Dog Walk of Shame

I was walking the dog today, wearing my daily uniform of tennis sneakers, blue jeans and long-sleeve T (that’s my cold weather uniform, as opposed to my summer uniform which is sandals, shorts and short sleeve T). Since I’ve been staying home the past 18 months, my dog has become increasingly spoiled and begins bugging me to take her a few minutes earlier every day. It used to be in the evening, just before my wife was due home from work, but now she’s worked her way down to mid-afternoon, two-ish. So as usual, I’m trudging around in my jeans in the middle of a working day seeing nobody but high-maintenance housewives and silver-haired retirees out and about.
I’ve wondered about this. Do I still look too young to be a retiree? Do I just look like some guy who is pathetically unemployed?
Now I know. The winner is: B – pathetically unemployed!
I ran into a neighbor woman who has kids about the same ages as our kids, married to a guy who made a fortune in the real estate boom — not so much in the last few years, of course, but still probably pretty well accounted for from past robber-baron type activities. She’s a self-described housewife, and rather famously blunt in revealing her inner thoughts.
We chatted about the kids, about property values. And then she got this morose look on her face and asked what had been on her mind the whole time. “Are you still out of work?”
About that: It’s a funny thing. I’ve just spent four months working harder than I have ever worked in my life trying to write a 75,000 word book in the time I used to allot for writers to complete a 6,000 word magazine article. I worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Plus, I continued editing projects for my storysurgeons clients when I just couldn’t bear to think about the book any longer.
And yet . . . because I haven’t put on hard shoes but once (to speak at a black-tie dinner) in 18 months, I DO kind of still feel like I am “out of work,” because work for me has always been synonymous with going into an office, having a big boss, getting a monthly pay check, dealing with corporate bull shit. Now that I am totally on my own, workwise, sometimes don’t see another human being from 8 am until 6 pm, eat lunch at my kitchen table, can decide to go work out at 10:30 and . . . walk the dog in the middle of the freaking afternoon, I don’t actually feel like I am working.
Still, it was interesting to get this little glimpse into the minds of those who see me shuffling through my appointed rounds, happy hound zigging and zagging from one scent to the next before me. I am that poor dude who lost his job and more than a year later is still schlepping around the house.
Which is interesting, because “schlepping around the house” has always been my fondest ambition.

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