Column: Wired for Life

By Susan Parker
Tuesday March 06, 2007

At a dinner party last week I announced to everyone at the table that I needed a job. Soon. Very soon. My guests nodded in approval. They had professional careers. A few were mothers who worked part-time. One was a doctor, another a nurse. At the table were several writers, a scientist, and a union member. I was the oldest person in the room, and the most minimally employed.  

“Write,” said Sarah. “That’s what you do best.” 

“No,” said her husband Rob. “She needs to make money.” 

“Why not go back to the climbing gym?” suggested Fred. “You liked it there. Work and stay fit at the same time.” 

“I think I’m a little old for the gym scene,” I said. 

“Nonsense,” shouted someone much younger than me. “What are you 50, 55? That’s not too old. Sixty is old, but not 55.” 

“Better hurry,” whispered the young man sitting next to me.  

“What kind of job do you want?” asked Rob.  

“That’s a problem,” I said. “I don’t know.” 

“Full or part-time?” said Fred. 

“Part-time, I think.” 

“Clerical or managerial?” asked Sarah. 

“Clerical,” I said. “No responsibilities.” 

“A job without responsibilities,” said Tom. “Is there such a thing?” 

“Not a lot of pressure,” I tried to explain. “Something I can do easily, but get personal satisfaction from. And…” 

“And what?” 

“I want a short commute. Walk, bike, or take the bus.  

“Sandwich making at Genova’s,” said Rob. “You can walk there. I love their Italian combo.” 


“How ‘bout the Bowl,” suggested someone else. “That might be fun. All that food.” 

“Aisle Two,” said April. “Creams and potions. Aisle Two smells good. But don’t be a checker. You have to memorize too many things. Those green leafy vegetables all look alike.”  

“What about the bulk section?” 

“Same thing. If the customer doesn’t put the right code on it, you’re screwed. You have to come around the counter and compare what’s in the bag to everything in the bins.”  

“Not a security guard,” said Nance. “I don’t think you’d be good at it.”  

“Ticket taker on the ferry,” said Fred. “I’ll take you down to the union hall next week. Sign the book. Go through training. It’s unpaid, but you’ll learn everything you need to know. Just smile and point the riders to the right box. Say ‘put your ticket here,’ and nod your head. People love being told what to do.” 


“But don’t be the ticket seller. Be the taker, not the giver. Sellers sit in a little kiosk. Takers get to stand outside.” 


“Eighteen dollars an hour,” he continued. “Seasonal. You get the whole winter off to do other things.”  

“Like look for another job,” said Rob. 

“Okay, let’s go back to the beginning,” said Tom. “You want a part-time job with no responsibilities that you can bike to, right?” 

“Some responsibilities,” I said. “I can handle some.” 

“And you have no idea where or what kind of work you want to do,” said April. 

“Some place exciting,” I explained. “A place that does something I can get into. But not a hospital,” I added. “I’ve spent too much time in hospitals.”  

“Let’s clarify this more,” said Rob. “It sounds like you want a boring job in an exciting place, as opposed to an exciting job in a boring place. Is that correct?” 

“I think so,” I said.  

“That’s it,” he shouted. “I’m quitting my job and becoming a career coach.” 

“Yes,” everyone agreed. “You seem to have the knack.” 

I got up to the clear the table. Maybe I could be a waitress. I’d spent a lot of time working in restaurants 35 years ago. “Coffee, anyone?” I asked. 

“Peet’s!” said April. “You could get a job at Peet’s.”  

“Exciting and excitable,” said Rob. “You’ll be wired for life.”  

“And at your age,” whispered the whippersnapper next to me, “that might be the benefit you need the most.”