“So, what do you do?”
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Sweet Jesus, I hate this question; it infests DC like no other place I’ve lived. I get asked it every time I meet people, be they at or bar, friends of friends, spontaneous conversations in Safeway—hell, ragged old ladies sometimes accost me walking down the street, just to find out what I do. My job lacks the excitement or concise definition of most vocations, so I normally just lie about it.
“So, what do you do?” the homeless guy outside the Rosslyn Metro asks me.
“Why…I…am…Assistant…Director…of…Resource…Management…of…Poultry,” I reply.
“Wait a second—why did you pause so much? Are you just making this up?” the homeless guy menacingly intones.
“Of…course…not…I…was…just…building…suspense,” I say, before throwing down my Vitamin Water and bagel and running away in shame.
The fact of the matter is, I’m very unsure of what my job actually IS. I work at an office and do a little bit of this (Solitaire) and a little bit of that (Spider Solitaire), but nothing that can be encapsulated in one or two words, like “Fireman” or “Bikini Inspector”. For me, everyday is an aggregate of small, insignificant tasks, designed solely for the purpose of making it to 5 PM. Play a game of Solitaire, 10 minutes. Knock out a Sudoku, 10 more minutes. Brew and drink coffee—oh, I can stretch that for at least a quarter hour. Trouble is, by 11 AM each day I’m normally wired on caffeine and exhausted of brief computer games, so I’m always desperately in need of Big Timekilling Activities. I’ve developed elaborate BTA’s involving round robin tournaments of office games, games that normally include Styrofoam cups, uneaten yogurt tins, and a three-hole punch, but those normally end quickly in tragedy:
“Good God, this coffee tastes terrible! And what’s this gooey purple stuff on my papers?” my boss inevitably asks. I tend to look away and make a cryptic comment about the last intern being “Very, very strange. And possibly retarded.”
So as you can see, the collective nincompoopery of my officemates puts the kibosh on office game BTA’s, so I have to turn to tasks more individual in nature. The other day, for instance, I decided that there was no good reason not to make a paper clip necklace. I took the precaution of borrowing the receptionist’s paper clips, because there was no way in hell those puppies were going to survive, and I didn’t want to be accused of wasting office supplies. I finished in about 10 minutes, put on the necklace and snuck into the restroom to check myself out.
“Hmm, good, but not that good,” I said aloud, admiring my handiwork in the bathroom mirror. “I really can make it bigger.”
“It’s not the size of the boat, just the motion in the ocean,” the middle-aged man from across the hall said as he exited the bathroom stall. “You’ll be fine, son.”
“No, I wasn’t talking about that, I was talking about…” I began, before realizing that I had two options here: admit that I was just looking at a paper clip necklace I made for myself, or fess up to a complete stranger about feelings of penile inadequacy. Tough call, but the choice was clear.
“Thanks, I’m sure women will like me just the way I am,” I answered with a nod.
I think I made the right decision—because in the end, I had a whole day in front of me, a cup full of paper clips, and, by God, I was GOING to make it bigger.