Now I’ve got that job: a back-breaker before it begins

The Crooked Man, Project Gutenberg

Bent beneath the weight of sudden responsibilities and an uncooperative lower back, Mrs. Scatter staggers to the first meeting of her Important New Job. Drawing: “The Crooked Man,” from Project Gutenberg.


Did you hear I got a new job? If you missed the first two installments, read …

Part 1: The short-lived dream of running for president.
Part 2: The bizarre, twisted tale of how the job found me.

A brief recap:

  • Blissful summer.
  • No job and no plans for a job.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • A mysterious Jane nominates me for president.
  • White House hopes dashed.
  • Two Large Smelly Liabilities.
  • Love Jane.
  • Love Third Angle.
  • Love Ron.
  • Earflap hats.
  • Flying rockets.
  • Killer water fights.
  • Trick-or-treat.
  • Urinating dog.
  • FaceBook.
  • Frozen Music – City Dance.
  • Date night.
  • Sunny beach.
  • Typing into phone.
  • Junior Rose Parade.
  • Auto parts store.
  • Pickles!

I made the big announcement on FaceBook:

Say hello to the new managing director of Third Angle New Music Ensemble! I’m excited to work with my old friend Ron Blessinger. It’s the one job that could have lured me back to the work world before I had planned.

And then I had a little exchange with one of my “friends.”

Mighty Toy Cannon:
“Hey congratulations. Welcome to the arts administrators’ club.”

Miss Laura: “Will you show me the secret handshake?”

“Once I’ve learned the handshake for the League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers! I’d also be happy to pass along the code book and the secret map to hidden treasures.”

Miss Laura: “I hope finding the secret treasures doesn’t involve dark passageways filled with giant spiders and booby-trapped blades that take heads off.”

OK, so I didn’t fully disclose on my resume that I had once worked as a clerk in an auto parts store.

I really don’t think that’s any excuse not to be up front about the booby-trapped blades.

Everything amazingly clicked into place. My grand scheme was to take the summer off, then come up with a whole new career. So I went on vacation, drove home on Labor Day and went to a meeting that night.

It was to be my first job duty. My first impression. My first official act of my Whole New Career.

But first … the day before my big debut I woke up in a nice cottage in Ashland, walked across the hall, stepped on the cold tile floor of the bathroom and suddenly went HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I’M SORRY I WAS BORN WITH LEGS!

My entire lower back seized up and wouldn’t let go. I could hardly walk.

I thought a nice warm shower would take care of it. No such luck. I took a couple of ibuprofen. Mildly better.

Kjersten Rose Anderson as Helena in All's Well That Ends Well. Photo: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/2009I had my son carry my backpack and gingerly walked to a matinee of All’s Well That Ends Well at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Scatter already told you all about it.

I asked to have one of our two tickets that were on the floor level so I wouldn’t have to walk up any stairs.

I sat there enjoying the show. A big trunk was on stage just a few feet in front of me and the characters would pull out props from it and put them back. My back was nagging me a bit and I was wishing for a little more lumbar support when I remembered I had an extra shirt in my backpack.

Perfect, I thought. I don’t want to create a disturbance, especially because I’m sitting right in front and caught a bit in the lights. I’ll just wait for a break in the dialogue and a bunch of commotion and then I’ll quietly unzip my bag sitting right next to me and pull out my shirt …

It would work. So I waited. And waited. I was completely enthralled with the show so I didn’t mind. But my back was bugging me. And I wanted my shirt. And my back was bugging me. And I waited some more. And then it came …

Everyone started running around the stage. Busy busy busy. I reached my hand over and slowly and silently unzipped my bag … the woman playing Helena threw the trunk open right in front of me and stuffed something into it and shut it again … I leaned over a tad and reached my hand deep in my bag … Helena had a very large coat and she opened the trunk again and stuffed the coat in and shut the trunk … I was groping around and around and leaned over more … but Helena’s very large coat didn’t fit in the trunk and she opened it again and took out the coat … my fingers touched the edge of the shirt and clamped down … Helena was casting about trying to figure out what to do with the coat … I was pulling up my shirt … when Helena shoved the very large coat into my lap and asked if I could please hold it.

Everyone laughed. Everyone looked at me. The stage lights were on me, too. I was leaning sideways with my hand in my bag. I blinked, painfully straightened quickly, grabbed the coat with both hands and cheerfully said, “Sure. Be happy to.”

So then I had to wait many more minutes for more commotion and for Helena to take back her big coat. Then I had to wait many more minutes for more commotion to finally get my shirt. By then it was nearly intermission. I spent it hunched over trying to stretch my back. That deer-in-the-headlights-moment was the only time in the entire show that an audience member was included.

deepheatingrubAfter the matinee we traveled to the Wolf Creek Tavern. Perhaps you remember Mr. Scatter’s post about it. We had three rooms on the main level. Mr. Scatter and I had a room, the two Large Smelly Boys had a room next to us and The Doting Aunt (TDA) had a room right across from ours.

The next morning I woke up and Mr. Scatter was already up and out. I remembered it was the first day of my Whole New Career. I thought through the day: We would hit the road, drive several hours north, unpack, just in time for me to drive to a meeting.

And then I remembered my back. I thought Great, I can just see making my first impression and hobbling, maxed out on ibuprofen and smelling of Deep Heating rub.

I thought, I hope a warm shower makes this better.

And right then there was a soft knock, the door opened and a Large Smelly Boy stood there. “I’m hungry.”

A Larger Smelly Boy appeared behind him. “I want to go to breakfast.”

As if on cue the door to the room across the hall opened and The Doting Aunt stood there fully dressed, looking at me sitting in bed in my pajamas. “Are we all ready to go?”

I quickly realized a shower was out of the question. I thought Great, I can just see making my first impression and hobbling, maxed out on ibuprofen, smelling of Deep Heating rub and without a shower.
Muscle relaxants, vintage 1982. Photo: Ian Britton, (c)
We drove several hours north, got home and unpacked.
We made dinner and my husband asked if I wanted wine. Out loud I said, “No, thanks,” but in my head I thought Great, I can just see making my first impression and hobbling, maxed out on ibuprofen, smelling of Deep Heating rub, without a shower and drunk.

Of course none of that came to pass. My back was a bit better. I got a shower. And I quickly learned that working for a nonprofit has perks that I never saw in 24 years at a large daily newspaper.

I showed up for the meeting and there to greet me were two beautiful bottles and the sweetest words: “Red or white?”


Illustrations, from top:

The Crooked Man of nursery rhyme fame: Oh, my aching back.  Project Gutenberg.

Kjerstine Rose Anderson as Helena in “All’s Well That Ends Well”: Take time to smell the flowers, but keep your coat to yourself. Photo: Jenny Graham/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/2009.

A magical balm celebrated in “Hamlet”: Ah, there’s the rub.

Muscle relaxants, vintage 1982. (Particular labels unaffordable in nonprofit arts organization circles.) Photo: Ian Britton, (c)


— Laura Grimes