Part of the ups and downs of contract work is that I don’t always know where my next job will be. It makes for a little excitement, yes. I can only say this with ease, because my profession is fairly solid and jobs are likely to come up. And for this, I’m very thankful. One of the companies I’ve worked for, emailed me a few months ago, for example, to tell me that there was a job opening up in Marathon, Florida for January. They were wondering if I would be interested. In Florida. In January. Do you know where I’ve spent the last 12 January’s? If you don’t know where Marathon is, WHO CARES! It’s Florida. If you do know, then it’s just icing on the cake because, yes, it is in the Keys.
I just finished working in northern Virginia and thoroughly enjoyed what this Pennsylvania-turned-Mainer-turned-temporarily-insane-enough-to-work-in-Antarctica-twice woman considers to be a mild fall/early winter. It was 80 degrees and humid when I arrived there in October and although the temperature dropped, it was a welcomed change from where I’ve spent many previous years. So as I think about working in Florida, in January, a light goes on. Oh! Well, wait a minute. I could work somewhere WARM, or even HOT in January. What would THAT be like? While everyone in the north has been freezing their wahoozies off, I could CHOOSE where I want to go next (assuming a job is available). And that place could be warm! So heck yeah, I applied to this job in Marathon. And faster than you can say “Look, there’s pasty white northern gal on the beach,” that job was gone. I’m not even sure my resume made it there before the chosen candidate was already lead-footing it to Florida. Ok, fine. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But now what? Or should I say where?
Shortly after this, another opportunity came up and I took it. Now I will tell you where, but not before I tell you the story of when my parents bought me a car. Don’t worry, it’ll make sense later. Or not. Whatever. It’s a fun story.
So it’s 1991, and my father calls me at college to tell me that he and my mother were going to buy me a car for graduation. Whoa! I was thrilled. I had been driving a ’79 Chevy Monza (a.k.a. the Monzerati) with high miles and a cracked block (whatever that means), which was handed down from my older sister. She was a great car, but she probably didn’t have much life left in her and the thought of something new was exciting. And as anyone with older siblings knows, getting something just for you, something untouched by anyone else in the family, that after money was exchanged, it came straight to you, was a big hairy deal. (The Candyland game will forever be mine.) And secondly, my family wasn’t one to throw around money. We weren’t dirt poor either, but this kind of thing was neither common or expected. So again — big deal.
Now my dad is an ace at shopping around and finding great deals on cars. I had full confidence that he’d find me something good. He said he’d start looking (which means he’s already been searching Auto Trader for months) and when he found a worthy candidate, I would come home from college to test drive it. Cool. He asked me what kind of car I wanted. Ok, so I’m 21…”something cute, sporty”….but I’m also my father’s daughter….”that’s practical.”
Then he calls me one day. “Beth, I’ve found the perfect car for you. It’s you.” Ok, great. What is it? “Well, it’s a 5-speed..(dramatic pause)…it’s candy-apple red….it’s got 4 wheel drive, and is as clean as a whistle inside. It’s a Subaru so it’s reliable, low miles and it’s the right price. It’s you, Beth. It’s really you.” (Said with the tone of finality that my father has honed over the years.) Uh-huh. Now I know something’s up. There was a reason for this dramatic build-up, this overselling. My response was: Uh-huh, AND….What? It has paneling? (Say no. Say no. Say no.) “Off course they wouldn’t put paneling on this hot little sports car I’m buying YOU!” was the exact phrase that I wanted him to say.
“Well, yeah, it IS a station wagon.” Oh, Dad. “But it’s YOU, Beth. Really.” In the eyes of my father, a lover of cars, I’m a station wagon. I’m sure there will be a therapist in my future that will have something to say about this.
What to do? What to DO? I’m getting a car. As a gift. From my parents who I knew had to save up a while for this. And I am GRATEFUL. SO grateful. Really. But…a station wagon? There HAD to be other choices in their price range. Even though he reassured me that there was no paneling, I’m still picturing myself in the 1970 Ford County Squire (a.k.a. “The Queen”) which we had in the family for years. If you’re not familiar, this is a brown paneled, boat on wheels which did not win you any cool points if you were seen riding in it as a teen. (but on the plus side, you could easily lay down and fully stretch out along the back seat in case you felt the need to hide. Which was always.)
After some convincing and a little self talk, we took a look at it. It was a 1986 Subaru Wagon and it was indeed everything my dad said, including being perfect for me (which I didn’t admit for at least 4 years). I loved it when I camped for 5 weeks around New England and I loved it when I used it to pull my friend’s little red sports car out of a snow ditch. It moved some of my sister’s belongings from South Carolina. It moved mine to and from countless apartments. It safely transported Christmas trees, dirty bikes and endless auction finds in addition to me, in the snowy Pennsylvania winters. So the practical choice was a good one, even if I didn’t quite picture it that way at the beginning. Pssssh. How do you put a bike rack on a Miata anyway?
So I’ve made my decision for this winter job on the same type of thinking. Do I keep shopping for something sportier — a job somewhere warmer, some sexy little beach town, but risking that the job will be a real “lemon”? Or deal with the weather, but work in a job in Maine that involves a niche that I’ve really enjoyed in my career, that’s more of a solid choice? Well, you know where I’m going with this. But! I’m older now and have learned how to add in the fun and adventurous when I can. So maybe I AM a station wagon, but a candy-apple red 5-speed version blasting Pink’s Raise Your Glass from my IPod*. So yes, I took the job in Maine but I’ve planned a trip to Costa Rica for 11 days for before I start. Yup, because if I’m going to do a cold winter again by choice, then I’m going somewhere first where I can complain about the heat while in a salt water infinity pool sipping an adult beverage.
So off I will go with Janet, former roommate from Antarctica and fellow popsicle from the Northeast, to explore rainforests, lounge on beaches, and view mighty volcanoes. And yes we will be getting a rental car. What kind, do you ask? Ok, so it’s a 4 wheel drive. Now we were told it’s just necessary on the roads of Costa Rica, OK!? (But I’m secretly hoping it’ll be red.)
Stay tuned for further tales of practicality and buffoonery, Costa Rican style.
* the author does not currently drive a station wagon.