Taking out the box of Cheerios one day—so my son could throw the cereal on the floor—I read the following:
"Carefully selected oats that can help lower cholesterol"
Then my imagination took over and I said to my husband, "What kind of job that must be—Oat Selector." I pictured this guy picking through a barrel of oats going, "Not this one. OK, this one's good. Not this one." He sits there tossing oats over his shoulder and putting some in a nearby Cheerio box, this skinny man in his fifties, balding, wearing a white lab coat. I laughed at the idea I had conjured.
Maybe no such occupation exists, but there are some rather fantastic jobs out there. I recently met a bee chauffeur. He doesn't call himself that, but his incredible work is to drive bees around to their work and social engagements. They could fly to the almond trees in California, but they get to ride there in style. I think that's incredible.
I just found online that there are people called gold stackers who have to move bars of gold from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I don't know if this is like seasonal work or what, but it must be mind boggling to touch so much gold in one work day.
When I was in France I toured a perfume factory and learned that a person can get a job as a Nose, or le nez. Mixing scents that will smell good and sell well takes keen olfactory ability. I might have a big nose but I think I would just get sick, thus I will never be a nez.
Some jobs may or may not be exciting but they could really use some new titles to uplift people and give them a new outlook on an old career. When I taught middle school I sometimes called myself an encourager of teenagers. My time didn't always revolve around encouragement, though I tried to make it so, but thinking of myself as a teacher just didn't fit. My goal was to encourage and help kids want to learn and teach themselves. There are, truly, very few subjects I can actually teach. I think I'm better at being a guide. Plus, just think of all the negative connotations around the title "teacher." There's the old lady with the ruler, the man who stands at the front of the class and drones on and on in monotony. And the saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." But if you said, "Oh, I'm an encourager of teenagers," or, "I'm a Homo sapien zookeeper,"—ooh, what a cool-sounding job! How could you slap hands with a ruler or be bored by your own lecture if that is what you really believed you did for a living?
Hmm. So right now, I'm a writer. It's sort of an occupation, sometimes for pay, sometimes for an audience other than I. Just saying "writer" might plant a variety of images in people's heads, from reporter with a pencil behind his ear to novelist sitting in front of her typewriter. People might think, so sad, you don't make any money. Or, why don't you go out and get a real job? They might say, "I wish I could write! I want to be the next J.K. Rowling." Maybe I should change the name of what I do, like maybe more than once, just for fun. Maybe it would make for a more appealing conversation, attract more people into the world of words, or at least inspire me to keep at what I love regardless of what people say or think. I could be an essay engineer, an imagination diffuser, a sentence aesthetician. Cool!
Imagine if kids didn't say they wanted to be nurses or firefighters or cops but compassionate healers, flame destroyers, and peace protectors. Maybe people would look on their jobs with more joy. Imagine if the oat selectors in the Cheerio factory went in to work smiling about all the people whose cholesterol lowered after eating the cereal. I mean, when I smile as my son laughs and hides Cheerios in his high chair, I feel pretty healthy.