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The Ultimate Job
by Leon Baxter
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

People are always telling me I’ve got it easy as a writer. I work whenever I desire. I enjoy what I do. I’m wildly popular and sickeningly rich. But, my job isn’t as cushy as it might first seem. I have to be up AND out of bed every day by 1:00 pm if I’m to catch Judge Judy. Since I wear my bathrobe to work daily, I go through them like toilet paper. I buy a gross every other month. And, talk about hazards on the job! I get the meanest paper cuts and once even had to have an eraser surgically removed from my nostril.

No, being a writer really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I remember when I was a kid. I used to want to be the “time lady”. It’s not that I actually wanted to grow up to be a woman. It’s just that with all the equal rights of the seventies, I knew by the time I was of age, there would be opportunities in the “time speaking” industry for men.

We all remember the “time lady”. For some reason, back in the day, we had trouble relying on those archaic digital watches, you know, always having to lift our wrists to our faces and all. Yet, most of mankind had already given up the art of sun-dialing. So, suddenly there was a market for the “time lady”.

“Hey, Frank, what time is it?”

“Rather than turing my head to look at the clock on the mantle, let me walk across the house to the kitchen, dial seven numbers and call the ‘time lady’.” And, we all knew the number by heart back then, but each community memorized it differently. My wife knew it as POP-CORN (767-2676). My buddy remembers it as SOPRANO (767-7266). It didn’t really matter the last four digits. The time lady could be reached at 767-ANY NUMBER. I guess that’s why my folks told me the number was PORK LIP.

And, the time lady was always so professional. She took her job seriously: “The time is five... seventeen... and... twenty seconds... beeep.” I could do that job. Unfortunately, though, by the time I was of age, even though the gender lines in the “time speaking” industry had been erased, and I’d accumulated countless years of telling the time, there was no longer a need for a “time man”, or “lady”, for that matter. The market had vanished. No one needed someone telling them the time, because everyone already knew it.

The powers that be (the ones trying to eradicate the “time speaking” industry) built clocks in everything they could get their hands on: computers, cell phones, VCRs. I bought a pet turtle for my daughters last week (most ridiculous idea for a pet ever. After four days of trying to teach the beast to sit, I realized turtles have no knees. These things don’t purr. They can’t guard the house. And, they fetch verrry slowly.). The dang thing came with an LCD time display on the back of his shell.

I tracked down the original time lady last month. Her name is Judy Macaroon and she’s living in a little town in Northern Wyoming, trying to make a living off her heyday, not much unlike the group Chicago. When people on the street ask her the time, she looks at her watch and with her head held high she tells them, “The time is three... forty-seven... and thirty seconds...POP!” She couldn’t find a beeper, so she carries balloons everywhere she goes. Then, she charges three bucks for her services.

I sat down with the time lady for a quarter of an hour (she charges by the minute for her time) and asked about her ideal career of yesteryear. I was stunned to learn it was less of an ideal job more of a living nightmare.

Turns out Mrs. Macaroon never got a moment’s rest at the height of her career. She’d turn on the Brady Bunch, then, RING. “The time is four... oh two... and... twenty seconds... beeeep.” She’d draw herself a bath. RING. “The time is eight... thirty seven... and... fifty seconds... beeep.” Her phone rang non-stop from America’s time-challenged individuals. By the mid-eighties, the time lady had had enough and was officially institutionalized.

You know, the job I like is the guy who gets to decide if food is truly “new and improved”. You’ve seen it on the packaging at the supermarket: “Folgers Crystals, now new and improved richer taste”, or “Dannon Yogurt, creamier and improved flavor.” What a great career. You get all the free food you can eat, and you know it’s going to be delicious. They’re testing the good stuff on you.

But, what about the pet food they label as “New and Better Tasting.” That’s the guy I wouldn’t want to be. “Okay, Ed, here’s another bowlful of Alpo Chunky Chicken and Gravy.”

“Yes, absolutely. That is much better than Alpo’s original Chunky Chicken and Gravy. Now, give me my fifty bucks, and my bus pass home.”

The easiest job is the guy who names foods. Yes, I know. I’m not an idiot. I know it’s not just one guy. It’s probably like a panel of ten or something. But, that would be the ideal job.

“Okay, Bob, what do we call this one?”

“A crepe.”

“And this one?”


“What about this?”

“I’m feeling a bit daring today...pasta e fagioli (pronounced ‘pasta fazool’).”

But, you know, like any other job, they can overdo it. Three a.m. with cups of coffee in different stages of emptiness, half-eaten, cold cooked food strewn about the conference table like a deadlocked jury: “What do we name this dish?”

“I don’t know. I’m fresh out of ideas. Anyone else? Anybody have an idea?”

“I’m spent.”

“Me too. I think we used the last good name with The Monte Cristo Sandwich.”

Then, you know there was that guy who did that cartoon light bulb thing over his head: “Hey! Where’s this food from?”

“London, I think.”

“And, how’s it prepared?”


“Let’s call it ‘London Broil’.”

Everyone must have thought he was brilliant. They tried to give him another one.

“Where’s it from?”




“French fries. Next!”

“This guy’s incredible.”

But these guys get lazy. And, they’re the same group who name the foods of the food pyramid: Breads: “bagels”, “croissants”, “buns”; Meats: “venison”, “pork”, “mutton”; Produce: “tomato”, “banana”, “tangerine”. Then, one day they were getting down to the end of the produce line.

“What about this round, sweet, orange fruit?

“Um, how ‘bout ‘persimmon’?”

“No, already been done.”

“We could try ‘bed’.”

“Not catchy enough.”

“Maybe ‘kilpantrinkilator’.”

“Too long.”

“Give me the basics again.”

“Fruit, round, sweet, orange.”

“I got it. Let’s call it a ‘round’.”

“Don’t be stupid. A ‘round’? Ha! But what about an ‘orange’?”

“Perfect. Then what about those green beans at the end of the table? What do we call those?”

I suppose there’s really no perfect job. The grass is always greener. We must make the best of the hand we’re dealt, be it “time lady”, product tester, food-namer or even writer. So, in conclusion, if you ever... oops, sorry. Gotta cut this short. Just got a nasty paper cut and my robe is wearing thin.

Leon Scott Baxter is a West Coast writer who lives with his wife and two daughters in California. To see more of his work, go to

Published: Oct 10,2008 17:22
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