Monday, April 7, 2008

Humor Me: Retirement won't be a tearjerker


Back when I was a paperboy with a delivery that spared no potted plant, I dreamed of doing more in the newspaper business. Instead of breaking ceramic wind chimes with a newspaper fastball, I would break stories. Instead of writing notes that read, "Sorry about the newspaper on your roof," I would write headlines.

Now that I work for a newspaper, I should be satisfied with my career. But then I hear about the people who win the lottery and still don't quit their jobs.

Would I do that? Is my career that gratifying? Am I that happy?

No. No. No.

I think back to when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman retired a few years ago. How can I be satisfied with my career after watching him weep during his announcement? How can anyone be satisfied after watching a person, as he quits his job, shed more tears than a third-grade class viewing the final 10 minutes of Old Yeller?

I can't imagine many people welling up at the thought of retirement.

"I just can't believe it's over, that my day has come," the retiring manager of Big Al's Hardware would sob. "Monday morning, I won't hear the cheery buzz of the 6 a.m. alarm, get dressed, fight traffic and ... I'm sorry, I need a moment to collect myself."

I would only need a moment to collect my things. Maybe a few minutes to pick up my final check and say goodbye to the poor saps who had to keep working. Then I would be off to the career I believe is my true calling: free-time management.

I know my lack of dedication sounds terrible, and, yes, I feel a little guilty about it. At least I felt guilty before talking to some other people, including T.J. Patida, the manager of a candy shop at the mall near my house.

"If you won the lottery and had enough money to retire," I said, "would you keep working?"

There was laughter.

"Not the same job," she said.

So, what job?

"Definitely something where I wouldn't work very hard," she said.

Seeking more validation of my work-free vision, I spoke to Mike, an employee of a major fast-food retailer. Mike, who in addition to working a deep-fryer seems to have a deep fear of the media, asked me not to reveal his last name or where he works.

But Mike, who I can reveal has worked for the business between three weeks and 14 years and is between the ages of 16 and 42, gave me some very clear responses.

If he won the lottery and had enough money to retire, would he keep working?

There was laughter.

"No way," said Mike, if that really is his name.

You wouldn't work at all?

"No way."

And if you had a news conference announcing your retirement, would there be a lot of tears?

"No way."

How about if during your announcement, you were watching the final 10 minutes of Old Yeller?

I didn't ask him that last question, but I'm assuming the answer would be, "No way." That or "Uh ... are you going to order something?"

Here's my order:

One job where I don't work very hard, a side order of being my own boss, and to wash it all down -- a super-sized salary that allows me to retire before the rest of my hair falls out. Then I will have a news conference to announce that, although I really enjoy my job, the time has come to retire.

I don't know if anyone will show up for the news conference, but I do know this:

Either way, I won't shed any tears.

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