Ode to Dabbling
A Thing to “Do”
By Steve Carr
Like you, I’m often asked, “And what do you do?”
A logical icebreaker, I suppose, and one I should be prepared for. Of course, they’re asking what I “do” for a living. I hem, I hah, and then mumble something that leaves the impression I’m a parolee adjusting to life on the outside.
I could give a short answer but none would be exactly true: a gardener (at my own house), a lawyer (tried that), a writer (not quite), a small business owner (sold it), a volunteer (show me the money). You get the idea.
It’s not like I haven’t done things, been things. Next time I’m in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, maybe I should just choose something and go with it. Who’s going to know? What are the odds that I’ll be in line with the same guy next year?
“Hey, aren’t you that guy that milks snakes? Did ya get a vanity plate for that?”
What we “do” (or did) apparently defines us. So I thought I’d review my vocations. There must be one that will elicit an, “Oh, how exciting, I’m just a Formula One racecar driver.”
Let’s see. I polished chrome and wiped down sweaty benches at the Alpha Health Spa. It was there I once stood too long in front of the sunlamp in the dressing room—during my break, of course—trying to dry out pimples before the junior prom. Those who saw my dance picture suggested my powder-blue leisure suit clashed with my clown-red nose.
I scrubbed turf from the grooves of golf clubs at the Idaho Falls Country Club. I was one of the best,
I must say. I can still see the glint of my braces in a polished nine-iron.
By the time I landed a job at Norton Fruit Company, I was wise to the ways the new guys were hazed by the old-timers. The creaky warehouse was packed with dry goods and fresh produce. The order-takers, the elusively exotic upstairs girls with the long red fingernails and poofy hair, lowered clipboards on strings filled with orders from their windows to the warehouse below—always dancing my clipboard just out of reach.
Eager to shine, I’d race to the ethylene-filled banana room and the swamp-cooled vegetable room, load my truck, and deliver my goods to Earl’s Food Liner and LeBaron’s Café. Just days into the job, feeling rather superior about my fast and efficient seventeen-year-old self, I had an item on my clipboard I couldn’t locate. “Two Elbo-Ronis,” it said.
After a scrambled search (I wasn’t about to ask for help) it hit me. The glossy-lipped teases were yanking my chain.
“Elbo-Roni. Right—next they’ll have me searching for ankle-lettuce or patella patë.”
I loaded the rest of the order and hurried out with my delivery.
“Where’s my pasta?” groused the greasy cook at the Italian (in name only), cafe after I unloaded her citrus.
“But aren’t these a coupala nice lemons?” I offered.
So I moved on and proudly installed a perfectly vertical utility light pole in a self-storage yard for Wheeler Electric. Later, I had to agree with Mr. Wheeler that with some forethought the light might’ve shone onto the storage units better had I faced it in the other direction.
Nope, this bit of nostalgic review is getting me nowhere. I’m a dabbler, that’s what I do, you see, and that’s what I’ll say to the guy seated next to me. And before he can respond, I’ll ask, “And what’s your favorite movie, and why do you suppose that is?”
And we’ll have the most delightful of conversations.