I love my job. Not sort of like, it’s okay, I guess I’ll go if I have to, but LOVE. I bounce out of bed in the morning, and if it happens to be a day that I am scheduled at the high-end kitchen store (I only work there part-time), then I am already super-excited. Work! Yay! Sincerely! Yay!
Other people (The Husband for one, my sister Oakley for another) seem flabbergasted by this revelation:
Me: I love my job!
Oakley: That’s nice, why—because you get a discount?
Me: Well, the discount is good, but I just love going there.
Oakley: You love going to the kitchen store? But you don’t even cook.
Me: I know! But it’s a really fun place to work! The products are great, the customers are great, the people I work with are great …
Oakley: My job is going okay right now, but I’m still applying for 16 other jobs that I might like better.
Me: I’m not! I love this one!
I have always loved every job I’ve ever had. Even what other people would consider the bad ones. There is just something very gratifying about getting ready for work, clocking in, and doing a good job at something you enjoy.
In high school, I adored my job as a restaurant hostess. Pacifica Moon was a very elegant restaurant right on the ocean, and it was the kind of place where you make your reservation two months in advance and tip the guy who parks your car $20. I loved working there. Every time I would walk the happy customers to their table (“Watch out, there’s a step down right here,”) I would get to stare at the waves lapping up on the windows. Another great perk was I got to eat a gourmet meal every night. For free. This is quite compelling when you are 16 and flat broke and get home too late to enjoy a meal your mom made for your siblings.
In college, I worked as a bank teller for Bank of America. I was passionate about my job. I became obsessed with lining up all the bills in my till facing the exact same direction, and pretending the money was really all mine. I also became obsessed with the “mutilated” bills.
We were required to pull out any dollars that were torn, taped, had holes in them, excessive writing on them, had gone through someone’s laundry five times, or were otherwise old and worn out. It didn’t matter if it was George Washington’s face on the front or Benjamin Franklin’s, if it was mutilated, it had to go. (The bank would send them back to the Mint and be reimbursed.) You would give the manager, Tammy, all your mutilated bills secured together by a metal paperclip, and she would give you an official-looking green slip of paper with the words “Exchange for damaged bills” at the top. She would scribble the amount ($687) on the pre-printed green paper and you put the paper in the till in lieu of the cash so you would balance at the end of your shift.
I am a card-carrying uber-Virgo, which means I like things neat and pristine. I gave Tammy any bills that were not only torn, taped, or written on with marker … I also attempted to exchange any bills that I considered “too wrinkled or bent.”
“No, MOV,” Tammy would say in that exasperated tammy-tone of hers for the 800th time that week, “these bills are not mutilated enough to turn in. They’re fine.” She would hand the stack back to me, and I would attempt to trade them later with Don, who was the next teller over.
“Hey, Don,” I’d say sweetly, “Can I get a couple rolls of quarters from you? And, oh, yeah, do you mind trading $687?”
I only lasted one summer there (“It’s not you, MOV, I swear, it’s just we have waaaaay too many tellers right now,”) which was kind of like having the guy you’re dating break up with you, even though you already knew he was never really crazy about you to begin with. It still hurt.
My rebound job was at a department store. Another job in my long list of jobs I loved. I worked for the now-defunct I.Magnin, which was similar to Saks or Neiman’s. Everything was very beautiful and very expensive: it was the perfect job for a Virgo.
I liked to walk past the dress department and pet the silk dresses while pretending I was just smoothing them or arranging them by size to be helpful. I liked to pick up the Lalique crystal vases and guess the price before I flipped one over to read the tag ($2049—right, again!). But mostly I loved the shoe department.
I would go into the shoe stockroom on my break, and try on shoes. The average shoe price was $600 (per shoe). I would put on the magenta suede lace-ups from France and pretend I was a super-model, just like I used to play dress-up in my mother’s closet, until Sheila, the shoe manager, would come back and tell me to put everything away and stop trying all those shoes on if I was never going to buy any.
I worked there off and on for three years, and even though I could never afford to buy the shoes, I nonetheless loved every second of it.
When I got out of college, I still did not find what my parents, or any of their friends, or any of my friends for that matter, would consider to be a “real” job: I worked at a gym. I was the front desk girl, and I (surprise!) loved my job. I loved getting there at 5 AM when it was still dark out, I loved getting the just-delivered clean white towels out of the clear bags and setting them in neat stacks by the entrance, I loved turning on the music and being the one who decided what we were all going to listen to and at what volume.
I also loved that I had a free membership at the best, most expensive gym in town, and that I could work out any time I wanted. Which was all the time.
I lasted at that job one year. Other gym rats constantly asked me “What event are you training for?” while I caught sight of my perfectly chiseled size 4 body in the mirror and said, “Discus.”
Next job on the list was the fancy jewelry store, Shine. I loved working at Shine. I had upgraded from pretending Bank of America’s money was all mine to pretending the Patek Philippe watches and 11 carat cushion-cut ruby rings with baguette diamonds were mine. I never tired of trying on all the jewelry, sometimes all at once. If we were having a slow day, I would rearrange the window displays a thousand times, always clicking the window shut with the old-fashioned brass key and a satisfying loud “click.”
I loved the fact that I was only 23, and yet I had the keys to a million dollar inventory right on the very same key chain as my Toyota Camry and my $500/ month rental apartment. Richard (the owner) trusted me.
At the same time I worked for Shine, I was applying for a job as a flight attendant. I thought it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. After interviewing with four different airlines, Continental ultimately called me back.
“MOV? We’d like to offer you the job. Training starts next Tuesday in Houston, and you will most likely be based in Newark or Denver. Welcome!” Her voice said authority, perky, and well-traveled all at once. I wanted a voice like that.
Is it any surprise that I loved being a flight attendant? I loved working first class, I loved ordering room service in the nice hotels, I loved going to musicals or museums or one-of-a-kind shops on my layovers. I even enjoyed setting up the back galley on an MD-80 on a short flight and serving scalding cold soup at 35,000 feet.
After I was furloughed due to the economy, I applied to work at the front desk of a boutique hotel.
I was crazy about that job. The hotel was a historical property in Seattle, and a lot of famous people stayed there. I was surrounded by elegance, opulence, rain, and celebrity all day long.
I missed the friendly (sunny) skies, however, so I applied to United. They hired me and (wait for it!) I loved this job, too. It was to be my decade-long perfect dream job, and I eventually transferred to the Los Angeles base (after serving brief stints in D.C. and San Francisco). Even if my flight was delayed five hours, re-routed, or canceled, none of that seemed to matter when I'd be sitting on the beach a week later on my Maui trip.
When I finally became a mom, I quit flying to stay home with my first son. I never regretted my decision, although I did miss my flight passes and my interaction with adults. So, when my younger son was just over a year old, I decide to get a part-time job at the high-end kitchen store. Which I love.
I am always mildly shocked if someone confesses to me that they hate their job. Really? Then why do you work there? Life is too short to be unhappy.
I woke up last night in a cold sweat. I was dreaming that I was one of the dolphin trainers at Sea World and I couldn’t remember the commands for the dolphins. They were swimming away from me and I started to cry, ruining my waterproof make-up. I tried everything I could think of to get them to cooperate, including promising them crisp $100 bills and free first class tickets to Sydney. The dolphins suddenly disappeared altogether, and the next thing I knew, I was in the police station, still in my scuba gear. I overheard the police in the next room talking about how I might have to go to jail for making the dolphins disappear. Then, one of the officers mentioned something about contacting a special Dolphin Detective.
Huh, I thought to myself in my very coherent dream state, Dolphin Detective. I’ll bet I would love that job.
(“Multiple Optimistic Vocations”)