By RHONDA SCHROCK
It wasn’t quite a full-blown grin, but it came close. They’d just straggled in from the bus, my youngest two, plopping shoes, coats and backpacks in an obstacle course through the house. Little, the Cheerful Cricket, set about getting his daily popcorn snack as Mr. Middle School fired up the Keurig for his afternoon cocoa. And there it came.
“We took a test today,” he said in his adolescent monotone. “You know, to see what kind of stuff we’d be good at?” I listened, curious.
“My results came back as computer engineering.” Well, now. “It said I’d be good at hooking up and maintaining networks.”
Goodness. For a kid who was the in-house electronics expert, this seemed to fit. Even Grandpa had called him for help, and his big brothers counted on him to hook this to that and that to this to make their game and sound systems work.
I beamed, happy and proud, enthusing over him in that way that mothers have. But he wasn’t quite done. “One of the subcategories was video game design.” There he went, flashing the tiniest hint of a grin, shooting me a sideways glance.
I laughed out loud. “Did you think God was talking to you today?” I said. He shrugged, a slice of grin still showing, words used up.
Video game designer, huh? When you’re 14, I can see how this would seem like a Voice From Heaven, pointing you to the way in which you should go. Such a “sign,” if a fellow played his cards right, would suddenly validate all that X-Boxing, turning it into Vocational Research and Extremely Necessary Career Preparation.
It helped, too, if you had parents that were either slow on the uptake or too busy and distracted to figure it out. Which was not the case here. And which really stank for would-be game designers who still found themselves with parameters in place and hawk-eyed parents keeping an eye on things. Rats.
What was it, I wondered, with all this career stuff lately? Why, the same week that The Gamer came home with his startling proclamation, I’d announced a career change of my own to his father.
It had been a tough couple of weeks. The company for which I’d worked for years had been sold, and I was in transition. The good news was that I still had a job. My pay hadn’t dropped, and I was typing the same doctors. The professionalism of the new staff was impressive, and I was thankful.
As with any new jobs, however, there was a lot to learn. Different procedures and protocols. Different platform for accessing the work, and a different system for sending it back. Everything in this stage took twice as long, and the learning curve, I found, wasn’t a curve at all. It was a solid line, a cable on a noose shooting straight up. Or, depending on where you stood, straight down.
That’s why I felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck, which apparently backed up, took another pass and then sped off before I could even get a license number. And that’s why Mr. Schrock found me lying in bed later than usual one morning.
“Aren’t you going to get up?” he said, peering at me.
I sighed. “I think I’ll start a new career. It’s called ‘staying in bed,’ and it looks like this.” Not a muscle moved or twitched. “I’m going to practice my ‘flopping-over’ techniques.” I chanced the tiniest peek over the comforter. His eyebrows, I saw, were doing that caterpillar thing, marching across his forehead in a solid line.
“And how long is this going to last? A week?” He’d done it again; managed to incorporate a roll-of-the-eyes tone into 10 little words. At my squawk, he swiftly recalibrated. “OK. Two weeks?”
It was wishful thinking. When no checks came from corporate after several days, I gave up and went back to typing.
As it turned out, it was a doctor who dodged a career-shaped bullet. There I was, transcribing a cardiology report when he did it; chucked a hand grenade straight into the middle of a history and physical.
“The patient,” chirped this southern physician, “has a refrigerator build.” Huh? What?
In that instant, I knew two things. One, the patient was not a female. And two, if it was, she wasn’t in the room at the time.
When no gunshots went off in the background and I heard no clanging of skillets or suspicious whacks from a rolling-pin-shaped object, I gathered my wits and finished the letter.
This tidbit sparked a lively discussion. One friend said, “I have a refrigerator build — toned muscles and a tight stomach from jumping off the couch and running to the fridge.”
Well, then. “Power to the people,” as they say, who work hard for that physique and love it.
Meanwhile, my own fridge remains under assault, there are still parameters for local gamers and I’ve gotten out of bed and returned to work. Which, over here, is not nothing.