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Archive for Sunday, July 10, 2005

Best jobs, sadly, tend to pay the worst

July 10, 2005

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The best job I ever had required me to work long hours for no pay. The job description included serving as nurse, housekeeper, psychologist, short-order cook, laundry woman, chauffeur, hostess, accountant, party coordinator and secretary. Yep, the challenging position of wife/mother suited me to a tee!

But that doesn't mean I've never held a regular job. Trust me, I've tried my hand at many occupations including, when I was 11, a very short career as a laundress. The oldest of four daughters, I had WAY too much baby-sitting-for-free experience, so washing and ironing clothes seemed vastly preferable to baby-sitting-for-peanuts (the money-making occupation customarily available to pre-adolescent girls). I blame Mom's brand new automatic washer for giving me the idea to solicit the load of laundry from Clarence, a client who stopped by the house one day during my attorney father's absence.

When Clarence later returned and handed me a basket of soiled clothing, I thought Dad, given his purple countenance, was having a stroke. Still, rather than cause a scene - or, perhaps, to teach me a lesson - he allowed me to wash and iron the entire load. From that experience, I learned the fee of $3 I set was far too low for my hard work and likely didn't cover the detergent, bleach, water and electricity I used. Even if Dad hadn't absolutely forbidden me to take in more laundry, that particular vocation would have ended simply because I was burned out as a laundress.

It occurs to me that my children were much more creative in earning money than I was . . . and at a much younger age. At 5, Greg came home with a nice chunk of change after selling foxtail weeds door-to-door in our neighborhood. When I learned what he'd been doing, I wondered how many of my neighbors' dining tables were graced that evening with weed centerpieces.

Butch, when even younger, turned a tidy profit by blocking the sidewalk in front of our Old West Lawrence home with his peddle-car and charging a toll to football fans walking to the stadium. He was highly indignant that "some cheapskates walked on the grass instead of paying to walk on the sidewalk."

As for me, I didn't hold another paying job until I was in high school and my teacher recommended me as a competent typist to an elderly female author. Miss Owens, who was busy that summer translating children's stories from Spanish to English, paid me 35 cents an hour and typically gave me exotic lunches. I still remember my surprise that "Welsh Rabbit" turned out to be cheese on toast.

When Butch was a baby, I was employed as a corporate secretary. I had a great boss and nice co-workers, but I suffered too much mommy-guilt at leaving Butch. By the time Greg was born, I was self-employed typing for college students so I could work at home. As occupations go, that wasn't a bad one - provided, of course, that I could get all the moot court briefs and term papers typed yesterday when they were due. There were no computers with spell-check then, so I still smile when I think about the smartest guy in law school arguing with me that Xerox was spelled with a Z!

After the boys were grown, I spent a year or two working at a bank. Let me tell you, if thousands of dollars are going to cross my palm daily, I don't want it to belong to someone else. I want it to be mine - ALL mine! During our teller training period, my friend Betty and I were quizzed on what we would do if an armed robber came into the bank and demanded money. I responded with the correct answer: "I'd give him the money." Betty gave the honest answer: "I'd wet my pants."

I have worked hard at volunteer jobs offering much in experience while paying nothing, nada, zip! From time to time, husband Ray inquires, "Is there any job in this county which pays nothing that you haven't held?"

Summer jobs helped our boys decide what they DIDN'T want to do when they grew up. As high-schoolers, both detassled corn, but only Butch, at age 12, hired on as a 25-cent-per-hour hoer of soybeans on the same day Greg, 7, assisted my sister Vicki in selling paper poppies to benefit veterans.

That evening, Butch complained how hard his work was and how little he was paid for it. "Oh, yeah?" countered Greg. "How'd you like to sell poppies all day to people who don't want to buy them?"

However, neither son was ever dumb enough to offer to launder clothes ... not even his own! That was MY job!

Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing mhgink@netscape.net.

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