The Divine Comedy
The Mower County Fair in Austin, Minnesota always takes place during August. When I was a little kid, any description of heaven required this event. Flower shows, cow barns, tractors, the Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, and the Rock-o-Planes. Exhibit halls. Real A&W Root Beer. My grandpa at the steam engine display. Horses. And guaranteed, the headliner at the grandstand was a regular on the Lawrence Welk show.
Dusk crept up on these summer skies offering a glimpse of the night-lighted rides and the hope of a teenage life beyond my ten-year-old 7:30pm boundary.
Even though cotton candy had its place, caramel apples captured my culinary taste. Sold out of an Airstream trailer, as I recall. Always so hard to take the first bite, to get a grip of the sweet delight and the tart apple inside.
Last Saturday I went to a fair. Drawn by the word “fair”, I had no idea it might not be fun. But what makes anyone think taking something fun and putting an ugly word like “job” in front of it will make it fun? Oxymoron at its best.
Offered by the local school district, this Midlife Jobhunter arrived late in the morning with my haphazardly prepared resume clutched close to my heart. Having been a secondary teacher in a past life, I always assumed I could return to this profession if needed. But as a rookie walking into the midway of this fair represented by all the schools in the district, all I saw was a mirage of ants moving throughout the room. Long lines of almost uniform black and white clad job hunters holding their quiver of resumes to their own hearts.
Standing in the middle of the crowd, I didn’t know where to go, what line to join, what to say. I saw the familiar colors of my kid’s high school banner and like a fly drawn to shit, walked directly to that table. No long lines stacked up before it as most of this school’s teachers have a hundred years of tenure, especially in the English Department. As I fiddled with the papers in my folder, I had to acknowledge to the interviewer that I was perhaps wasting her time. Great start, huh? But, honestly, if I were a math or science major, this might be a different story. We English majors are much too plentiful. And without my certification up to date, the kind woman explained that my resume would sit at the bottom of the pile. Seemed I wasn't the first attendee to not have the complete credentials, and having had them once didn't seem to serve me any better. I’ve known I need to get on the re-certification bandwagon. Have even found the site online and started the process. But I’ve dragged my feet finishing that task, not knowing why.
I left the comfort of a familiar school table and wandered to the middle of the room, activity continuing to swarm around me, hopeful job seekers in long lines eager to grab an interview or to leave an impression for a later date. In place, I turned in a circle, and then another, and then another. I didn’t know what line to get in, how to smooze for a job I didn’t want. Round and round I went, never leaving my one-foot space, the tables and applicants swirling while I twirled as though on a merry-go-round. And then it struck me. I didn’t want to switch to the Scrambler to toss me toward the endless lines, darting here and there. I was doing that aimlessly just fine on my own, but I now understood the reason for my delay on the road to recertification. I didn’t want this merry-go-round. I left.
I passed my husband in the garage as I arrived home. “I don’t want to be a high school teacher again,” I said as I walked by him.
“Okay,” he said.
This is what this job road trip is about, right? Discovering what I can do, what I want to do? That SOMETHING I've done all these years will qualify me for something beyond where I've already been? Trying this road and that one to find the one I want to take for a longer ride?
And if I come across another fair, they had better be selling caramel apples.