It’s a tough job, but…
My dog only has two jobs. One is to earn a cookie by fetching the Hub when it’s time for him to set the dinner table. [She’s so good at this, she often fetches him right after breakfast. And several more times during the day.] Her other job is to earn a cookie by NOT barking hysterically at the letter carrier. [On this job, she has a 100% failure rate, and often fetches the Hub to set the table instead.]
Of course, I have jobs too. But there are some jobs which I would not expect to perform unless I’d led a life of total depravity—
St. Peter: Well, Barb, during your life you broke every commandment from thou shalt not steal to thou shalt not mix plaids and stripes.
Barb: Actually, I think I missed the one about thy neighbor’s wife. And anyway, what about Divine Forgiveness?
St. Peter: But you voted Republican in ’72. Even SHE has Her limits.
Barb: You mean SHE’s a Democrat?
St. Peter: Most of us are up here. In fact, several of us are still regular Chicago voters. So the best I can offer you is your choice of hells. You can either spend your eternal torment studying calculus, or needlepointing chubby sheep on pillows that say ‘Ewes not fat, ewes fluffy.’ And the amazing thing is, your hell is some people’s idea of their heavenly reward. The one thing that might save you from eternal torment is that you spent so many years as a writer, so we figure you’ve already been to hell.
But even St. Peter must have a special place set aside for some people who willingly do the really tough jobs: those who minister to lepers, middle school teachers, POTUS handlers who have to keep a straight face, astronaut frog scientists… Take Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space. Did she ever stop and ask herself, “Should I spend years in medical school, residency, and NASA training, and join the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, just so I can squeeze eggs from female South African clawed frogs and dunk them into the business of male South African clawed frogs to produce space tadpoles?”
No, Dr. Jemison just boldly went where no male South African clawed frog has gone before. Thanks to her, scientists all over the world can confirm what they had long suspected—while earthbound tadpoles spend their time darting around aimlessly, in a gravity-free situation they spend their time trying to deploy tiny multi-player gaming satellites crowdfunded by their Kickstarter campaign.
Except for a few dates in college, I’ve avoided close relationships with frogs myself. When we were kids, we used to bring jars of murky, tadpole-infested water home from the creek to watch the tadpoles turn into frogs. But to avoid upsetting us with news of the tadpoles’ inevitable demise, my mother used to report to us that while she was getting them fresh water, they swam down the drain. She wasn’t the only mother who had this problem. From the number of aquariums whose occupants faced burial at sea in the family bathroom, I would have expected the suburban sewer systems to be wall-to-wall gills.
Still, thanks to Our Lady of Plaid’s regular church carnivals, we were never short of new sacrifices to the voracious drains. There would always be a booth where you could win goldfish by correctly tossing a ping pong ball into the bowl. These bowls were placed so close together that it was impossible to miss, so every child would soon be carrying a plastic baggie holding a goldfish with a drain in its future.
One year my sister and I each won a fish. Mine was named Batman. Her’s was Robin. But just after we got home and introduced them to their new bowl, Robin ate Batman and went drain-swimming an hour later—a record, even for us. My brother won a fish that year too, but it had a different fate. He broke the bag when he was walking home from the carnival, but kept the goldfish alive by dropping it in every puddle along the way home, and then scooping it up along with a handful of water and racing to the next puddle. To everyone’s amazement, Goldie waited years before swimming up-drain.
To tell the truth, I didn’t miss Batman at all, and the Friday cafeteria fishsticks were as close as I ever wanted to get to fish. But one sister had different ideas. She filled the room we shared with aquariums of tropical fish which seemed to spend their time eating their young and dying. Back in those days, we both had a pretty good income from our family babysitting monopoly. (With eight sisters to choose from, no parent in our suburb ever bothered to call any other sitters.) My sister spent a fortune on fish therapy and replacements, before finally figuring out the First Law of Tropical Fish: with a one-week warranty from the pet store, most tropical fish have a lifespan of ten days. But tropical fish ownership proved educational, because as time went on, I realized the First Law also contains some useful life-corollaries:
- Used-car Warranty Corollary: One week after the warranty expires, your car swims up-drain.
- Dating Corollary #1: Never date a man who keeps tropical fish because he isn’t used to relationships that last longer than ten days.
- Dating Corollary #2: Even if you manage to keep your tadpole long enough to turn him into a frog, no amount of kissing will produce a prince.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!
On my blog post last week in honor of Mother’s Day, I offered to send an autographed copy of my book, Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies, to three readers who left comments on my blog. After a quick spin at RandomPicker here, the winners are: Robbie at robbiesinspiration, Beth at I didn’t have my glasses on, and The Lockwood Echo. Congratulations, and thanks so much for stopping by my blog!