It was the first day of school for my daughter. A monumental day that was six years in the making, signifying 35 free hours each week for the next nine months. Oh, the plans – the malls, the spas, the naps – the dreams that will soon come true for this newly liberated stay-at-home mom. As the school bus driver slammed the door shut and drove away, I spotted a set of bright headlights coming towards me through the exhaust trailing from the bus. Was it a stretch limousine coming to carry me away to my first day of luxury without any responsibilities? My heart was racing. As the lights came closer, I did a double-take. What appeared to be a limo, turned out to be the Ronald McDonald mobile. Ronald was behind the wheel. He pulled over and stuck out his red and white stripped arm. In his oversized-giant gloved hand was a cap embroidered with the golden arches. Ronald grabbed my hand and said in a deep voice, “Get in. Welcome to the drive-thru crew at McDonald’s.” Then I woke up in a cold sweat, relieved that it was only a dream.
The scariest part of the dream was not being whisked off to work by a red-headed hamburger clown, but rather a fear of the limited opportunities available for someone who hasn’t held a job in the last six years. While a life of shopping and napping sounds great, it requires some financing. Would I have to resort to flipping burgers? Probably not. Even so, what’s a washed-up middle-aged, communications professional to do in a land of twenty somethings texting, googling, tweeting and ipading their way to fame and fortune on the social networking highway. Paper brochures and newsletters have been enshrined in the Smithsonian along with the dinosaurs like myself who used to write them. Could I reinvent myself? I’ve actually kept up with my ” laughing mom blog” for the last three months – at least my mother thinks my posts are funny. A humor writer. I like the sound of that, however, I need a sign. Could I find a job? Will people outside of my family and close friends think I’m interesting? Is this my new destiny?
Recently, my parents cleaned out their basement and dropped off a musty smelling paper bag full of old report cards, crafts, and school projects. Among the rubble of school years past was an occupational personality assessment I took in high school. I scoured over the numbers hoping to find some clue about my personality profile that would aid in my reinvention. Imagine my surprise when one of the occupations identified for my personality type was a FUNERAL DIRECTOR. Not a humor writer but the polar opposite – an embalmer, a mortician, an undertaker!
My God, it was all starting to make sense. The comments on my grade school report cards year after year, “she’s a great student,” “she really knows her math tables;” however, “she is WAY too serious.” It also explains why I had exactly 28 first and last dates before I met my husband, who incidentally is not shocked at my predisposition to be a funeral director. He has threatened to enroll me in several socialization classes over the years while witnessing countless wall flower situations at parties. I can only imagine the epithets under my direction, “She was fun while she was here.” “Man, she cooked a mean pot roast”. Literally, laughing in the face of death. It would have been a disaster.
I needed a sign that I wasn’t a stiff and I could make it as a humor writer. I decided to contact a real professional. So I wrote Dick Wolfsie. Mr. Wolfsie is the Peyton Manning of humor writing in Indiana. Originally hailing from New Rochelle, New York, he has won an Emmy, hosted a multitude of television shows, authored several books and has syndicated columns in newspapers all over the country. He is a real life Robert Petrie, Indiana’s answer to Carl Reiner. I sent him a brief note along with a link to my “mom blog” and asked for a little feedback. A tedious task that can be compared to reading a total stranger’s account of their mundane daily activities.
After a few days he actually wrote me back. I couldn’t believe it. He offered to meet me in person with the caveat that if I agreed, I must have thick skin and be strong when listening to his feedback. In addition to his multi-media work, he teaches a class on humor at a local university and has a reputation for being brutal. My excitement turned to disappointment as I wondered if he too was going to tell me that I was too serious, or even worse, seriously not funny.
He was sitting at a small table in Starbucks finishing up a project on his Kindle. As I shook his hand, I noticed a rather large, Superbowl championship-like ring with the number 8 on it, signifying his long legacy of television work. I just kept thinking in disbelief, this guy is one of the best at his craft and he is actually talking to me about my “mom blog.” He was enormously generous with his time and feedback. For the next 90 minutes, he tutored me on the elements of humor writing – exaggeration, timing, precision of word choice. We laughed about life and brainstormed several witty, insightful observations for new columns. This was my Sally Rogers moment. Among all the laughs, he also cautioned me on the challenges of actually making money as a humor writer. The information was extremely helpful.
As we parted ways, he thanked me for meeting him and wished me luck. I left with not only signed copies of two of his books, but also with inside knowledge and renewed energy on pursuing a career in humor writing. He may have thought I was a still a stiff, but at least he thought I was a “cleaver” stiff. It was my sign.