Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

A tale of two jobs

On Tuesday, following President Barack H. Obama’s oath and after I’d grown tired of all the bloviating by the TV commentators, I still had the TV on and the sound muted but was reading some stuff online when the phone rang.

It was Wal-Mart. Did I want to come in for an interview for a job the next day? “It’s a cart-pushing job,” the woman said. I said I’d come in at 10 a.m. I can’t be picky because I’m unemployed, and being jobless is not fun.

So I went out to a local pizza buffet and was sitting and reading (and chowing down) when ELO’s “Telephone Line” began to play on my iPhone. I picked up the phone, and it was a bureau chief for my former employer, a daily newspaper, saying that if I wanted to cover the arrival of some World War II airplanes at the Venice, Fla., airport, I could. I had proposed the story after seeing an ad in the newspaper, and here was something meaty: a great assignment for Wednesday afternoon, doing what I love: journalism. (OK, plus seeing some historic airplanes and talking to veterans who made the world safe for freedom and democracy.)

I got all dressed up for the Wal-Mart interview and an accident on I-75 almost made me late. Like a good worker, I called in and told them what I knew, warning I might be late. As it turned out, I was less than five minutes late.

The interview was a few questions about whether I knew how to work with others and would I do the job. Well, heck, I’ve been working for 30 years now, from being a postal laborer to being a newspaper copy editor. I answered the questions, assured the interviewer that I was available for any time and any day of the week, and was told I’d hear back for the next part of the interview.

It hurts to be treated like a child and toyed with like this. I consider no work to be beneath me, but I guess companies are worried that college graduates and people who are neat and well-spoken might be the first to bolt for better jobs if an opportunity comes along, and so it’s OK to treat them shabbily.

I drove home, changed clothes, downed some lunch and then headed to the Venice airport to await the arrival of the planes. After I got there, I was in my element, interviewing people and taking notes, shooting pictures and trading military experiences. Seeing the B-17, B-24 and P-51 is always an awesome experience, but it’s those men who flew them — or aboard them — who have so much to offer. I wish I could have included all their stories in my report. Airplanes are just metal and glass, but those men are the heroes and I salute them.

Then I went back to my former newspaper, where my former co-workers were thrilled to see me. I settled in at a desk, got signed into the system, and turned my notes and interviews into a story that was in the paper on Jan. 23, 2009. A professional from the paper had gone out on Thursday to take photos, and did her usual great job. I’m a word man who can basically hold a camera and press a button, but I defer to the pros whenever I can.

After I finished the story, I talked with my former co-workers and bosses, then left to go home while they finished the next day’s paper. Things are so sad in the news business right now, and it hurts to see the news media suffering. Stories like those of the veterans — who fought to prevent a few dictators from deciding how the world should be and how people should live their lives — are fading and need to be saved for the next generation. And those in the service today have stories that must be told, too.

If I have to work at Wal-Mart, and never land a real job in the news media again, well, that’s the way it will be. But at least I know that for a time, I was a part of something that kept the old stories and the heroes in the public eye.

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January 23, 2009 - Posted by | The news business | , , , , ,

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