Careers 101

March 12, 2004

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question kids used to ask each other. Well, it’s something kids would ask each other, and it’s something adults who really don’t know what else to say to children ask. I feel sorry for those adults, since I’ve grown up to be one. I don’t know whether kids still ask each other this. My friends and I did when we were kids, and there were the usual answers: race car driver, astronaut, policeman, that big hairy guy who comes and gets the garbage once a week. I guess most boys at some time or other want to be a garbage man. It looks like fun. You have to wear a uniform but you don’t have to keep it clean, you get to spend most of your time outside or riding around in a really big truck, and you get to fish around in other peoples’ garbage without all the other hassles that accompany a career in journalism.

But I digress. I wanted to be a fireman, mainly because I didn’t know what my other options were, which is why, as you know, I’m such a strong and outspoken proponent of career guidance counseling for toddlers. I didn’t know until my mother told me that the guys on TV who put on scuba gear and swam around in the ocean with film crews were "marine biologists". That’s what I wanted to do. Marine biology was my dream. Marine biology was my destiny. I wanted to work with Jacques Cousteau, although I didn’t want to actually be Jacques Cousteau, mainly because in all the pictures of him I saw he was always wearing this goofy looking red cap. If I could be Jacques Cousteau without the red cap that would have been all right.

I was so dedicated to marine biology I even had an octopus in a jar of formaldehyde. This and a fairly large shell collection were the closest I could get to actually being at the beach since I lived in Tennessee. But then something happened. First of all I realized that life wasn’t as simple as it seemed when my friends and I were twenty-seven and sitting around asking each other, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And it certainly wasn’t simple when we were eight and asking each other the same question, something which, in itself, raises a serious question: What were we sitting around doing for nineteen years? But I digress. When I was young I thought what I wanted to be when I grew up would be a fairly simple matter. At some point in the distant future, maybe my fifteenth or sixteenth birthday, I would hand in my "child" registration card and get one embossed with "grownup". I would load up my mother’s El Dorado with my octopus, shell collection, a change of underwear, and my favorite "Star Wars" action figures and drive off to the Job Kiosk. There a person dressed like an airline pilot would say, "Marine biologist, eh? I see you’ve already got your own octopus in formaldehyde. Very good. Here’s your scuba gear, your film crew, and a goofy red cap. That’s optional. Mr. Cousteau’s over there." Then I found out that for a career like marine biology you had to go to school, and because it’s was what’s technically referred to as "science" I would need to study some math. Smearing my wetsuit down with chopped tuna and diving into a school of mako sharks didn’t scare me. Losing control of a submersible and being trapped on a ledge in the Marianas trench was a risk I was willing to take. Calculus 101 made me think about other careers. I thought about parapsychology, although I ran into that whole "science" and "math" thing again. I thought about Egyptology, which seemed like fun. Hanging out in the desert, digging up a few sarcophagi, getting shot at by antique thieves, and translating hieroglyphic instructions for making beer from figs seems like a pretty good job, but I couldn’t make up my mind.

For a while I thought I might like to make movies, but then I found out that "making movies" was tough to break into, and required that you be born in New York, Los Angeles, or Wellington. I thought about a career in astrophysics. I know there’s a little math involved in astrophysics, that it’s not just a matter of staring through a telescope and saying, "Hey, I left my lights on at my house, three states over." I had a daring plan to get by without the math, but unfortunately I was caught during a test with Stephen Hawking in my backpack and thrown out. I don’t know what became of Stephen. I’ve been meaning to look him up and find out what he became when he grew up. But I digress. I still haven’t figured out what I really want to be when I grow up. Being a writer is my dream, and I believe being a writer is my destiny. Unfortunately dreams and destinies are bupkus when it comes to paying the bills. I guess what I really want to be is a guy who never has to worry about paying bills, especially since there’s so much math involved.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Two cars were waiting at a stoplight. The light turned green, but the man in the car in front didn’t notice it. A woman in the car behind him was watching traffic pass around them. The woman began pounding on her steering wheel and yelling at the man to move. The man didn’t move.

The woman went ballistic inside her car, ranting and raving at the man, pounding on her steering wheel and dash. The light turned yellow and the woman began to blow the car horn, flip him off, and scream profanity and curses at the man.

The man looked up, saw the yellow light and accelerated through the intersection just as the light turned red.

The woman was beside herself, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she was still in mid-rant she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the barrel of a gun held by a very serious looking policeman.

The policeman told her to shut off her car while keeping both hands in sight. She complied, speechless at what was happening. After she shut off the engine, the policeman orders her to exit her car with her hands up.

She got out of the car and he ordered her to turn and place her hands on her car. She turned, placed her hands on the car roof and quickly was cuffed and hustled into the patrol car. She was too bewildered by the chain of events to ask any questions and was driven to the police station where she was fingerprinted, photographed, searched, booked and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door for her. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the original officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He handed her the bag containing her things, and said, "I’m really sorry for this mistake. But you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him.

Then I noticed the "What Would Jesus Do" bumper sticker and the "Follow Me to Sunday School" bumper sticker. So, naturally . . . . . . . I assumed you had stolen the car."

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