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Author: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  October 21, 2007

Topic category:  Other/General

Take this job...and keep it.

So why do we do it? Why do we find a job and stick with it?

For some, itís a paycheck. A way to pay the bills and put food on the table.

For others, itís a comfortable niche. No real stress, but no highs and lows either. Itís just an even pull through life.

But what about the other jobs? The ones we love.

What keeps a surgeon in a job where the word "Oops!" can never be heard?

What keeps an airline pilot flying? Sure, the payís great but, nowadays, itís getting pretty automated.

A pilot friend of mine once told me that from "wheels up" to "gear down," it all can be down by computer. He said that the standing joke is that, soon, there will only be a pilot and a Doberman in the cockpit.

The pilot will be there to monitor the flight. The Doberman will be there to bite him if he tries to change anything.

But how about the firefighters, forest rangers, dog groomers, cops, teachers, reporters, nurses, artists, mechanics, pastors, lawyers, salespeople, and others in the thousand and one other jobs people love?

What is it that keeps us there?

I spent a lot of years at sea. It had its downside. The time away from friends and family wasnít pleasant. Nor was being locked inside a noisy steel container that wasnít always the most comfortable place to work, sleep, and eat.

Still, there were moments.

When I was in my twenties, we were operating late in the year somewhere in the Atlantic.

I remember a morning when the "ocean was in motion." Low, scudding clouds were everywhere and the temperature was just above freezing.

We were driving right into a heavy swell and the ship was regularly burying its nose. It was impressive. The bow would go under, the hull would shudder, and solid water would crash against the bridge. Think "E-ticket" ride at Disneyland.

Another officer and I were on the bridge wing watching all of this and I remember him turning to me and saying: "I hate this (stuff). Iím out of here as soon as this tour is over."

I was surprised because I was thinking: "Man, I canít believe they pay me for doing this." Then, I ended up doing it for another twenty-five years.

Another such moment occurred many years later - on my very last cruise at sea.

Iíd offered to relieve a C.O. who was on a long trip. His ship was headed for Antarctica and was docked in Hobart, Tasmania Ė which is where I met it.

He got off and, a day or so later, we left on a five-week trip that took us deep into the southern ocean.

I remember one night when weíd just steamed past nowhere headed for a spot slightly this side of the end of the world. Civilization was several thousand miles astern. If you want a definition of "far off," I think it would fit.

It was about midnight and Iíd wandered onto the bridge to see how things were going. That night the sea was calm, the winds were down, the stars were out, and we had one entire part of the world to ourselves.

There were one or two others on the bridge, but they were involved in the routine of seakeeping.

I walked out onto the bridge wing, closed the watertight door, and lowered the maneuvering platform (a small metal grating attached to the bridge). Generally, it was only used when coming alongside a pier. It allowed you to stand outside the "skin" of the ship, gave you a view of the entire hull, and let you see directly beneath you.

I stood on that platform 35 feet above the Antarctic Ocean, outside the hull of a ship doing fifteen knots, looking up at the Southern Cross and down at the green explosions of light coming from all of the bioluminescent creatures in our wake.

And, right there - on my own magic carpet - I looked back over almost thirty years and again thought, "Man, they paid me for this."

Iíd found my "job."

Others have found theirs.

I think what keeps us at it is that itís something we do that makes us feel whole.

More simply put, itís something we do that just feels absolutely right.

For those who havenít found it yet, keep looking. Itís out there.

It can usually be found along a street named "Dreams." Take the exit that touches your soul.

Youíll never regret doing it.

Larry Simoneaux

Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Copyright © 2007 by Larry Simoneaux
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