Good News, Bad News

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that the Huntsville Times finally managed to get my entire column, including the all-important opening paragraph, into the online edition this month. Squeaky wheel gets the grease, I guess.

The bad news is that the title, “Even Menial Summer Jobs Can Elevate One’s Stature” is not what I had chosen at all. It’s not horrible, but I don’t think it has quite the punch as my choice, “Looking for Job Fulfillment? Try Cleaning a Floor.” I’m really not concerned as much about “raising one’s stature” in this piece as I am “lowering it,” and finding meaning in humility and service.

Oh well, no great harm done. But usually they stick very close with the title I’ve chosen, incorporating many of the same phrases and words, and this was a pretty drastic departure.

Editors–you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.

  1. mmlace

    Nicely done at the condensing! You were able to leave in all the best parts! That title-changing thing is unfortunate…yours was SO much better…you can tell your editor I said so! 😉

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    Oh, and another thing, the quote from Ecclesiastes ends with “for this is his lot” not “or this is his lot.” I checked what I sent them and I had it correct.

    Sheesh. Now people are going to think I don’t know my Bible.

  3. Hal

    Great job! Sometimes I wonder if editors ever read the articles to which they assign their titles. There’s nothing like publishing in a peer reviewed journal. Everything else is a crap-shoot.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hal, I agree with you regarding peer review. Having been both a reviewer and a review-ee, I was always impressed with the way the final product always took on a better shape after having “gone through the fire.”

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    The link to my column will eventually break, so here is the column in its entirety:

    I’ve watched my oldest son and his friends return from college and start their summer “scut work” jobs with a certain bemusement.

    “But work is sooo boring,” they protest.

    Well, duh, compared to Ultimate Frisbee on the quad and nailing that expert-level riff on “Guitar Hero” at 2 a.m., I suppose it is. Looks like it’s time to peer through the distorting lens of nostalgia and show them how hard “real work” was “back in the day.”


    I worked as an orderly at a nursing home during college. It was backbreaking work that left me physically and mentally drained.

    But I discovered that if you volunteered to drive the van and take residents to their doctor’s appointments, things went more smoothly. If you were lucky, you could blow an entire day reading magazines in an air-conditioned waiting room.

    Sometimes the ride home could be eventful, though. Like the time I forgot to lock the wheels on a sweet little old lady’s wheelchair and then started driving up a steep hill.

    When I heard her “sweet little” cry and looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the wheelchair rolling toward the back of the van, I had a flashback to a 1970s Barbara Streisand screwball comedy. There was my charge, rolling through the streets barely missing cars, pedestrians and workers carrying large, plate glass windows, and me, her “caretaker,” in hot pursuit.

    Fortunately, I had shut the back door tightly. Even today, although the floor to my office is perfectly level, I always reach down and lock the wheels to a patient’s wheelchair before starting an exam. Some lessons just stick with you.

    As for the various times I worked as a construction laborer during college, there are really only two words that need to be said: I’m sorry.

    Sorry for all the outlet covers put on upside down, sorry for the insulation that wasn’t stapled in correctly, sorry for that door that just won’t shut quite right.

    All across the Southeast, homeowners are taking a closer look at the so-called “quality craftsmanship” of their suburban, executive homes and asking, “Who the @#$% put this thing together?”

    Uh, that would be me, and, I like I said, I’m sorry.

    I wasn’t exactly a whiz at brick masonry either. One time I went to throw a shovelful of mortar up on some scaffolding and didn’t turn my wrist quite hard enough and then – you guessed it. Splat!

    Now there’s a lesson they didn’t cover in advanced biology.

    Even after I finished optometry school and started my first “real job,” the humiliation continued. I had quite the baby face back then, and one of my first patients asked me, sans smile, “What high school did you just graduate from?”

    The staff at that first clinic treated me like I was an adolescent too. I complained to my supervisor that I was a doctor, dadgumit, but, like Rodney Dangerfield, I just couldn’t get “no respect!”

    He was so compassionate: “Want respect? Earn it.”

    That’s a little pearl that I’ve passed on to my residents and students over the years. Take good care of your patients or else all those initials behind your name will be worth less than the noodles in a can of alphabet soup.

    Beauty and order

    When I think about the meaning of work, I lean hard on the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot.”

    And I recall that Jim Carrey movie, “Bruce Almighty.” Particularly that scene where Bruce discovers true contentment helping God, a.k.a. Morgan Freeman in a janitor’s uniform, clean a warehouse floor until it gleams.

    Maybe there is no real “scut work.” Maybe any labor that adds a little beauty and order to a creation that trends toward chaos can ultimately be meaningful and redemptive.

    Note to self: It’s about the warehouse floor, stupid.

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