Employment advice from an 11-year-old

This is Orlando. Kind of. I will most certainly not be seeking a job in portrait-drawing.

He pointed his finger at me.

“YOU should be a dry cleaner!” he shouted.

He wasn’t being mean. He was being 11.

Orlando’s a sweet kid who once posed for our art class, just sat straight-backed in the chair for an hour while we took our pencils and turned his face into alien shapes on our easels. I hadn’t seen him in about two years, until I went to the holiday open house at my friend Elliott’s art gallery over the weekend. Orlando was taller and even cuter, his hair curly and his eyes dark brown, and he decided that he was going to help me find a job.

“How much do you want to make?” he said. “Fifty dollars a week?”

Um, maybe a little more than that.

“Do you want to be a model?”


“How about customer service?”

His mom works in customer service. She is a patient and kind person. I explained to him that I am, uh, not.

“Hmm,” he said. “How about a movie star?”

This kid should work in sales.

“Do you want to be a cheerleader?”

No,  said. I am neither perky nor flexible. Also, I am old.

“How about a garbage man?”

I can’t really remember being 11, but I’m sure that when I was, I never thought of employment as a tangible, actual thing. I thought everyone grew up to be astronauts and rock stars and doctors. I didn’t realize employment included the people who were behind the registers and who were handing me menus and who were delivering my New Kids on the Block fan club registration. I couldn’t fathom a layoff. Like Orlando, I thought you said what you wanted to be, and then you were that. And you made $50 a week.

Maybe it’s time to think that way again. Maybe it’s time to dream. Maybe it’s time to become a trash-hauling movie star with pom-pons, a pleasantly even voice and the ability to press a mean crease into a pant leg. Or there’s always that old fallback, modeling.


I accidentally stole from the elderly

My first Christmas card wasn’t meant for me. It arrived in a white envelope on Dec. 13, 2001, with a Santa stamp and a wreath on the return label. It was addressed to a woman named Mayme.

Edwin of Missouri needed to update his records. I’d lived in my place — the first on my own — for three months. No Mayme in sight. I put the letter on my desk and planned to send it back to him the next day.

And then I forgot about it. Completely. Didn’t send it back to Edwin, didn’t track down Mayme. That letter sat there on my desk until the snow melted.

Maybe I should have sent it then, in the spring, but I didn’t. In fact I hauled that card around for years, from Kansas to Michigan to Ohio, five moves in all. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. Once in awhile I’d find it and wonder about Mayme and Edwin and think about what a bad person I was for not sending that card back.

It got worse when I finally opened it.

Continue reading “I accidentally stole from the elderly”