Unencumbered by steady employment
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve had a traditional job that involved me showing up for work everyday and getting paid regularly. Believe it or not, a company once paid me for several years just not to work for their competitor. It’s not bad work if you can get it.
I’ve had jobs since then, but I pretty much set my own schedule, wore jeans and running shoes to the office and worked from home when I wanted to. It’s fair to say that since retiring from the Navy, I’ve made a career of getting paid to hang out with my friends and play with fighter jets. Again, not a bad gig if you can get it.
Between jobs I’ve been a consultant and a freelance writer, which is what I tell my wife instead of saying I am unemployed. Never loan money to anyone who claims to be a consultant or a freelance writer … unless it’s me; Sandra is usually employed, so I’m good for it.
For the past couple of years I’ve been “working” for a defense contractor from a peaceful little waterfront office in Florida. My job there was to be a subject matter expert on naval aviation maintenance; in this case the difference between being a consultant and subject matter expert was that I had an office and a regular paycheck.
About a month ago a corporate big-wig showed up on a Friday afternoon and told us that his team of highly paid consultants had determined that the team of highly paid subject matter experts in our office were no longer necessary. We were all given a handshake, heartfelt thanks for all the great work we’d done and directions to the back door. Just like that I was a consultant and a freelance writer again.
When I called Sandra to tell her I had been laid off and was officially unemployed, she said, “Well, you have the haircut for it so you already look the part.” It’s hard to find a woman with a great sense of humor and really low expectations; am I a lucky guy or what?
Oddly, for the first couple of weeks, I didn’t really notice that I was unemployed. I still slept late, dressed casually and spent most of my day talking to friends and going to lunch with my wife. Reality set in about the time the direct deposits stopped showing up in our bank account. I’ve never been a big fan of reality but it was time to face facts; Sandra was going to have to get a job!
We had been planning a trip back to our home in Nevada for a while (because you can only handle so much white sand, warm water and fresh seafood) so we just moved the timetable up a bit. Since returning I’ve been busy consulting and freelance writing which is to say that I sleep late then mess around on my laptop and take Sandra to lunch whenever possible.
Almost every day I call my friends and tell them the story of my unfortunate unemployment in hopes that one of them will offer to pay me to talk to them. It may seem unreasonable to expect to be paid for talking with your friends but that’s pretty much how consultants look for work.
I prefer freelance writing to consulting but I’ve discovered that the reason it’s called freelance in because you rarely get paid, so I make the calls and hope that Sandra finds gainful employment before me.
I believe that everyone should do what they are best at and I excel at being a smart-aleck and a know-it-all. I’ve found that I’m much better at writing my almost clever observations of the world when I’m not encumbered by full time employment.
Someday, I may have to get a real job; as ugly as that thought may be, it is a possibility and I’ll deal with it if I have to. I’m not afraid of work but I have a serious hatred of alarm clocks. What could be more unnatural than being jarred from a dream of drinking rum on a tropical beach by the sound of an annoying alarm just to leave your warm bed to go trade your time for money? The horror!
For now unemployment doesn’t suck; I’m happy sleeping late and writing my columns. If I keep looking busy sooner or later Sandra is bound to find a job … it could happen!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.