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Best of Both Worlds

The work that Jon and I did for American Airlines pertained to Sabre, the reservation system owned by American but used by other travel entities. Jon’s contribution was of such significance that he received national recognition and became a target for headhunters hoping to lure him from American Airlines. One of these firms made him an offer that more than tripled his salary. He accepted the offer and left American Airlines for an assignment that involved fixing some things that were broken with a financial institution in England. I got some stuff from Harrod’s and he got a two-week vacation north of London, during which time he fixed their problem. I also got the freedom to think about that career goal of full-time domestic engineer. With Susan and Stephen near nest-leaving age, complete retirement seemed pointless so I entered into a job-share arrangement with a coworker. She worked every Monday and Tuesday, I worked every Thursday and Friday, and we rotated Wednesday. This gave me time to take Katherine to library time and play dates while still keeping a foot in the business world.

Even though I had more time and less stress, I still found myself doing things that made me doubt the soundness of my mental faculties. My brain may have been on overload from dealing with all that comes with having a 17-year old, a 13-year old, a toddler, and an 80-year old mother-in-law all under the same roof – oh right, and a husband. I was frequently shocked by extreme forgetfulness. One Friday, I noticed a peculiar odor in my cube. I visited surrounding cubes and found the odor to be particular to mine. A few days later it was bad enough to draw the attention those working nearby. I looked in every drawer and under everything but could not find the source of the stink. The maintenance man responding to the incident looked around a bit and then lifted the flip-door to one of my upper shelves. There lurked the casserole dish that still contained the Tuna Noodle Delight that I prepared three weeks prior for a baby shower luncheon that happened the day before I thought. That’s right, I got the day wrong and then forgot to take the casserole home and THEN forgot the casserole was in the flip-door when the aroma started to spread. I looked the maintenance man right in the eye and said “I have never seen that before in my life, I wonder how it got there.” Losing my Corningware dish was a small price to pay for my dignity.

I began to think maybe full time mother and wife might be best, but I knew I would miss my coworkers and the office dynamics. I know it is surprising to hear but I am somewhat of an extrovert and thrive on human interaction. Working, especially at a place such as American Airlines, brings opportunity to meet all sorts of people. Just as I observed years before, nothing much changes from the high school crowd. The cheerleaders, the jocks, the quiet and under-rewarded, and the loud and over-rewarded – they are all in the work community. It is even more interesting when experiencing the diversity of co-workers of other nationalities and their view of things. One young man from Pakistan told me that he found it odd that, in America, it was OK to ask anything at all about someone’s love life and personal habits but asking how much money one made or how much they paid for their home was strictly off-limits. He explained that in his culture, the opposite was true. I had to laugh at that – it does seem we have things a bit out of order in that regard.

Yes, working fulfilled my love of being part of a crowd and, while job sharing, I had the best of both worlds. I could spend time with the family, cook, watch afternoon talk shows, and still contribute to the business world. The garden I planted turned to sticks and stubble but things were generally smooth. I decided to keep working and set an alarm to prevent forgotten casseroles and such.

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