My “Creativity Training for Writers” class draws to a close this week. It has been a wonderful journey. Along the way, we’ve had some great discussions and tackled some fun “jump start” assignments.
One of those assignments was for us to either:
– Reach into our wallets and grab a random business card
– Go to a junk drawer or other type of clutter collector in our homes and, without looking, grab an item
Once we had our item or card, we were to complete a no more than 500 word short story or essay based on it. Since I’ve been writing nothing but fiction for several months, I chose to flex my essay-writing muscles. I had pulled my friend Mike’s card from my wallet. Mike’s job is to … well, if I throw that out here it kind of blows the essay.
So instead, I’ll just share what came out:
After my annual conference, my wallet is swollen like a well-fed tick, full of a new collection of colleague‘s business cards. I dumped them onto my desk last night. The contact information of software managers, techies and consultants tumbled out in a patchwork quilt.
Nestled in the pile was a card I’d stuffed in there long ago. It belongs to my friend Mike, and reads “technician.” At first glance, you’d think he was just another computer guru. But looking closer, you see his card features a grinning, happy dog surrounded by flowers.
My friend Mike scoops poop for a living.
I’ve never tagged along with him the job, but our conversations tell me how they go. Each morning he climbs into his lime-green work truck and travels to the yards of his clients. The frequency of his visits is determined by the workload coming out of the pups at each residence. At some houses, he works in solitude, with just his pooper-scooper for company. At others, he is greeted by the pooch who has generated his work, or stops to chat with the doody-maker‘s owner.
I’ve heard Mike talking with others about his job. Why, they wonder, when there are so many things one can do for a living, would he choose to spend his days dealing with dog doody? I must admit that when Mike first told me about his work, I wondered myself. But looking at all my business cards, these tiny representations of many work-personas, I began to understand.
Each day, I am bombarded by calls and emails complaining about what our system will and will not do. I attend meetings where the same issues are rehashed endlessly. We scramble to do everything for everyone with far too few resources to do so. We shift priorities and work long hours only to be met with new complaints.
In other words, we clean up a different kind of doody with another kind of pooper scooper.
Unlike Mike, we clean up our doody while staring at computer monitors until our heads and eyes ache. While he’s enjoying the freedom of working independently, the company of man’s best friend, sunshine, and exercise, we are encased in our stodgy business clothes and growing stiff-muscled and pale in fluorescent office lighting.
We often assume that work that comes with a title and prestige is key to a good life. For some that may be true, but there’s something to be said for spending your days enjoying your surroundings and working with a sense of peace. At the end of the day, I often carry stress that stoops my shoulders and zaps my energy. Mike comes home with a spring in his step.
Almost every profession comes with a heaping load of doody that you’ll have to clean up, and it almost always stinks. Make sure you’ve chosen the one that smells the least offensive to you.
Note: Since I just recently shared here that I am working on a new piece of short fiction inspired by a news story about a mailman who took a dump in someone’s yard, I realize I’m risking being stereotyped as a “poop writer” by posting this too. While I’m totally okay with being pegged as a genre writer at some stage in the game, I certainly hope this one isn’t it.