Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wanted: Travel Scribe with Markers

At the end of the year, I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting on the unexpected that happened in the previous year - the “markers” as my friend Lynn calls them. Incidents in your life that imprint you, not like a calendar or a clock marks time, but an activity or maybe even just a thought that impacts you in such a way that your life is changed from that point forward. This discussion came up over the topic of certifications and awards. The physical certificate or trophy being the marker of recognition and no matter how recently you were proclaimed the winner, or how far removed you are from that time and place, or whatever you did to achieve the recognition... its existence is a “marker” of excellence.

I slyly scoot by the unpleasant markers of 2011, trying only to ponder those episodes as learning experiences, and move by the pleasant markers with equal speed, knowing that I've already basked in the glory for an extended period of time. My primary focus on is hope. I always hope the next year brings wonderful eye-opening experiences and I hope I’ve learned enough from the rough times behind me to confront those ahead. I have no doubt that there will be lots of surprises in 2012.
Something I always consider is my personal growth in the work aspect of my life. In high school I wanted to own a motel or work on a train. In college I started out as a journalism major, but saw that the cool students hung in the art department. In adult life I owned a handmade clothing store, a public relations firm, and then settled into special events, my natural niche. I never had a job with an easy one word description where the profession indicates what you do - like a lawyer, teacher, doctor, or chef. Even when I told people I was an artist, they said, “You’re a what?” in a tone as if asking if it was contagious, or sometimes they’d say, “An arborist - do you know my uncle, he works in Golden Gate Park.”
At gatherings where I am a stranger, another stranger often asks that fatal question, “What do you do?”

“I’m a professional event designer and producer,” I respond.

“Oh, I see,” they’d reply and then ask, “So what do you do?”

“I design and produce events.” I’d repeat.

Usually their face remains blank and thinking I might snap them into the moment and catch their attention, I’d add, “I win international awards.”  You’d think I would know better, but no    they didn’t get it the first or second time, and no variety of changes or additions to the words will cause them to understand how a person could be in the business of special events. I might then try the shortest resume, "President,” a position I have held on several occasions, but really, who cares about a title.

So where’s this all going – to jobs and titles... during my public relations years, my office was in a building with a law firm. I often found myself perusing the newspaper classified ads for interesting sounding jobs. One that caught my attention was “Skip Tracer.” I liked the sound of the words as they played off each other. I liked the mystery of recognizing each word independently, but not together. One day the private investigator looked over my shoulder and asked, “Why are you reading the classified ads for jobs?”

“Just dreaming,” I said. “I don’t know what they are, I just like how they sound."

“How what sounds?” he asked.

“The names of the jobs,” I said. “Like skip tracer. I’ve seen a lot of jobs for a skip tracer.”

The PI was quiet and then asked, “Do you know what a skip tracer is?”

“No,” I replied, “I just like the sound of it. Skip-tracer," I whispered. "And it says high pay, no experience necessary.”
(At this point in the story we’ll leave out the part about me eventually dating him, him carrying a pistol in his boot, and always sitting with his back to a wall and face to a door, and we’ll move on to the current job titles that fascinate me.)

Spending time in Italy continues to reveal lots of new job possibilities. There are cobblers, window dressers, pasta makers, book binders, fish merchants, bakers, and craftsmen. I could get a job as a chalk artist, or street musician... or maybe a human statue by the Uffizi, a paparazzi, or a bell ringer in a really high tower.  A movie director might discover me leaning against a lamp post and give me a role as a street walker in a Felini-esque film, or I could pose nude for a sculptor as he chiseled a marble bust, or maybe I could climb up on the scaffold to polish the cathedral doors.

As we exit 2011, interesting job titles recently advertised on the internet include: Master Resiliency Trainer, Fit Tester, 100% Chinese Egg Donor, Part-time Sperm Donor, Lego® Engineering Instructor, and Relief Manager. But, the job I really want is Travel Scribe. Hey, I can travel and I can scribe (if those are the credentials needed.)  Moses was a travel scribe; Marc Antony certainly had a scribe recording his trysts with Cleopatra; Lewis and Clark had scribes on the wagon train, but I'm not seeing any current job opportunities for travel scribes, much less travel scribes with markers. Just imagine, how cool would it be to travel and have someone record you trip – ok it wouldn’t be exactly how you remember the experience, but that would make it all the more fun – a travel scribe could transform that “not pasta again meal” to sound new and fresh every time. Or maybe I could be a travel scribe for a company to excite people about visiting a particular country or interest them in taking a particular tour – face it – the folks who write travel brochures are writers… they’re not scribes… they don’t let you feel the stickiness of the damp clay soil underfoot, or see the rising reddened bulge on your ankle from a toxic insect bite, or even smell the springtime air, thick with the lemon perfume of the Femminello Ovale. 

So – Hello 2012 – as I set my sights on the future – what surprises do you have in store for my two one-word answers to the question, “What do you do?”  Depending on the crowd, I might answer “writer” or “photographer” and I'd add freelance just to let them know I was available. Never would I dare say “photojournalist” because even though it’s just one word - I can already hear the response… “Oh, photosynthesis – yes," and then they’d smile that all-knowing smile and add, “Do you like it?” or worse yet, “How long have you been doing it?”  



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