Best job in the world

Published 9:58 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

Like most of you, I’ve had a number of jobs in my life.

My first was delivering the New York Daily News on the handlebars of my bicycle, and I did that for a couple years starting about the time I was 12 or 13. Every morning by 6, rain or shine, I was dropping newspapers off at the front doors of about 30 or so of my neighbors. In the summer it was nice because the sun would be up by 6 and it would already be nice and warm. During winter, well, not so much.

That was back in the days when kids not only delivered the papers but also went out on Friday afternoons to collect the subscription fee and, hopefully, a tip. Most of my customers were friendly enough, would pay on time, and usually gave a nice Christmas bonus. A couple, though, would let me have it every time I was five minutes late getting them their paper. Their irritation was almost always reflected in the size of my tip. My irritation was then reflected in how dry their papers would stay when it rained.

I always made just enough to have a few bucks in my pocket after putting the majority of my earnings into savings to buy a new bike. After months of commitment and sacrifice my hard work finally paid off, and one very proud day I rolled the Schwinn of my dreams right out of the bike shop.

I was proud as a peacock on that new 10-speed. Right up until the very moment, that is, when it was literally stolen out from under me one morning while I was delivering my papers. My great-grandmother, the only human on earth more devastated than me as a result of my great misfortune, bought me a replacement. And because she loved me so and was proud of the work I had put into earning the money to buy my own bike, it was a pretty serious upgrade.

All in all it was an OK job, except for Sundays. On Sunday the paper was enormous, with Parade magazine and a thousand sheets of coupons, and I had to wake up an hour earlier to stuff all that junk into my papers. Throw in all the funny papers and a big fat sports section, and it made the stack on my handlebars twice as thick and really slippery. More times than I’d care to count, I wound up sitting on the curb somewhere along Star Lane reassembling that darned pile of Sunday papers, the whole stack having slipped off my bike and into the gutter.

I probably should have taken some advice and put a basket on my bike. But 12-year-old boys did not put baskets on their bikes; 12-year-old girls did, and I’d have given the bike away before a basket was going anywhere near it.

So that was my first job, but it was far from being my last. By the time I was 21, I had done a little bit of everything — flipped burgers, cut grass, poured beer, cooked pizzas, delivered pizzas, sold encyclopedias door to door, sold insurance door to door, announced the blue-light specials at K-mart, worked in an oil refinery and washed dishes in a Chinese restaurant, for all of one night. I’ve had a couple more jobs since then too, including this one that I have now, which has brought me full circle back to the business where it all started. Some jobs were fun, some not so fun. Some were downright horrible. (See worked in an oil refinery and attention, K-mart shoppers.)

With the arrival of Father’s Day, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time this week thinking back over the various jobs I’ve had and things I’ve done over the years. Because for all the jobs I’ve had, none have brought me as much joy and satisfaction as the one I started

6½ years ago when I became a father. Make no mistake, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and most days I’ll admit that I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’ve got a job that requires playing thousands of hours of catch with a 6-year-old boy who’s certain he will be the first major league pitcher to become a professional monster truck driver.

And a couple times a week I’m required to dance in the kitchen with a 3-year-old princess who’s singing “Over the Rainbow” into my ear. So while the pay stinks and the hours are terrible, it has the best benefits package of any job I’ve ever had.

So happy Father’s Day, my friends. I hope you’re enjoying the job as much as me.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at