Gainful Employment

It didn’t take long for us to recognize that full-out retirement would remain out of our grasp for yet a while longer. Despite our best effort to wind up with an adequate pile of dough after the sale of our farm-minus-the purchase of our new house, we quickly realized the pile isn’t quite adequate enough.

Or maybe it is. Really, who’s to say? If we knew we’d be dropping dead in ten years, there’d be no need for additional income. On the other hand, should either or both of us endure to a ripe old age, the well will surely run dry. I’m no good at watching a savings account dwindle anyway. I tend to freak out. And no matter how long life might last, it’s the quality of the thing that really counts — so for John’s sake probably more than mine (being as he’s the one who’s stuck living with me) we began looking for part-time jobs fairly soon after we moved here.

I was the first to submit an application in response to an ad for part-time copy editor at the local weekly newspaper. I know darn well I could do the job, but understand why I wasn’t called in for an interview. A resume listing my profession as organic farmer the past 14 years doesn’t exactly scream “Proofreader!”

John, however, hit the jackpot on his first attempt at gainful employment. A nifty little local foods store in the neighboring town of Chimacum recently advertised an opening for evening checkout clerk.

the store

He went in to talk with the powers that be and two days later was offered a position not as cashier, but as righthand man to the general manager, working four days a week primarily in the produce department doing the purchasing and acting as liaison with local farmers. It couldn’t be more perfect. (What am I saying? Of course it could. “Perfect” would be early retirement, baby, sleep in every morning and hit the pickleball court in the afternoon. But see paragraph 1, above.)

During John’s initial interview, the general manager asked if his wife might ever want to work there as well. The answer is yes. There are no positions open right now, yet it’d be nice if one day there might be.

store sign

Which is why I was a little nervous about meeting John’s employers for the first time at a pig roast the store was hosting as a kickoff event for the annual East Jefferson County farm tour, four days after John began working there.

The general manager was so harried and busy with the pig event, our initial encounter that afternoon was brief but pleasant. John also introduced me to his co-workers, all of whom were friendly and down to earth, just as one would expect from people who work at a place that’s so matter-of-fact about where to get food, and what to do with it.

store and people

Later in the evening, after dining on everything but the pig, John and I ventured back into the beer and wine tent for an aperitif where we ran into one of the owners of the store, a very enthusiastic man indeed. Once he finished raving about how Thrilled! they are to have “JD” (as they’re calling John) on board, the conversation segued from farming for a living to beef cattle — he was Excited! to tell us he has several — to where he met his wife. In medical school, it so happens, prompting me to ask what type of doctor he is.

“I’m an Interventional Neuroradiologist specializing in AVM Embolization!” he exclaimed, ebullient as ever.

Well well. Um. Hm. Isn’t that something?

Losing none of his fervor yet understanding the need to dumb it down for us non-med school types, he went on to describe how a typical procedure begins by threading a tiny tube into a vein in the upper thigh and snaking it up, through the heart and ultimately into the brain.

“I’ve had that done!” I shouted.

By then, see, his exhilaration had rubbed off on me. Or maybe it was the third glass of wine that did it. Whatever the case, there was no stopping us at that point.

“You HAVE!” he cried out. “Wow! Did you have brain surgery?!”

“Yes I did! Meningioma surgery in 2008, and I had one of those procedures beforehand! Truth is, though, I didn’t enjoy it.”

“Oh…you were awake for it?”

Oopsy. At that point, it dawned on me that I hadn’t let him completely finish what he meant by an AVM Embolization and realized the procedure I had done wasn’t actually one of those. Oh, they threaded a tube through my thigh, my heart and into my brain all right, but nothing was embolized. Or AVM’d.

I panicked. Should I disrupt the mutual elation we had going? What if I were to admit at this stage in the game that no, in fact it wasn’t at all what I’d had done? At worst, I’d appear to have been a liar; at the very least, it would break the momentum and quite possibly cause the conversation to devolve into uncomfortable harrumphs and ahems.

Before I could make up my mind, he said, “I’ve often wondered about the difference between keeping the patient awake as opposed to using general anesthesia.”


Right about that time, the store’s general manager pulled up a chair beside John. Immediately, the owner pointed to me and shouted, “She’s had brain surgery!”


Understandably, the general manager looked a little befuddled. Politely, he replied, “Oh, really?”

“Yes!” cried the owner. “Meningioma! A benign tumor in the lining of the brain!”

The general manager quietly excused himself from the table.

Which brings me back to the possibility of getting a job at the store some day. Whereas the owner and I bonded over the joys of meningioma surgery, I got the distinct feeling the general manager isn’t quite as enamored with benign brain tumors (weird!). And since the general manager is the one who does the hiring…

See you at the pickleball court!


16 thoughts on “Gainful Employment

  1. Great article! If they don’t snatch you up soon, they’ll snooze and lose! The paper job folks will soon realize you’re a great author in you stead. They should snatch you up before the grocer, but a battle to hire you first should be the goal of each. By the way, I understand the retirement money issue that will lead you in a fun and rewarding direction. It happened to us. So, those that snooze, lose. Your next employer will be smart enough to see it!

    • Aw, thank you Page. If only the potential employers here felt the same way. I remember you and Bob had a wonderful post-retirement thing worked out for quite a while. And honestly, John especially needs something to do — in the winter months in particular. So this new job is the greatest.

  2. We are still several years from retirement. My husband would retire right now except for the need for health insurance until Medicare kicks in. His company will hire retirees for contract work on specific projects. He says he will wait and see income/outgo before he decides to do that then. I know we have one more move to do closer to our kids. I think a part-time job would be an excellent way to get to know people in a new area. It will be interesting following your progression into the retirement life. Good wishes for the job hunting!

    • Thank you Marcia! Really, part-time is great. Not as much income, obviously, but enough to keep me from becoming a raving maniac over money issues. And with winter closing in, it’ll be good for John to have something to do — he’s not one to sit and relax by the fire (that’s me). You’re absolutely right about it being a good way to meet people too. Good luck with your post-“retirement” decisions, as well!

  3. Too funny – your post, not your brain surgery! – but I had to laugh as it became clear that the owners enthusiasm about your common bond, might be dampening the managers enthusiasm about hiring you. Isn’t that just the way life goes. Great that your husband found something so perfect.

    • Thank you geaniemarie! Aw, the brain surgery was kind of funny too. You should’ve seen the way my hair grew out from the landing strip they mowed over my head prior to the operation. Stuck out like a clown from ear-to-ear. But yes, it’s grand that at least half of our household is now employed. Income is a wonderful thing.

    • Nutty, right? Thing is, though, eyes are so gooey. Granted, brains are gooey too, just not so in-your-face (so to speak). I wasn’t at all freaked out about brain surgery — a 3 month supply of Xanax probably helped — but the thought of someone coming at my eye with a knife scares the bejeezus out of me. That’s why I was so glad to read you survived it. You’ll be my muse when I finally go for it.

      • Oh, don’t get me wrong, the prospect of cataract surgery is beyond creepy. The reality, though, is it’s a breeze. Haircuts have been more traumatizing and a lot more painful. Seriously. You’ll be amazed. Plus, some ophthalmologists use lasers now — if that helps at all.

      • Yes! That helps immensely Lisa. After giving me an impromptu eye test at a restaurant last night (which I failed miserably) John is starting to insist I have a doctor de-cataract me asap. I’ll soon be taking the advice you’ve both given me. Thanks.

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