CUE THE TALENT:
Welcome to “Why Can’t I Figure Out What to Do With My Life?” I’m Ray Burton.
And I’m Symantha Hartoon. Our guest on “Why Can’t I Figure Out What to Do With My Life?” is Fred R. Fred of San Diego, California. Mr. Fred has, in the last ten years, held 67 different jobs, none longer than three weeks. Fred, thanks for your time.
FRED: My pleasure, Samantha. It’s not like I have anything else on my agenda today.
RAY BURTON: Fred, what seems to be your problem? Why haven’t you held onto any job longer than three weeks?
FRED: My wife kept asking me that for years. You know she recently divorced me?
SYMANTHA: I didn’t know that, Fred.
FRED: Yes. She said I had no ambition, that I was a loser and a big time failure, and so just last week she married her dentist.
SYMANTHA: Sorry to hear that, Fred.
FRED: Not me. I’m glad to be rid of her. All she did was complain. Her voice sounded like one of those EMS vehicles you hear puncturing the air with that loud, piercing sound they make day and night as they rush to the next emergency. At least now I have peace and quiet at home.
SYMANTHA: Mr. Fred, you don’t seem to have a problem getting jobs.
FRED: That’s true, Symantha.
SYMANTHA: Why is it so hard for you to hold on to a job?
FRED: It’s because, Symantha, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the rest of my life and every job I’ve done I’ve only taken to pay the bills. I’ve been a cab driver, last year I played Santa Claus at Plymore’s Department Store here in town, I’ve even been a police dispatcher, but that didn’t last either. I guess I’m a born loser.
SYMANTHA: What’s the worst job you ever had?
FRED: Pizza delivery. Fat Man Out Pizza gave me the city’s worst crime area as a route and did you people ever notice there are a lot of scary people out there? Two prostitutes mugged me one night and I went back to Fat Man Out Pizza and turned in my delivery hat.
RAY: Fred, what’s the best job you ever had and how did you lose it?
FRED: I did this telemarketing job for Rooftop Telemarketers and I started to make some sales but I must have gotten hold of an old list or something because I started calling a lot of people who were on the “Do Not Call List,” and I stopped making sales and Rooftop Telemarketers sacked me.
RAY: You’ve had a rough life, Fred.
FRED: You’re telling me. If only I could figure out what to do with the rest of my life I know I’d be okay, but I don’t know how to figure it out and now, with Martha gone, I have to do my own cooking. I miss her ordering me out of the kitchen the way she did. Last night I smoked up the kitchen while cooking hamburger patties and I had to order myself out of the kitchen just the way Martha would have done if she’d been here.
SYMANTHA: That’s sad, Fred. Let me role play Martha for a minute. Do you mind?
FRED: I don’t mind, Symantha. Go ahead.
SYMANTHA: Ready Fred?
FRED: Yes, Symantha.
SYMANTHA: WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU, FRED? GET WITH IT! YOU’RE WASTING YOUR LIFE.
FRED: Thank you, Symantha. I needed to hear that. It’s just like having Martha at home all over my case again. I guess what’s really the matter with me, Symantha, is what Joseph Campbell wrote. He said, “It is very difficult to find in the outside world something that matches what the system inside you is screaming for.”
SYMANTHA: Fred, You’re making excuses.
FRED: I know what you say is true but I can’t get the words of James Joyce out of my mind. He wrote, “When the soul of man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight.” That’s from Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
RAY: Joseph Campbell, whom you quoted earlier Fred, also wrote that “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
FRED: Did he say that, Ray?
RAY: He did, Fred.
FRED: I’ll be.
SYMANTHA: Campbell also said, when you’re trying to discover what your marching orders are in this life — your assignment — begin with this question: “What did you do as a child that created timelessness, that made you forget time?” Fred, what’s your answer?
FRED: I liked reading the help wanted ads in our San Diego newspaper.
SYMANTHA: Go on.
FRED: I would make up resumes, type them, and apply for, oh I don’t know, maybe four or five jobs every day.
SYMANTHA: How old were you?
FRED: Thirteen, fourteen maybe. And you know what’s funny, Symantha?
SYMANTHA: What’s that, Fred?
FRED: People used to call our house all the time asking for Mr. Fred R. Fred and I can’t remember how many jobs I was offered but, of course, I couldn’t take them because I had to go to school the next day and I didn’t have a driver’s license or a car. The Third National Bank of San Diego even offered me an entry level job on the phone as a teller trainee with health benefits and a pension. I told a Mr. Dalrymple that as soon as I got out of junior high I’d come to see him but I never did because I enjoyed applying for jobs more than I did accepting them.
RAY: Well, one thing’s for certain, Fred.
FRED: What’s that Ray?
RAY: You are remarkably successful at failing and, in that, you are a success. I’m impressed.
FRED: You’re right there, Ray. It’s a gift. I completely agree with you, but you know what?
RAY: What’s that, Fred?
FRED: Talking to you and Symantha has given me an idea. I’ve had an Oprah light bulb moment. I know what I want to do with the rest of my life.
SYMANTHA: Which is what, Fred? By the way, make it short. We only have one minute left.
FRED: Tomorrow I’m going to apply for a job in the advertising department of our San Diego paper. I see myself now selling classified ads on the phone and helping people write eye-popping employment wanted ads that I guarantee will keep them busy answering their phones.
SYMANTHA: That’s wonderful, Fred. Best of luck to you. Our time is up. Our thanks to Mr. Fred R. Fred from San Diego, California, for being our guest today on “Why Can’t I Figure Out What to Do With My Life?”
RAY: Join us next time, won’t you, when our guest on “Why Can’t I Figure Out What to Do With My Life?” will be Verna Westerfield of Amarillo, Texas who says she’s not ever going back to the cattle auction business despite pressure from her husband to do the one and only thing he says she’s good at.
SYMANTHA: We’ll see you next time. So long everybody!
James' background is in television broadcasting. More about his life work at www.jamesclaytonnapier.com