A Labor Day Sketch of the Jobs We Do
Sandy Anderson, Diana Beechener, Kat Bennett, Kat Burke, Dotty Holcomb Doherty, Jane Elkin, Davina Grace Hill, Sonia Linebaugh, Carrie Madren, Sandra Olivetti Martin, Bethany Rodgers, Helena Mann Melnitchenko, Julie Randolph, Eileen Slovak, Michelle Steel, Margaret Tearman, Bill Wohlfeld
Where did summer go? Just yesterday we were planning lazy days on the beach and anticipating picnic tables piled high with steaming crabs and cold beer.
Now Labor Day is upon us, and heigh-ho, heigh-ho! it’s back to work we go.
To jobs as odd and varied as we are.
Some of us spend our days helping others realize a dream.
Some of us work to save the planet; others work to beautify it.
Some of our jobs are owed to a natural gift; others to an acquired skill.
Not all of us hear or heed our calling at an early age. Many of the random and unscientific sample interviewed by Bay Weekly writers created our dream jobs in midlife or beyond.
As summer 2007 turns to memory, Bay Country returns to work whatever that may be.
20, Friendship: Starbucks Barista
I moved to the Dunkirk Starbucks from the Safeway Starbucks. I like doing a job that not everyone can do.
There are so many cool people who come in, and the job is a lot fun. It’s pretty laid back. I don’t feel like I’m working most of the time. I’m friends with the people I work with.
Sometimes I get to travel around to the other Starbucks locations and help out. That’s pretty cool.
24, Glen Burnie: Theater Technical Director
This profession chose me. I began in technical theater at 12, working a spotlight. I fell in love with it.
I deal with highly varied events, which makes every day completely different and new. Dance shows, large concerts, public speakers and theater productions each require very different set-ups and designs. I have to be ready to deal with them all.
Breakdown after events can get tedious. I’m the first one in the building, then after a long day I clean up, turn off the equipment and I’m the last one to leave, usually late at night.
At the end of an event, I love it when clients tell me that they are happy.
25, Eastport: Paddling Consultant, Springriver Annapolis Canoe and Kayak
I’ve been kayaking off and on since I was 15.
I am the rentals guy, but I do some sales, too. People come in, and I help them get into the water and ready to go.
We get a lot of first-timers. Every weekend we get groups that have never been out. I send people off and let them enjoy the water on their own.
My favorite part about my job is getting to work with people.
Oh, and the music: We always have good music on.
26, Westminster: Annapolis Tattoo Artist
Ever since I was a child, I knew that I would be an artist. One day, a friend who did tattoos saw some of my artwork. He took me to an art studio and said teach her. So in a way, my job picked me.
Tattoo art can be very private or shown off to the world. It is very personal and regional. For example, here in Annapolis I have done several blue crab designs. One crab was part of a memorial tattoo for a waterman’s widow; she honored her husband as well as his way of life.
That’s what I like best: when I am creating something from myself for someone special, it really makes my job worthwhile.
29, Baltimore: Manager The Online Outpost, Wilmer’s Communications, Edgewater
I was burned out from working crazy hours for Nextel and Sprint sales in a mall, when my uncle came and said, Let’s start an eBay business.
I’m in, I said. We have a world-wide marketplace at our fingertips.
What I like best is we see new stuff every day. When a piece of junk sells for a couple hundred dollars, it’s not junk any more; it’s gold. On the big end, we sold a 36-foot boat we’d never seen, from Florida, to a buyer in Guatemala.
The hardest part? Moving stuff. It’s constant as things are checked in, moved into the queue, photographed, appraised, picked up again, weighed for postage, put in a box, then shipped.
I love my job so much I get there an hour early and leave an hour late.
31, Annapolis: Health Club Consultant
I started out training clients, but now I work mostly with other trainers or doctors as a consultant.
I help teach trainers how best to assist their clients and help educate doctors on alternative health as an option instead of pharmaceuticals. We educate people on how to keep themselves healthy using vitamins rather than drugs.
I still do training, and I have clients that are like my best friends. I love getting to actually see people emotionally and physically change. It’s nice because I know that I’m making a difference.
Eliza Smith Steinmeier
31, Baltimore: Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper
I’m an environmental lawyer and founded the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper program in July 2006.
I started working as a waterkeeper full time in June. I used to sit at a desk, but now I get to use my legal skills and be on the water doing fieldwork and interacting with the community. In one day, you can be out patrolling in the morning and meeting with local and state officials in the afternoon.
32, Pasadena: Weight Watchers Meeting Leader
I went through the Weight Watchers program and lost 80 pounds, so I know how hard weight loss is for people. I always loved spending time with my fellow members, so I guess the job chose me.
The best part is still sharing successes with my members. It’s so great to be a part of that joy. My groups keep me on my toes. They’re always telling crazy stories about diets that didn’t work and what they’ve tried before.
The most difficult part of the whole process is filling out all the corporate papers after every meeting, but I can’t complain too much: I get paid to talk. You can’t beat that.
32, Annapolis: Executive Coach/Team Facilitator
Leadership has been my passion since I was a little girl, so I joined the Naval Academy. I became a Naval Flight Officer flying in an EA-6B Prowler during Iraqi Freedom.
In the Navy, I felt like I needed to fit into a mold. When I broke free of that, I recognized the more powerful path of leadership development.
My job is unusual because people don’t hire me for my solutions; they hire me to help them find their own. I love hearing the surprise in a client’s voice when they realize they already know how to achieve their goals.
Keeping on top of the paperwork is the most tedious part of my job. I do everything from budgeting to sending thank you notes, but I’ve developed a system to deal with it.
33, St. Leonard: Prince Frederick Giant employee
I wanted to work for Giant. I have worked there for 16 years and have never missed a day. I dust shelves, clean the floors, sidewalks and bathrooms, water plants, pick up trash, push and stack carts and help customers with their groceries.
My favorite part of the job is talking to and helping the customers and the tips. I like the tips!
The most unusual part of my job is the weather. I work when it rains, snows and in all kinds of storms. The most laborious part of my job: nothing. It’s all easy. I like it all.
33, Arnold: Supervisor Care Manager at Sunrise Senior Living in Annapolis
I believe I was chosen to do this work. It is a true calling and a gift from God. Not everyone can do it. You have to have heart and compassion.
My favorite part of my job is the residents with their different personalities and backgrounds.
The most unusual element of my work is being around Alzheimer’s disease because there are so many different stages that don’t necessarily go in order.
The most laborious element of my job is the heavy lifting, which causes me a lot of aches and pains.
35, Annapolis: Charter and tour boat captain
I wanted to be a photojournalist, but then I saw an ad that read Work outside on a boat, training provided. I was hired the next day. I love being on the water and meeting visitors from all over the world.
Some people are surprised when they learn the captain is a woman, but I am delighted when a young girl realizes that she can be a captain, too.
When conditions are rough, I need to drive the boat as smoothly as possible, which can be quite a challenge. Once we rescued a dog that had fallen off the Naval Academy sea wall. I had to steer the boat close enough for a crewman to grab the dog without crushing him. When the dog was safe, everyone on board the vessel cheered and applauded. A job doesn’t get any better than that.
35, Annapolis: Marina Manager
I have always enjoyed being outside and on the water. As a marina manager, I don’t just handle the slips and boats. I also work closely with all the people at the marina: workmen, boat owners, live-aboards and marina staff.
One of the nicest parts of the job is being part of big family of people who enjoy boats. There is a difficult side, too. Because we work with repairs and recreation in critical areas, I need to know a lot about emergency management for oil spills, fires, floods, hurricanes and a lot of nasty boat stuff in addition to first aid, recycling, water purity, yard safety and more. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I love going to work every day.
37, North Beach: Video Store Shift Leader
My job chose me. It started with a video store in Beltsville. I was a regular customer, but I helped the other customers more than the employees did.
The manager offered me a job on the spot. Videos are my hobby, so I enjoy my work. I watch four to five movies a week.
Many unusual people come into the store. The other day a guy sat in front of the candy display, took off his shoes and talked to himself.
37, North Beach: Manager/Mechanic,
I was 16 years old and needed a job. I was interested in cars, I grew up in North Beach, I liked the area and the people, so I started working at Sunoco. I have been here for 21 years.
The favorite part of my job is interacting with people.
As the manager, I’m the go-to guy. I have to deal with crazy and angry customers and smooth things over. I sometimes just have to bite my tongue and listen. Everything usually works out okay.
Margaret Ann Stokes
37, Chesapeake Beach: Hairdresser
Have you seen the movie Steel Magnolias? It’s like that in our beauty shop. We are family, sharing our joys and sorrows. Pat Coyle, who hired me straight out of beauty school 17 years ago, taught me about dealing with people: Be there when the clients want you. Develop a relationship with them.
And I have. My clients are my friends.
When I was 14, I bussed tables at Rod ’n’ Reel. But my dream was always to make people look good. Even when I was a little girl, I loved playing with hair, as I watched my grandmother do hair out of her home.
The hours are sometimes long, but I can’t think of anything else I would rather do.
Rodell Ford, Jr.
39, Annapolis: Custodian
I was out of work about eight years ago. A friend told me of a job opening at Heritage Harbour. I have been here ever since. This is a community for active adults 55 and better with a population of 2,500 people, so I keep pretty busy.
I get to know a lot of the folks. They’ve been around a long time, and I enjoy listening to their stories and what they’ve been through.
The most unusual part of my job is that I get to answer the phones for the receptionist during her break.
The hardest part of my job has been to check the tennis courts for puddles when the temperature is up around 100 degrees.
39, Chesapeake Beach: Pet Sitter
I was injured doing a telephone company job and couldn’t return to climbing telephone poles. So I decided to start a new business.
Everyone I work with is extremely happy to see me, with the possible exception of a couple cats who don’t seem to care that I’m there. And most of the fish: I can’t tell how they feel about me.
The similarities in the personalities of the pets and their people can be truly astonishing.
I’m sure most people would think picking up the poop is the most unpleasant part of my job, but the really difficult part of my job is saying goodbye to my animal friends at the end of their lives.
39, Solomon’s Island: Owner Southern Maryland Pet Waste Removal
Last winter, I decided I wanted to get into the pet industry. Since there were already so many dog walkers, I did some research and found out some people run pet waste removal businesses. There were none in the area, so I started my business.
The best part of my job is that I get to play with dogs. Plus, people don’t want to pick up their dog’s waste, so they’re happy to see me coming. It’s also really interesting for me to see what a dog eats, things like blue underwear and pantyhose.
I also notice more important things about the dog waste I clean up. I’ve been able to help owners catch some illnesses in their dogs by noticing changes in their animal’s waste.
39, Annapolis: Natural Resource Biologist
I always wanted to work for the environment. After years of seasonal positions working mostly with turtles, I got a job with the Department of Natural Resources doing water quality testing. I love knowing I am doing something positive, and just being outside.
The most laborious part of the job is cleaning up the equipment, but the equipment is also the most unusual aspect of the job. People will see us from a bridge, notice our sediment collector that looks like a torpedo on a crane and say, You’re not going to catch any fish with that thing! But they think what we are doing is cool.
Out by Antietam Creek, a man we had met earlier drove by in his truck and called out, Go Eco-warriors!
40, Chesapeake Beach: Veterinarian
After abandoning my original dream job of princess, I decided to be a veterinarian. I was 10 years old.
The best part of my job is seeing lots of dogs and cats and meeting the people who love them. I am constantly amazed at the things that dogs think are edible. They have very adventurous but not discriminating appetites: rocks, socks, drywall, mulch, toys, trash, dead (very dead) wildlife, underwear (don’t ask), couches, aluminum cans. The list is actually endless.
The most laborious part of my job is the paperwork and writer’s cramp. My handwriting is … mmmm … unique, so I have to concentrate on making it legible.
Dr. David Sortisio
40, Arnold: Chiropractor
I had my first experience with chiropractic between college and graduate school. My wife found relief from neck pain and headaches that had not responded to other forms of healthcare, so I became a patient and started feeling better than ever. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.
My favorite part of my job is helping people overcome their problems so they can live life to its fullest.
The most unusual element of my work is the large amount of time I spend educating patients who come to me with misconceptions about chiropractic.
The most laborious element of my job is writing reports for insurance companies.
41, Annapolis: Founding Director 2CCreating Communities; Jazz Musician, Speaker, Educator
It’s been 20 years since I picked up the guitar, and I still feel inspired and grateful that I have a community in which I can share my talents.
My favorite work is with adults with mental illness at Arundel Lodge and partnering with Hospice of the Chesapeake on arts and healing projects.
The always-unexpected part of my work is dealing with the many personalities and egos in the arts and music world.
I have to be careful of the many promotional and clerical aspects of an artists’ career, or they can take over the art and service side.
41, Annapolis: Co-owner, Stylist at Solace Salon
I knew I wanted to be a stylist ever since I was 15 years old and in trade school. In Panama, it is expected that you choose a profession before continuing school, and so I saw fit to do something that required me to use my hands and help people raise their self-confidence.
I have been called a hair therapist because of the impact or influence their new look has on their self-reliance. I know I affect my clients and my son’s motivation to be successful in life as a businessman and a caring human being.
42, Lothian: Owner, Greenstreet Gardens
When I was 13, I was a yard boy for a woman who had polio. She loved flowers but couldn’t plant them herself. I would drive her around in a golf cart, and she would tell me what to plant and where. This was the beginning of my career in horticulture.
I love to find new and innovative plants and products to help our customers be successful gardeners. I think it’s fascinating that we can bring un-rooted plant cuttings from almost any part of the world to our nursery in Lothian within 48 hours. On any given day we have plants arriving wrapped in the newspapers of Israel, Kenya, Ethiopia and Costa Rica.
42, Annapolis: Personal Gardener
I wanted to work for myself, so I started a business with what I had, what I knew, who I knew and what I liked to do. I honestly like to weed; it’s very contemplative. I also love planting and watching things grow.
I work with a former astronaut, a French art dealer, a Latvian social worker, a female Episcopalian priest, a stay-at-home mom, an interior designer. The gardens range from Chesapeake native to Chesapeake-zen; from Nordic woodland to classic suburban; from English cottage to formal Italianate.
The hardest part of my job is three-fold: mosquitoes, high humidity and angry people. I will work in any weather, every day of the week, from March through December, but I won’t work for angry people. No money is worth it.
Walleye Pete Dahlberg
43, St. Leonard: Fishing Guide
I grew up fishing and decided it was what I wanted to do some day. When I retired from the U.S. Air Force, I went full time. I truly love being on the water and helping people catch fish.
My favorite part of the work is making memories for people on my boat.
I have had to be doctor, remove hooks, had people pass out. The most unusual element is the wide variety of people. That, and dealing with weather.
My least favorite task is cleaning the boat afterward.
I’m called Walleye because I grew up catching walleyes in upstate New York, so for my handle on maritime radio, I chose Walleye Pete. That has stuck with me on and off the water.
44, Chesapeake Beach: NOAA meteorologist
I chose meteorology as my second career because it was challenging yet fun.
The best part of my job is tracking tropical storm systems. I’m spoiled by the volume of information I can access, which is virtually anything.
44, Huntingtown: Sales Service Associate at North Beach U.S. Post Office
I started working for the post office when I was 18. My soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law encouraged me and seven others to apply. All eight of us were hired and still work for the post office, 26 years later.
I really enjoy working with the customers and getting to know them. Most are more like friends.
We see all kinds of crazy things. Once a total stranger asked me, Are you married?
Yes, I said.
But are you happily married?
Yes, I am, I said.
No, you just say that to everybody.
I am always happy. Even if people come in in a bad mood, I can help change that before they go.
46, Owings: Intuitive Healer/Psychic
My work pretty much chose me. My son was diagnosed with a chronic blood disease, and I was searching for alternatives to standard practices of medicine. I have been performing energy healing and toning really loud singing for six years.
The favorite part of my job is seeing someone’s awareness open up when they realize their potential to heal themselves and grow.
The most unusual and laborious parts of my job are tied together: There is still a stereotype that my job is non-Christian and a form of witchcraft. The judgments are a huge obstacle, and I need to trudge through the wall between acceptance and non-acceptance.
48, Annapolis: Illustrator/Designer and At-Home Dad
I originally studied mechanical drawing and made blueprints. But when I saw what computers could do, I switched. I’ve drawn legal graphics for lawyers but have shifted to more aesthetic work for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
My favorite part is finishing a project, seeing what I’ve drawn and really liking it.
The most laborious part of my job is sitting at the keyboard and only using my fingers and brains; I don’t get the whole-body feel of pulling a brush away from the canvas.
The most unusual aspect of my job is drawing forensic graphics for court cases and listening in on gory details. CSI Miami: That stuff is real!
The chaotic part is taking care of three kids while working at home.
49, Lothian: School Nurse at Flintstone Elementary
You wouldn’t expect a school nurse to have as much fun as I do at work, but it has always been my interest to work with children in schools.
I discovered a way to help kids relieve some stress from their bullies at school or their troubles at home. When someone comes in, I draw their picture and hang it in my office. Their faces always light up when they see their picture on my wall of fame above my desk.
After only one year of work at Flintstone, I have made so many young friends that I have trouble keeping the children away from my office.
50, Laurel: Personal de tierra
Cuando llegué a los Estados Unidos en 1990, escuché un anuncio en la Radio solicitando trabajadores para Jardinería en “Lasting Impressions,” una companía de Jardinería. Fué así que empecé a trabajar. Ahora trabajo para ellos en una campo de Golf.
Para mi, ver una culebra negra y larga no era algo común.
A mi me gusta trabajar en todo lo referente a Jardinería, plantando arboles y cortando el pasto.
El trabajo mas pesado es plantar arboles por que se requiere mucha fuerza.
John Doe (not his real name)
51 (not his real age), Severna Park (not his real address): Undercover Law Enforcement Officer (this is true)
My father was in law enforcement. I was raised with a definite obligation to take care of those who could not take care of themselves. I like to think that I had a choice in my career, but looking back, maybe the cards were stacked against me.
The best part of my job is having the opportunity, at least in some small way, to make a positive impact on society, hopefully leaving things better off than the way I found them. And when I’m undercover, I sometimes get a chance to do some acting and impersonations, sometimes spiced with adrenaline.
The hardest part is watching the Wheels of Justice grind ever so slowly.
Dr. Bernard R. Finch
52, Glendale: Dentist in practice in Owings
My mother was a respected nurse in a small Alabama town. People came to consult her all the time. I knew I wanted to be in health care also, to have that respect. Yet I did not wish to deal with the life-and-death issues of a physician. Dentistry seemed to be just the ticket.
What I like best is alleviating pain; patients really appreciate it when their tooth stops hurting. Pulling teeth is another matter; I like saving teeth, but sometimes it’s too late.
I have to be really creative when I get patients who are disabled and can’t get into the dentist’s chair. I have to treat them in a wheelchair. Now, that’s a challenge.
54, Edgewater: Dog Groomer and Training Video Producer
My work chose me. When I bought an Afghan hound, I had to learn to groom him. I knew nothing; I thought all dogs acted like Lassie, just looked different. The dog-grooming equipment in later years turned into my own business, and I love being in charge.
I became a video producer after hiring speakers for dog training seminars. I learned about positive reinforcement, threw away my dog’s choke collar and used experience from a previous job with Warner Brothers to begin producing dog-training DVDs and CDs about behavior and learning theory.
The unusual aspect of my job is also the most laborious. People don’t realize dog grooming takes hard physical labor. Dogs come in because they are a mess. But the work is gratifying because it’s very artistic. You carve a dog out of hair.
55, Prince Frederick: Owner, Carrington Formal Wear
I was trapped in a corporate job until 10 years ago when someone at church said, You’re going to go out and dress these children. I could have gone to my grave without knowing I’m a gifted tailor.
My favorite thing is interacting with the customer, delivering the accurate and precise product.
The most laborious task is that when shoes from our inventory come back, we’ve got to clean and sanitize them; that part I could do away with.
I had a passion for this dressing that I never knew I had. It took someone pointing it out. It is so right for me.
56, Easton: Annapolis Letter Carrier
I originally wanted to be a photographer but chose the post office for the steady work and benefits.
My favorite part is being out on the route. I’ve been on the Eastport-Hillsmere route since 1984, and my customers have become my friends.
I call my truck my little oven, because summer heat can raise the inside temperature to 125 degrees.
Sorting the mail for the route is the most laborious part of the job, taking about three hours each morning. Some is already automated, and now they’re talking about automating it all. I just can’t see it. I’m afraid the magazines will get ripped up.
Sorting and delivering takes longer once back-to-school advertisements start. Then the holidays all run together, and federal holidays really back things up.
I hate holidays. I’d rather work.
56, Lothian, Facility Manager for National Public Radio headquarters, Washington, D.C.
This wasn’t the job I had in mind after extensive missionary work and closing doors at Greenpeace, but it came pretty close.
I am facility manager for every NPR radio station in the country. I have responsibilities that urge me to be on-call anywhere in the United States.
I love how the location of the headquarters is so close to the National Mall because it reminds me that my job has made a huge contribution to its nation.
I just wish the parking in D.C. felt as rewarding as my radio station duties.
57, Huntingtown: Branch Manager, Twin Beaches Branch of Calvert Library
I live in Huntington now, but I still consider myself a Chesapeake Beach girl. When I was nine, the bookmobile service started making its rounds in Calvert County. That was in 1959. I couldn’t wait to take out a few books. Surrounded by books, I still love to read.
What I like best about my job is the interaction between my co-workers and the public. You meet such interesting people. In fact, I met my husband Bud in the library. When the new Prince Frederick library was opened, I bought a brick. What do you think I inscribed on it? Best Buds meet in the library.
57, Eastport: Southern High School Principal
I worked as an English teacher and assistant principal, and at Southern High School as a guidance counselor before coming back there this year as the new principal.
The most important part of my job is listening to and meeting the needs of students, parents and teachers in the best way possible for our community.
The best part about what I do is working with others to help students believe in themselves and prepare themselves for a more productive and happy life.
59, Lusby: Owner, Linda’s (House Cleaning) Services
I was a private duty nurse’s aide and started cleaning up around the place. My customer gave my name to someone who gave my name to someone and started the domino effect.
My favorite part is getting to meet and know people from different walks of life and know what I do for them is appreciated.
The most laborious part is the fact that I make a difference in someone’s home and have to go back in a couple of weeks and do it over again. In one home I worked and worked to make it in tip-top shape, and the only comment was I’d missed some cobwebs in the fireplace.
But when you look around at the accomplishment, you say, Yes, it was worth it.
60, Solomons: Integral Yoga Teacher
As a teen, I read in Seventeen magazine that yoga is a lazy-daisy exercise. Soon after, I saw an ad for a yoga book that mentioned postures, breathing exercises, meditation and philosophy. I ordered the book and each morning got up at 4am to do yoga before finishing my homework.
Teaching has been my calling, first special ed, now yoga. I practiced for decades before I took my first course. Now I live aboard a 36-foot sailboat and teach 13 to 15 classes each week, most through Calvert Memorial Hospital.
64: Edgewater, International Economic Development Consultant
I started in the Peace Corps in Kenya as an X-ray technician, but by the end of my first year, I was taking photographs and writing brochures to encourage volunteers to come to Kenya. This led to a degree in International Administration at The Experiment in International Living. As part of The Experiment, which is dedicated to ending war by promoting worldwide understanding, I travel and talk with people all over the world.
Today I assess programs, such as a women’s co-operative in the Sudan, look for ways to make the organization stronger and help them increase their businesses. It is extremely satisfying since I am helping whole communities to improve their lives.
65, Annapolis: Nail Technician, Alexander’s of Annapolis
My sister was in the nail business, and she talked me into going into it. I got my license in 1970.
I make people feel good, doing their nails and toenails. I most enjoy meeting the people, all the different personalities. I try to give little hints to people, like how to make their polish last.
In this job, you have to keep on time because if you don’t, your schedule for the rest of the day is going to be messed up.
You can’t please everyone. If someone comes in late, you can only do what you can do, but you’re not going to make your next client sit there.
69, Revell Downs: Barber
I chose to be a barber because my brother became a barber a year before me. So I went to work for him in Edgewater. I have another brother who is also a barber.
The most laborious part of my job is standing on my feet 11 hours a day when we’re really busy. My favorite part of my job is talking to the people and socializing all day.