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  • TRUE STORIES: Work 24 hours . . . and call it a day

  • Each year, in trying to hold on until spring break at Pitt State, I choose a metaphor to guide me — a word or concept to lessen the disheartening mood that descends when moving from weekends around the house to deadlines and meetings at the office.

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  • Each year, in trying to hold on until spring break at Pitt State, I choose a metaphor to guide me — a word or concept to lessen the disheartening mood that descends when moving from weekends around the house to deadlines and meetings at the office.
    Last week I tried dancing — deciding I would sashay sideways up to my duties, rather than dive headlong into the unread e-mails, training presentations, grant reports, web page updates, budgets, invoices, syllabus reviews, etc. that lay in wait each Monday.
    It worked — for about three days at least. By day four I found myself hyperventilating and fuming about how technology had cursed me, telling my co-worker, Eva, that I was becoming brain dead and asking that she please keep an eye on me so that I don’t step in front of car. (This after I went to meeting with a yellow highlighter to write on a yellow pad. Yes, it was becoming a yellow on yellow world.)
    So I went to my second line of defense, humor. More specifically puns, which I started sharing with co-workers, students and staff in an effort to bring some relief.
    I started out with one I’d heard on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion joke show: Q. Why is it so hard to starve in the desert? A. Because of all the sand which is there.
    Before long we were giggling and trading puns back and forth as we passed: Q. What do you call an alligator in a vest? A. An investigator.
    The experience got me thinking about my work history and the challenge of coming up with puns to describe my jobs over the years. So here goes (don’t forget, it’s okay to groan).
    My first job ever was delivering newspapers on my bike in the Republic of Frontenac in the early 1960s. If I missed a delivery, they’d call the house and I’d have to bike back over with a paper. So you might say I practiced recycling at an early age.
    I later worked at Chicken Annie’s out in Yale. Contrary to what people might think, you didn’t have to be in a fowl mood to work there. We had loads of fun (plenty of yolks). I started as a dishwasher, a job at which I did very well (had a sinkopated rhythm).
    After that I got a job at Pittsburg Pottery working for Vic Matarazzi, the only place I’ve ever worked where I got paid for kiln time.
    Then I went to work for Oehme Bros. Masonry mixing and shoveling concrete. Every day it got harder.
    After college I worked as a juvenile probation counselor. One kid I worked with drank so much at 16 years old that the judge adjudicated him a juvenile de-liquid.
    Page 2 of 2 - Then I moved to Chicago where I worked in a carpeting wholesale distributorship. It was a well paying teamster’s union job. I made a pile of money.
    Also while in Chicago I studied theater for a time in the evenings as I thought I might become an actor … but it turned out it was just a stage I was going through.
    I returned to PSU in the late 1970s to get a masters degree in psychology, during which time I developed a taste for Kentucky Freud Chicken.
    Then is was back to Chicago where I worked for a time as a crisis worker at Union Station, where, one day, they brought a man to me who’d tried to climb aboard a train engine and steal it. After assessing him, I determined he had a loco-motive.
    I had a friend in Chicago who worked in a blanket factory until it folded. He went on to become a chef, which added quite a bit of spice to his life.
    Since moving back to Pittsburg in 1980 I’ve worked a variety of jobs, including a short stint running The White Buffalo Café’, a coffeehouse located in the Stilwell Hotel in the early 1980s. I had to quit that because every day got to be the same old grind.
    I’ve also worked as a teacher (my hands were chalk-full), but mostly as an addiction counselor. (I once treated a man for golf addiction because it was driving a wedge between him and his family).
    Through it all I’ve continued as a writer: of poetry (even though, at 5’9” I don’t stanza so tall); stories (I once wrote one about a tornado with a nice twist to it); and newspaper journalism (my dream is to go to Greece to see the ancient ruins there and write columns about them.)
    Well, there you have it, a sampling of my work life, puns and all. There’s more but I’m going to have to stop for now as I’m developing writer’s cramp — also known as authoritis.
    As for the upcoming week at my job, instead of sashaying, I think I might try ballet (that should keep me on my toes) or tap dancing (I’ll have to be careful not to fall into the sink though).
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net

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