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Another Wednesday

The Wednesday night dinners of my childhood were episodes of Fear Factor.

Generally my mama followed a fairly regular menu schedule.  Sundays were fried chicken. Monday was Sloppy Joes.  Tuesday, pork chops. Saturday was a mixed bag, it could have been about anything. Friday was a favorite, second only to Thursday night’s spaghetti, because it meant the drive-thru at Wendy’s.  But Wednesday was the worst: Salisbury steak.

The middle of every week would mean me sitting by twilight staring down a gray patty-shaped slab of compressed meat by-products1 that swam in a ketchupy pool of gelatinous goo.  The frozen food box indicated that the goo was gravy.  But, I was always of the feeling that gravy poured.

Where was Joe Rogan? Next to that, I probably would have welcomed Madagascar cockroaches and bison penis.

Wednesdays didn’t even give me the chance to appeal to my mother’s demands to clean my plate by wolfing down everything but the Salisbury steak2 because the main dish was always paired with the most evil of all vegetables: Brussels sprouts.

Did the good people of Salisbury and Brussels really eat these things?  Willingly? Or were Salisbury and Brussels actually prison camps?

“Some people would be happy to even have a meal,” my mother would say.

It was a one-two punch of guilt.  One shot for not being appreciative of food on the table and a second for not being appreciative of her efforts.

Despite the fact that, in this case, effort basically involved scraping freezer frost off the oven-safe cardboard top before tossing the disposable aluminum pan into a 350 degree oven, it worked.   Any son of the South will tell you that his mother can not be denied.  And so, I ate.

But as my belly was filled with chunks of barely-chewed “meat,”3 I was fed a sense that there are things in life you are blessed to have available.  You may not always like them, but you simply have to swallow them.

I was reminded of that last week after telling my boss that I wanted out of my job.

For those of you who are new or don’t remember from the old blog, back in September I started a new job.  I’m with the same company, just in a completely new position.  After about ten years working as a painter with a contractor, I was moved into that same contractor’s office doing planning and management duties.

The thing is, in and of itself, it is a pretty good job.  It’s just not a good job for me.  I’m good at the planning aspects, but it also involves a lot of dealing with people 4  and that’s just not me.  It’s a job for somebody who is more personable and dynamic.

I wanted to go back to painting.  Where I enjoyed the solitude. Where I know that I am good.

He wasn’t happy.  You see, while I knew that the position did not exist before, what I did not know was that he had restructured the duties of others around the office to create it.  And he had created it with me in mind.

That’s way more than scraping the frost off the lid.

I left his office that day with the agreement that I would think about it for a few days and if in a week I still wanted to quit, he would understand.

It didn’t take a week.  More like eighteen hours or so.

It took me that long to become ashamed of myself.

I realized the job it’s simply another Wednesday night dinner.  Every day more and more people are having their meals taken away from them. Who am I to toss mine in the trash?

I have swallowed many a Wednesday night dinner in my life, and I will do it again.

Who knows? As I mature I might even develop a taste for it.

{ fin }

  1. complete with imprinted “grill” marks []
  2. and then faking fullness []
  3. I swallowed it as quickly as I could to keep from tasting it.  It’s a wonder my bowels weren’t locked up well into adulthood. []
  4. clients, other contractors, suppliers, crews, etc. []
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  1. Ya know I really don’t care for Salisbury steak either. Thought I would like my job, beginning not to like that either. Took something I liked to do as a hobby and just ran it into the ground. Was either cut my hours short or I was quiting. So now my hours are shorter. Didn’t seem right to quit considering most don’t even have a job these days.

  2. I don’t know Tony. Eating something because you are lucky to have it and have been hosed down with guilt is one thing, but working in a position that is proving to not be for you is another. Sure you will learn the skills to do it, but developing the ability to enjoy it is a different gamble altogether.

  3. irisgirl irisgirl

    Well, Tony, I am not ashamed to proudly say that I LOVE Brussel Sprouts! Call me crazy (many have), but those adorable baby cabbages are truly yummy.

    And I scarf them down like potato chips (can’t eat just one, ya know), and then an hour later……well, let’s just say that I could be one of President Obama’s renewable sources of energy. Wind power? Phooey. I’m talking Breaking Wind Power!!!

  4. Tony,

    I didn’t like Brussel Sprouts as a kid, but I love them now, especially roasted in olive oil with Bacon and pecans…Yum.

    As far as the Salisbury Steak, didn’t you take the job for other reasons? You needed a change of scenery? Was it an increase in salary? You were tired of painting? More even footing(salary wise/standing wise) with the attorney?

    We all have certain aspects of our jobs we don’t like(and please people don’t lie….you know it’s true), but there are more pros than cons to everything if you look at the glass half full!

    Oh and as for the frozen Salisbury Steak….Yuck, my mom made her own version, which wasn’t half bad. The meal we as kids hated would have to be….Liver & onions.

  5. I hear ya. Four weeks into my new job and I’m wondering what I’ve done. It’s a good job, but is it for me? All these questions.

    Naturally I got a call from a competitor of my last company last week – and even knowing I just started a job they still REALLY want to interview me.

    I’m torn – stick it out where I am, as they invested a lot of time into finding me and I made a commitment to them, or go after something I really want.

    I’m not a complete asshole. Really.

  6. give it time…proper time. but I think you already know that. let it even out. properly. but this is coming from a Brussel Sprout WHORE. I love them with olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, thai chili paste, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and fresh cracked black pepper….cut in half and roasted in the oven until yummy golden brown. My mouth is watering!

  7. Sorry to tell ya, I love both BS and ST. lol

    As for the job, I’d stick it out a little longer. You have grown a lot here in the last years. You might surprise yourself. Plus, it sounds like they really value you. When the economy finally takes an upswing again, you can re-evaluate where you should or shouldn’t be.

  8. Sorry to tell ya, I love both BS and SS. lol

    As for the job, I’d stick it out a little longer. You have grown a lot here in the last years. You might surprise yourself. Plus, it sounds like they really value you. When the economy finally takes an upswing again, you can re-evaluate where you should or shouldn’t be.

  9. Paul from Q Paul from Q

    Guys, guys, guys–this isn’t about food. It’s a metaphor — which works. Few people could make the connection between food and work.
    Tony, you have done another splendid entry. Thanks.

  10. A few thoughts:

    Don’t let guilt–or any other emotion–get in the way of your best judgment, which ought to be (mostly) rational. If there are parts of your job you like, and parts you don’t, then make sure your boss knows that, and stress to him that you’re not asking for anything now, but if the opportunity comes up to further reorganize things down the road, these are the duties which would probably be handled better by someone better suited to dealing with people.

    You like painting, and from your attention to detail in posts, I suspect you’re very good at it, and probably have an eye for quality. Maybe your boss would be amenable to letting you spend part of your time doing QC work on your company’s jobs – inspecting the work done by others, following up on punch lists, fixing the kind of things that you’re good at – once someone else takes over part of your work.

    The fact that he restructured once to make room for you can be a factor in your favor – it shows he’s willing to make changes to accommodate good people. Maybe there’s someone else in your office who would be willing to swap some duties with you, giving you more “work alone” stuff and he/she handling more personal interactions?

    I’ve always found that bosses are far more receptive to “I’ve got a problem with part of my job, but I think I’ve got a solution that will work for everyone concerned” than “I’ve got a problem and I want you to solve it”. Not that asking for your old job back started out that way, but now that you know about his reorganizing, simply moving back to your old job does give him a problem to solve. Solving it for him may give you even more brownie points.

  11. pdxprofessor pdxprofessor

    first, i’m so happy you’re writing again and that i had the great good fortune of finding this newest incarnation of your epistolary stylings. you have a great gift and this post is evidence of it.

    secondly, as an employer who is right now on the other side of the equation you’re describing — i restructured a position for an employee with star qualities that i greatly admire, but the management piece is not a good fit for him — kevin m’s advice seems particularly wise. offer your boss a solution and my guess is that he’ll be receptive to it. i would be. if you’re not happy swallowing salisbury steak it’s inevitable that it’s going to show and affect your ability to be effective in your position. the better bet seems to be to suss out an alternative solution that farms out the unpleasant-for-you parts of your position to others and that doesn’t leave your boss with egg on his face, but also doesn’t condemn you to interminable professional misery. your boss clearly values you and will take your recommendations to heart if you give him an out. give it a try. good luck!

  12. David David

    When I started my job 15 years ago, I wasn’t a people or phone person. It’s second nature now. “You are tunnel visioned to the detriment of good judgement” would never have come out of my mouth fifteen years ago, but it’s like breathing now. Keep an open mind, and one day you’ll say to yourself that the company you work for wouldn’t do as well if it weren’t for me doing this. (On another note: Will you write us a short story and post it? I think a short story with all the charm you give your blog would be one heck of a read!)

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