Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Manure Lesson

My daughter called on her way home from TCBY. She'd just finished her first-ever job interview and it went well.
There's something profound about the fact that a 16-year-old applied for a job. It gives an adult hope that there are teenagers out there who will eventually be able to run things once we're too old to show them how the world works. It's even better when she's your kid. Now, when civilization breaks down and no one knows how to repair the machines, like in (insert random Star Trek episode here), she'll at least be able to make a decent smoothie.
I didn't have an official paycheck job until the summer of my junior year in high school. I was a farm boy and a job for me was pitching hay bales and shoveling hog manure.
Although throwing 50-pound bales of hay onto the back of a moving truck in 95-degree heat wasn't much fun, it was the hog manure that decided my choice of careers. Not that the manure possessed comic book radiation properties that mutated me into a writer rather than a farmer, it was the fact that writing was something I could do that was so far removed from hog manure, I'd never have to go on a date smelling like it again.
My first real job was as a food vendor at Royals Stadium. I started the year after the Kansas City Royals went to their first World Series and quit the year before they went to their second.
My timing sucked.
But walking up and down the concrete stairs hawking nachos or peanuts or Coca-Cola wasn't really a job. It was an excuse to go to the ballpark 81 times a year and flirt with girls. Sure, I got a paycheck and the occasional tip, but baseball and girls turned working there into less of a job and more of an exercise in bucking the system. If I could combine two things I loved and get paid for it, I must be doing something right.
That's something missing from a lot of people's work equation. Most people get a job to earn money so they can do things they enjoy, like eat and have heat in the winter. What most people don't do is figure out something they love and incorporate it into their profession. My daughter likes to read and really wanted to work at a bookstore, but TCBY called her in for an interview first.
Will she be worse off for working at TCBY? No. She'll still learn responsibility and the satisfaction that comes with earning money. Would she have enjoyed working at the bookstore more? Maybe.
But this way, she just might learn my hog manure lesson a little easier, because people get sick of yogurt, too.

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