"Not My Damn Job"

21 February 2001

At my high school, there was a janitor called Phil. (There is a point to this, I promise.) Specifically, he was Phil The Janitor. I don't think any of us kids actually ever called him just Phil. Anyway, Phil was infamous for a single phrase: "It's not my damn job." He delivered this in a disgruntled, almost surprised, but not angry tone, every single time, whether he was asked to clean up puke or change a light bulb. Once my physics teacher (who fancied himself quite clever, and sometimes he was) said, "Phil, exactly what is your damn job?"

Well, I was starting to tell my dad this story, and before I got to the key phrase, Dad says, "Phil? Phil's a good guy. Knows his job." Turns out Phil was the building engineer. He was supposed to deal with air flows and pool chemical balance and other things that had nothing to do with teenagers' cigarette butts. In short, it really was not his damn job.

Now, I could come at you with all sorts of lessons about assumptions and appearances. This is not a lesson book. This is a journal. And this is what I think: everybody should have something that is not their damn job. This is one of the little advantages of living with other people. When you live by yourself, everything is your damn job. When you live with other people, though, it shouldn't be.

Here's what I mean. I have two examples for myself, of varying force. I don't scoop ice cream, and I don't cut chicken. Not my damn job. Now, I cut up chicken if I have to - if chicken is the desirable thing to have for supper and there's no one else around who is willing and able to do it. But if I can get out of it, I don't cut up chicken breasts. I really hate the feel of them. Not my damn job.

Ice cream is a little different. I never scooped ice cream for myself at home. That was Dad's job. It was one of the little things he did for Mom and me because he loves us. Let me be clear: it's not that I'm physically incapable of scooping ice cream. It's not that I believe it is too hard for little ol' me. I just won't do it. I don't need ice cream that badly, ever, because there are stores that sell it pre-scooped if I am ever both desperate and alone/not with someone who will indulge me in this. (Not that there are any good ice cream places near us now until the Cold Stone Creamery by Trader Joe's comes all the way into existence… but I digress. And Lord knows journals are not for digressions.) So anyway. See how harmless this is? And yet it's nice to be able to sit back and know that it is not, in fact, my damn job. It's freeing. Even though this is not like paying the gas bill, nobody is sitting around stressing: "My God, who's going to scoop the ice cream?" That's what's the best part of it. It makes me relax just a little more, and it doesn't stress anybody else out to compensate. It's just not my damn job.

And speaking of my (damn?) job, I got another short story finished today. It's actually a section of Dreams of a Young Master, which will be the fourth book in my Other Place Series. I've already done books one and two, Fortress of Thorns and The Grey Road; I decided it would be good to take a break and write for grown-ups for awhile, especially because the Novel wanted to be written. Anyway. I thought there was a segment of Dreams of a Young Master that would make a pretty good stand-alone story, so I wrote it and called it "Dreamer's Night," and we'll see if it's editable. (My favorite word in the world: editable.)

For those of you who are paying attention, I am now four for four: four days, four short stories drafted. I'm not usually this Prattlike, er, prolific, I mean. Well, not quite, anyway. But it's kind of cool. But now, you know, I've done more than half a week this way. Which means I have to finish up the week, right? Three more short stories in three more days. This is craziness. There is absolutely no reason for me to do it. It's just silly. I write because this is what I do, not because I started out with a story a day thing. I don't need this.

I figure I'll do "The Children's Village" tomorrow if I can manage it, followed by the related-story to "The Flask of Today," the one where the main character's mom has Alzheimer's (whee, it's going to be a fun couple of days to be living in my head!), with the one that starts out in Sioux Falls for Saturday's topper.

And then I will pretty well have the decks cleared for work on the Novel. I think. I'm sure Timprov will remind me if there's anything really cool that I'm missing. So I'll just keep getting stuff edited and getting it out, and Novel, Novel, Novel. I love this (damn) job. I'm glad it's mine.

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