Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day: a work list

teddy bear maker

boarding school dorm mother for 21 fourteen-year-old boys


box maker

scientific illustrator for Cornell geology department

vintage quilt repairer

worked in the freezer room of an ice cream factory and got to eat the mistakes

tennis coach, lifeguard, swimming instructor, rifle shooting instructor

antiquarian book seller

restoration book binder

newspaper deliverer

washed dishes and sorted recycling at a bagel shop

cashiering at a Mom and Pop store

manager of a feminist bookstore

sold Girl Scout cookies

planned and led children's birthday parties

sold popcorn, candy, ice cream, and drinks in a movie theater

medical social worker

preschool teacher 

visiting with nursing home residents as part of a Pet Therapy Program

domestic engineer

potter: threw mugs, bowls, vases, plates, and tiny porcelain dishes 

adult fiction and children's book buyer

sheep shearer/herder/feeder/caller

graphic designer and silk screener


sculptor of cranes, herons, hummingbirds, peacocks, crows, jays, and a flamingo with feathers of petals

cheese, tofu, and yogurt maker

beekeeper's apprentice 

taught calves to drink from a pail

drove tractor during haying season

taught 4-H girls how to model clothes and walk a runway

taught square dancing

choir director

mowed lawn for the cat lady across the street

tree trimmer at Summers Christmas Tree Farm

dishwasher, autoclave operator and technician at a fruit fly genetics lab

graduate student at a human genetics lab

post doctoral fellow, statistical genetics lab

rotten apple picker-upper

dictionary reader

babysitter for the child no one else would babysit (he locked his previous babysitter out of the house in the middle of the night)

door opener for cats


lawn boy

house painter

short order fry cook

professional dog walker



writer (as well as person who tries to write "writer" without feeling self-conscious about it)

professional worrier

keeper of lost items in places where they cannot be found again

oboe teacher


door-to-door salt seller

sold clam shell ashtrays with sea creatures I drew on them

sold ox cart rides at fairs

maple syrup producer

snowplow wingman on town crew

sold used horse-drawn farm implements and antique wood-burning cookstoves

ordering, invoicing, and cataloging CDs, music scores and books

taught theatre workshops for children

rehearsing and acting in plays by Shakespeare as well as by modern playwrights

clipped withered flowers from rose bushes

camp counselor for the Fresh Air Fund in Fishkill, NY

waitress at the St. Elmo Hotel at Chautauqua, NY

picked bagworms off the juniper by the front door for 2 cents apiece, but I only made 16 cents before I quit (age 6)

pooper scooper

baby rocker and nursing mother

good wife/bad wife

constant doodler

fossil finder


bank teller (always thinking about ways to steal from the bank)

jazz dancer at Washington Monument

personal barber


canner of 75 quarts of yellow squash

library director


picked strawberries on a neighbor's farm for a nickel a quart and in the fall dug potatoes for a dime a bushel

part time sales clerk Grant's Five and Dime, in the gift wrapping department; the aptitude test indicated that I had "creativity"

telephone receptionist 

Campfire Girls leader

elementary school principal  

owner and hostess at Lily Hill Bed and Breakfast

volunteer manager at Immaculate Conception food pantry

sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door for two weeks

legal secretary

leather crafter

sold my mother’s homemade crescent cookies door-to-door throughout the neighborhood to make Christmas money

sold homemade potholders, painted plaster-of-paris statues, and artificial flowers to the neighbors

worked for one night as a fully dressed waitress at a strip joint

salad flipper at Murphy's in Atlanta

Budweiser Girl at the racetrack

box office manager

college professor

boiling water for safe drinking

melting beeswax to make candles

spinning gold from honeycombs to fill jars

washing feet after a dusty trip to the leprosy clinic

cleaning the floor in the cabin kitchen after the bear's visit

closing eyes and tying the chin after the last breath of a beloved


sardine packer

blueberry raker

periwinkle gatherer

passed out cigarette samples on the corner of Broad and Exchange, wearing a styrofoam straw hat and holding a fold-out box tray, like the nightclub hostesses in 1940s movies 

cold-calling for our public radio/TV station, asking for donations for the yearly auction 

very recently: lunch packer, chauffeur, valet, cheerleader, consultant, fundraiser, expert in the field, bike-riding coach, special detective (finding stuff for everyone else in the house), complaint department, animal control specialist

jewelry engraver

driveway sealer

sheetrock hanger


public affairs specialist for Planned Parenthood 

would-be professional tap dancer

potato peeler, bottle washer, waitress, prep cook, bartender and therapist at my parent's restaurant

creative ideas person
video animator 


keeper of passwords

one-time pianist

regularly available dance partner

casting director 

cultural affairs officer for a consulate 

shoe salesperson

youth services library assistant and outreach coordinator

circulation desk student worker in an art library

yurt making intern

bean truck weigher (scales operator)

switchboard operator

off-set printer/operator

antique store clerk

web page designer


hospice volunteer, companion, breakfast cook

waitress at "Big Country Restaurant," wearing overalls and red and white gingham shirt

summer intern: sampling water, soil and vegetation for Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation

summer intern for my U. S. Senator in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Peace Corps volunteer

social work intern at a Manhattan psychiatric hospital, where someone had scribbled on the wall "god is an underwire bra"

backup singer

sorority house parent

cared for elderly and ill people in their homes

did field research in South Jersey about runaway slaves in the 1850s who built their own village with the help of Quakers.

cleaned salmon guts in a cannery in Petersburg, Alaska and I never got sick of eating fish almost every day

bussed tables at the tea house on the top of the mountain at Banff Provincial Park, in exchange for dinner

backup projectionist at a drive-in theater that showed films like Busty Cheerleaders

drove a forklift at a plastics factory that specialized in making toilet seats

comic book seller

weed puller and dirt shoveler

floor washer

diaper changer

school psychologist


adjunct dancer in a modern dance company

chicken sexer

park naturalist and wildlife rescue crew member

cable car tour guide at Grouse Mountain 

docent and performer at a national science museum, where I worked with one of the first Apples — the 2e

associate director of affirmative action at a university

phytoplankton counter  

bus tour guide

high school teacher

aerobics instructor 

Goodwill Ambassador at my father's dry cleaning store in the 1960s; when it was very hot I treated customers to milk shakes at the drug store next door

candy striper in the last polio unit in the Jimmy Fund building at Children's Hospital, Boston. 

suicide prevention counselor

I have worked hard to keep my temper

taught Israeli folk-dancing at summer camp and at Cornell

milked cows, fed calves, and shoveled manure on a kibbutz in the Jerusalem hills, while practicing unfamiliar Hebrew gutturals

ticket ripper

comforting presence

leader of a poorly-attended Sunday morning garden club, which occasionally became an old newspaper-reading club (membership: 1)

shoe painter

fly poop scrubber

horseback riding instructor at a girls' camp 

cooked at a small bistro during the days when quiche was trendy

phone salesperson for what later appeared to be an unscrupulous real estate company

nanny for two small children whose parents ran the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont (yes, that Von Trapp Family)

floral designer 

carriage driver and stable attendant 

afternoon tea coordinator at a 4-star historic hotel 

assistant at the Perkins School for the Blind

intern and sales associate at Scandinavian Design furniture store

database keeper and event planner for the Friends of the Harvard Art Museums

elementary school teacher

creator of beaded bracelets for Erna's Hope, a non-profit organization that offers support to women with ovarian cancer

dental hygienist and school dental hygiene teacher

unpacked tricycles

pulled items for shipping in the L.L. Bean warehouse

picked green beans for $4 a bushel (pickled & sold for $4 a pint)

wrote spells for a Harry Potter party (Accelerati Secreti = speeding without getting caught)

sorted 1040 forms into "short" and "long" piles

hamburger flipper

ballet dancer



editor of a literary journal

corn dog seller at the Maryland State Fair

helped out on my neighbor's egg farm off and on my whole childhood, collecting, washing, sorting, boxing and selling eggs

nude art model

translator for court cases involving immigrants

assistant to a Mexican cheese seller at the farmers' market in Mitla (Oaxaca, Mexico)

sorted exotic bird feathers for a museum in Peru

taught Spanish guitar to a young boy on a farm in the middle of Iowa

manicurist for a 105-year-old woman

rescued abandoned apartments 

shopped secretly

ran my fingers through wheat

evangelized about God, frugality, and wandering

money changer at F.W. Woolworth Company

school board member

Girl Scout leader, cookie chairman & community service unit chairman

medical transcriptionist

manual laborer at orange packing plant in Florida


drove a 10 year old aspiring actor to and from play practice

assisted an Upper East Side M.D. who wore stilettos in the office 

coxswain for a crew team

reviewed freshman applications for Ithaca College when they were still on paper

FedEx Express courier, including 20 Christmas Eves in a row

coffee ground saver to start a worm farm in childhood — lots of coffee grounds, no worms 

class clown, and I took my job very seriously

checked to be sure men were gone (by 10 p.m.) from the girls' floor of my college dorm 

ringing a bell for the Salvation Army
driving little bitty putt-putt tractors and big roaring ones, too

milking cows in many states of the union and many states of mind

throwing junk mail on suburban door mats in San Jose

neatly wrapping Christmas gifts for 50 cents a box

teaching whitewater canoeing to people with psychiatric illnesses

making crepes by the hundreds, piecework:  7 cents a crepe

making shish kabobs by the hundreds, piecework: 11 cents a shish kabob

grant writer

thinker-upper of weekly writing sparks

story lady in school library, London (Edgar Allan Poe was my specialty)

small press publisher

lost student guide

lost pet tracker

feral cat wrangler

key finder

Spanish, French, Spanglish, Chinese, and body gesture translator

pinterest artist

costume assistant for a young Placido Domingo — I had to help him make a quick costume change during Madame Butterfly

price marker in a department store

film developer 

long distance mover 

singer — (I just joined VOICES community chorus) 

picture framer in a small art shop, trimming panes of glass with a very old wall-mounted glass cutter

patrolled the dirt road in front of our house, pulling my tiny wagon and picking up any ugly, dirty junk that might be lying around

rearranging furniture and objects in rooms, finding perfect order and ambience according to my own artsy rules of feng shui

wore knee-high white boots as a go-go dancer in a bar 

director of household operations

brainstormer-in-chief at most meetings I attend 

art courier — spent time accompanying paintings from one museum to another, riding in 18-wheelers, flying in cargo jets, napping in warehouses, being wined and dined by renowned curators and ignored by lesser assistants

I have read books, studied books, written about the books I read and studied, taught students about books, and I still write about books and study books

5am - 11am shift at Mister Donut 

Dominoes pizza delivery person 

first female taxicab driver in Ithaca — loved the old ladies, let them sit up front so they could show me family pictures or their latest knitting project

daytime bartender at The Royal Palms — loved the union ironworkers who were building on the Cornell campus

carried 80 pound sacks of soil, and forty pound sacks of seeds, under the ocean of sky in Santa Fe — the start of my day as a sprout farmer
purser on the Shelter Island Ferry.
sprayed brilliant arcs of water over pots of plants as I, the salesperson at the plant store who had only read books on the care and feeding of houseplants, explained to customers which plants could withstand low light
cooked breakfast in an Irish pub in Manhattan; I was a vegan, but sometimes we have to do what we must to survive
cleaned houses for rich people, and one day, my head in the toilet scrubbing at scum, I cried and prayed that I would never have to do this again
hair stylist's assistant three different times so in some ways I've also been a marriage counselor, therapist, and chemical engineer 

high school cafeteria worker, paid in food and a Caribbean vacation

educator, cashier, and marine-touch-tank expert at my college’s natural history museum

interpretive ranger (vacation planner, map dispenser, and Encyclopedic Guide to Everything) at Acadia National Park

docent at Ithaca’s two science museums

Loaves and Fishes server, cleaner, and kitchenware-put-away-er

Cornell Lab of Ornithology science writing intern

Geiger counter tester for the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Civil Defense

hot dog chef, producing one of the best chili dogs ever made

floor-sander — nice wide pine planks dating from the early 1800's

dusting the rungs on the dining room furniture because I was closer to the floor

painting campground signs in Mississippi — the other workers all wore striped suits

framing houses, nailing shingles, hanging siding, with lots of other volunteers, all across the U.S.A.

family photographer; I'm rarely in the pictures

worked in the dining hall at Penn State where I met the love of my life

collected old newspapers and sold them to a junkyard for a penny a pound — sometimes I made $2 or $3 which was a lot for me at age seven

caddied at the local golf course

worked at a car wash

coached junior high track, baseball, and basketball

helped build playgrounds in orphanages in China

worked on archeology digs for the National Forest Service

watered my aunt's veggie garden during her vacations, got paid in swiss chard and kale


high school journalist

baby hat crocheter

jewelry maker

homeschool parent

baby sign language teacher

origami box-maker

novel writer

illustrator of dream-images, in black ink

unofficial book reviewer, movie reviewer, food critic, massage therapist, sex therapist

ice cream cake decorator

published cookbook author



Thank you to all these contributors:

Alexandra Larkin
Alexandria Crump
Amy Bartell
Antonia Matthew
Barbara Cartwright
Barbara Force
Barbara Kane Lewis 
Barbara West
Blue Waters
Cady Fontana
Carla DeMello
Carol Bossard
Christine Carstensen
Cornelia Rea
Courtney Peterson
Cris Van Hout
Edna Brown
Gary Edward Rith
Gwen Glazer
Jackson Petsche
John Scarlett
Jonathan Plotkin
Judith Andrew
Judy Cogan
Judy Kugelmass
Karen Koyanagi 
Kathleen Halton
Kathleen Kramer
Laura LaRosa
Lily Tuskey
Linda Keeler
Linda Pope
Lois Dugo
Lynne Taetzsch
M S Reid
Margo Hittleman
Martha Brewster
Maryam Steele
Mia Boynton
Mieke Ruina
Mihal Ronen
Pamela Babusci
Patrick Robbins
Paula Peters Marra
Peggy Miller
Peggy Stevens
Pilar F.-C. Greenwood
Rebecca Weger
Roger Crump
Roxanne VanWormer
Rus Keeler
Sara Robbins
Sasha Paris
Shirley Weeks
Siouxsie Easter
Stacey Murphy
Summer Killian
Susan Lesser
Susan Neuenschwander
Tina Wright
Victoria Armstrong
Zee Zahava