Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The conversation stops at me. Again. Sorry.

The dining room in the ship to Antarctica was full of different-sized tables.  I usually sat with the same group, but if some of them were late, or didn't feel like eating, other people would come sit with us.  There were so many solo travelers that this wasn't unusual; in fact it was encouraged.  Soon, after the usual inquiries about where you were from, who you were traveling with, and if you had gotten seasick, the dreaded question would surface:

"SO.  What kind of work do you do?"

At this point, unless I was last in the round robin, had the other people really wanted to discuss their careers, they were pretty much out of luck, because as soon as I, cringing, said, "I'm a firefighter...." that was pretty much it.  Apparently, "I'm a tax attorney," doesn't quite have the same ring to it (sorry, Madeleine).  People were fascinated, especially the Europeans.  They peppered me with questions.  If I unwittingly added in the helicopter angle, that only added fuel to the fire (heh heh, see that, fuel to to the fire?).  A female firefighter was a novelty to them, especially one that flew around in helicopters and did search and rescue.

I thought I had the Americans in the bag and they would soon move on, because there is so much media coverage of firefighting these days they would be more blas√© to it.  Instead, BECAUSE they heard so much about it, they had a lot of opinions and wanted to discuss them.  I suppose I could merely vaguely said I worked for the government, a tactic similar to the advice I got as an international backpacker in the late '80s - "say you're from Canada instead of America, everyone likes Canadians"- but let's face it, working for the government is not very popular these days and might generate even more chatter.

I attempted to deflect towards Hazel, who rescues cute injured koala bears and wallabies, but to no avail.  And to be honest, it felt kind of good to talk about my job to people who were interested, not angry because of government policy made well above my level, which happens often back home. 

Truthfully, most people on that voyage made a salary well above mine; some people were extremely wealthy.  Sometimes I wish I had made another choice in life, one where I didn't risk my life so often, one where people's bodies don't get broken by manual labor, where you have a little more security.  But these people respected my choices.  They thought what I did was brave and unusual and a little bit scary.  Some days it is all these things and many other days it is not at all.  But they let me see through their eyes, briefly, and it made me proud.

Another penguin.  Just because they're cute.

10 comments:

  1. I totally get that! If I was sitting with you, I'd be pelting a million questions at you:)

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    1. Let me know if you think of any; I'm always looking for blog post ideas!

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  2. I think you have a very interesting job and I'd be asking you a bunch of questions too. Sounds like you had some great people on your cruise.

    Oh - and I love the penguin photo! :)

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    1. They were great people! A few of them had quit their jobs and were traveling around the world, which I found fascinating.

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  3. You should be proud! It's a cool career! When my husband has me along for a business dinner, it's a similar thing because I'm in a room full of engineers and managers.So my career is rather baffling to them (although I probably don't feel the pride you got to feel, it's more uncomfortable.) You do something you love and it's very cool. That's worth talking about!

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    1. Thanks Kyra. I get so used to my job that it's funny to me when people are so interested.

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  4. So...you are an educator as well as a firefighter! You do have a cool career (and are a cool person), and I'm glad you could broaden the horizons of your fellow passengers. :-)

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  5. There can never be enough penguin pictures! And you should be PROUD of your career choices. Money is merely one marker of success, but how happy you are in your job, how willing you are to do it everyday, and how passionately you speak about it are so much more important!

    I love my job and am happy with my success, but some days I wish I hadn't turned my back on wanting to work in pharmaceuticals (on the business side) or even volunteer in the Peace Corps. In the end, I made my choices for a reason and I'm happy.

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