesting‑except when I tacked a finger to a sofa.
The next two summers I worked at a gas‑as opposed to service‑station dispensing gas, soft drinks (in glass bottles, no PET yet) and cigarettes.
Maryville College had a student work program. I got on at the college theater as a set builder and stage manager. It was a fun job‑and the beginning of a life-long love affair with theater.
I worked for the old Railway Express Agency for two college summers. My first job was loading and unloading boxcars during a Kansas City summer. It was backbreaking, dirty and hot‑the boxcars were saunas day and night. After the longest thirty days of my life, I got on driving delivery trucks, which I enjoyed even though it was in city traffic. Then I lucked out: I spent the remainder of that summer and all the next at REA’s airport terminal where easy work (it was all easy after boxcars) paid well.
After college I spent time getting into and out of the army, banktellered a few months, construction labored a few more months and then was hired by Social Security, which is how I got to Kingsport the first time.
It took me five years to realize desk jobs, suits and ties are not me, so Uncle Sam and I parted ways a second time. Afterwards, I did a turn with an Arizona dinner theater, then became personnel director for a west Tennessee fiberglass bathtub manufacturer, where I got bitten by the journalism bug. Writing the company newsletter was part of the job and I discovered I liked doing it.
When that job ended in a Nixonesque Saturday night massacre, I trekked west‑again, this time to Colorado. I first worked at a pickle packing plant, then for a wholesale produce operation, where I discovered to my utter amazement that I could sell, a talent I never before suspected possessing. I sold onions, cantaloupes, watermelons and asparagus nationwide by the trailer truckload. It was a great job and I would probably still be doing it‑except I had to be in the office at 6 AM every day.
So I went to work selling ads and hosting a talk show for a radio station, then got a job with a daily newspaper. Fortunately, it was a small newspaper because at small newspapers everyone must learn to do several jobs. I primarily sold and created ads, but also did duty as a reporter, photographer and columnist.
The worst job? No contest‑the boxcars.
The best job? Also no contest‑writing a newspaper column.
And, by the way, Dad, I enjoy it more than 50% of the time.
I am a fortunate man.