Sunday, November 19, 2017
Opinion

Ruth: This gig has been glorious, not laborious

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I am probably extremely unqualified to write this column.

After all it's about the upcoming Labor Day celebration. And let's face it, I really haven't done an honest day's labor in more than 40 years.

I'm a newspaperman. I am fortunate to ply my trade in a business that is really little more than a license to perpetual adolescence. In more than four decades of scribbling away, I can literally count on less than one hand the number of mornings I awoke and thought to myself, "Oh, jeez, I gotta go to work today."

This job always has been nothing but fun. I look forward to Mondays.

Occasionally I'll read an interview with other columnists and am struck by their kvetching as to how hard it is to crank out their two whole columns a week.

How they manage to cope with the galley-slave-like ramming speed stress of it all is simply astounding. Really now, some of my peers regard penning a column as if they were forced into indentured servitude. Perhaps some of these folks ought to get a real job to appreciate having the opportunity to rub their chins for a living.

That's not to say I haven't learned a few valuable lessons over time that might be of some small benefit to people just entering the workforce.

Many years ago I accepted a job editing a satirical magazine. As my editor and I drove back to the office from lunch, I asked if the magazine had a marketing plan. Yes, it did, the editor replied. Could I see it? No, I couldn't. Well, why not?

"Because it's allllllll up here," the editor said as he tapped his head. I should have told him to stop the car and I would walk to Tampa International Airport. I didn't. I was stupid. The magazine folded after about six months.

I've also learned the hard way that when you work for a boss who makes Joan Crawford look like Mrs. Cleaver it is a really bad idea to inform the editor you expect to be treated with professionalism, civility and respect. That can get you fired for insubordination. Then again every reporter should get fired at least once for insubordination. It does have a certain Front Page cachet about it. But only once will do just fine.

One of the attractions of this craft is the opportunity to work with ... interesting people. There was the editor who turned the lights off in his office and stared out the window for hours. There was the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who wasn't allowed near a typewriter. And there was the rewrite man who thought he was a reincarnated penguin. How many insurance offices have someone like that on the payroll?

My press pass has allowed me to fly the Concorde, cover presidential campaigns, and every now and then write something that might have made a difference. How can you call this labor? And then there was the fringe benefit of bending more than an elbow or two with the likes of Mike Royko.

Just how much wisdom I've accumulated is an open question. But for anyone in any field of endeavor, perhaps I could offer this small nugget:

As we told our two boys as they began to pursue their respective careers, never, under any circumstances, accept a job or reject an employment offer because of the money.

If the you love what you do and/or the job seems fun, interesting and rewarding, the money will eventually take care of itself. And besides, can you really put a price tag on the chance to be 18 over the course of 40 years?

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