Working for a Living
interviews by Diana Beechener, Rachel Rabold,
Erica Stratton and Margaret Tearman
Labor Day sketches of the jobs we do
Bus boy, bartender, ladies of the night
Grease monkey, ex-junky, winner of the fight
Walking on the streets it’s really all the same
selling souls, rock n’ roll, any other day
Huey Lewis & the News
With the last days of summer looming large before us, the post-Labor Day working world can look as bleak as the last-minute beach traffic along Rt. 50. But all is not lost. The daily nine-to-five doesn’t have to be a chore if you enjoy what you’re doing. Nor does it have to be nine-to-five.
Our roving reporters, who like their jobs very much, profile 14 workers, 12 by land and two by sea. From chimney sweep to rabbi to funeral director to harbor master, Bay Weekly found a common thread: Job satisfaction.
As long as you like what you’re doing, working for a living can be okay.
Personal Chef: 49 • Owings
Business is good for life-long foodie Bourne. She cooks in kitchens from St. Mary’s to Kent Island. “My business as a personal chef is the perfect occupation for me because I get to combine the love of cooking with caring for people.”
Lucky people. Bourne not only plans the meals but also does all the shopping, prepping and clean-up. Her work is appreciated, and she loves that, too.
“I was cooking for a senior couple, who I have been with for a while, when the husband entered the kitchen and thanked me for taking such good care of him and his wife. It’s rewarding to know that they are getting healthier food that is made to their specifications. Healthy food comes from a person’s kitchen, not a box.”
Shoe salesman: 48 • Annapolis
“I just look at feet all day,” says Scott Broerman, who, with wife Marty, owns the Annapolis Fleet Feet Sports franchise.
After retiring from the Navy, Broerman transitioned from weight lifting to running. Next he fell into step with the sport-shoe business.
“We chose our work,” says Broerman, who had to complete Fleet Feet’s extensive fit training program before getting franchise approval. “Proper fit and stability are the most important things to look for. People come in and they’ve been trying to find the right shoe forever.”
Thirty to 40 percent of his business comes from medical referrals.
Using a model skeletal foot Broerman walks each of his customers through the physiological reasons for his shoe selection. “I kind of geeked-out about this.”
His favorite part of the job, he says is watching his young staff geek out about shoes, too.
“It’s positive energy and a good flow,” Broerman says.
Chimney Sweep: 63 • Chesapeake Country
It is good that Neil Crandall got over his fear of heights early in his career, for he’s been cleaning Bay Country chimneys since 1978. He started cleaning chimneys with friend Bobby Riddle.
“We were teaching middle school in Calvert and needed to make some more money without ripping off the community.”
Riddle left for law school, but Crandall loved the work and made it his career. “I like making people’s homes safe and making friends. Today my biggest challenge is getting to the chimneys in these new houses. They weren’t built with any thought to maintenance. My 40-foot ladder isn’t long enough.”
Harbormaster: 66 • Annapolis
“Boaters don’t like hearing the word no,” says Harbormaster Ulric Dahlgren. But that’s what he has to say, frequently, to City Dock boaters who barbeque on the dock (a fire hazard), speed around the slips (dangerous) and swim in Ego Alley (just plain dumb).
“I have to modify people’s behavior, and at the same time I have to serve their needs,” says Dahlgren. “I wear a lot of different hats like law enforcement and host. We’ll talk to people and try to get them to comply. Otherwise we’ll write them a ticket.”
The harbormaster came upon his job by accident, arriving at a City Hall meeting to find information on starting a charter boat business. Instead, he found himself answering questions about towing boats.
“When the old harbormaster was retiring, they kinda gave me a shot,” Dalhgren says. “It’s a fun job, but there are elements of stress.” One of those major stresses, Boat Show, is coming up in October.
“The busiest part of the season for us is probably from September 1 through Boat Show time,” he says. “We start losing our seasonal staff right about now, because they start going back to school. That means that we’re all kinda burned out by Boat Show.”
Driving Instructor: 38 • Annapolis
“I like teaching in the classroom. I can express myself,” says driving instructor Raphael Elguera, who teaches at Anne Arundel County’s only bilingual driving school, Alfredo’s, off Chinquapin Round Road. “I’m teaching in Spanish and in English.”
“I wanted to teach students how to drive properly,” Elguera says. “I have many friends who don’t know how to drive.”
Elguera switches between teaching a two-week English course and a two-week Spanish course that takes students from a fake steering wheel and pedals in the classroom to a real car on the road.
In either language, Elguera’s challenges are the same. “You have to be patient,” he says even “when the students do not practice the hours that they should.” Many of his students can’t practice enough because of the long hours they work. This may be why Elguera prefers the classroom to the open road.
“Teaching in the class is safe, no?”
Traditional Contra and Square Dance Caller: 66 • West Annapolis
“You’re never 100 percent sure of what your audience is going to be,” says Ann Fallon, who organizes and occasionally calls the monthly dances at Annapolis Friends Meeting House.
“I started dancing contras and squares back in 1986,” Fallon says. “After a few years, my husband and I got involved in organizing squares. Then we taught square dancing demonstrations before the dances.” After a few turns around the floor as an instructor, Fallon wanted to be the one calling the shots.
“You go to callers’ workshops at dance weekends or dance camps that feature a week-long caller’s workshop. Plus you ask established callers to give you a chance to call on their programs.” After 18 years of calling, Fallon still thrives on the unpredictability of the dance.
“I went to a job where they told me ‘we have a group of Chinese exchange students,’” Fallon recalls. “There was a translator, but I had to change my program and rely on the experienced dancers to help me.”
Ari J. Goldstein
Rabbi: 38 • Arnold
“I care about Judaism. I care about the Jewish people. And I care about the Jewish community. I felt like being a rabbi could further enrich and support my need to build the Jewish community.”
Goldstein found his community at Arnold’s Temple Beth Shalom. “My favorite thing about my job is the intense connections with people,” Goldstein says. The rabbi also has a flexible schedule most days.
“The worst part about the job is having a schedule that is unpredictable,” says Goldstein. “Funerals come up and family vacations get cancelled.” The rabbi also learned that fluency is essential to a good spiritual leader, while a lifelong desire to study theology is not.
“When you’re in college and you see that senior year is rolling around and you ask yourself the very uncomfortable question what am I doing with myself next year? You realize, maybe the best option is for me to continue to go to school,” says Goldstein. Rabbinical school “didn’t choose me. I chose it.”
Singing Waiter: 22 • Annapolis
“A nine-to-five has never been an option,” says Brandon Hardesty, at Middleton Tavern where he is working lunch. Beyond shaggy hair and relaxed stance, would you recognize him as the musician you saw last night?
Playing two or three nights a week at hot spots around Annapolis like Armadillo’s, the Whiskey and Middleton’s is Hardesty’s favorite job of three. Bartending and waiting tables pay the bills.
“You can learn a lot about society interacting with people,” he says, and meeting people is his favorite part of restaurant work. People also can be the worst: “It’s amazing how demanding people can be.”
The stress of restaurant days fades when he’s playing acoustic rock. “My dream is to play music for the rest of my life,” he says. “I go to college for the single purpose of having something to fall back on.”
A customer listening in asks about his band. Animated conversation about Zeppelin ensues, before Hardesty clears the table and offers another beer.
Dog Trainer: 59 • Hyattsville
When a Doberman latches its powerful jaws on to Butch Henderson’s arm, it’s all part of the plan. Henderson’s Liberty K training at Bladensburg focuses on working dogs who’ll do police jobs and search and rescue. He tames house pets as well, teaching dog etiquette at pet camps, resorts like Perfect Pet and private lessons.
“My training deals with so many dog variations that nothing is unusual,” says Henderson.
Henderson’s mastery of Schutzhund a German protection-dog training sport has taken him around the world.
“I got a chance to represent the United States nine or 10 times [in Schutzhund competitions],” says Henderson, who has traveled to Germany France and Italy to show in world competitions.
“I really don’t have a downside to my job,” Henderson says. “Some dogs are just more challenging than others. If it becomes hard, it just makes me a better trainer.”
Iceman: 56 • Edgewater
“I’ve had this job since 1976. I was 24 when I started working for the ice company,” says David Loftice, who hauls for 10 hours a day, moving as many as 1,650 bags of ice. “It’s hard work, but I’m glad at my age I can still do it.”
“I like drivin’ the truck, I like bein’ outdoors. I’m kinda my own boss. I do the route the way I want to do it.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people are friendly,” he says.
But some days the iceman’s work is hot. One route sends him to 20 marinas, bringing ice for the boats. “Some of the marinas you feel like the witch in the Wizard of Oz: I’m melting, I’m melting!”
College Student/Server at Crofton Damon’s/Bay Weekly Summer Intern: 21 • Millersville and Towson
“I wanted to have a career someday, not just scour the classifieds for jobs my whole life. I found Bay Weekly while scanning the Anne Arundel Community College catalog. It was a newspaper internship, and since journalism was my major, it just seemed like the logical step.”
Rabold spent two weeks sifting through children’s activities to write Bay Weekly’s Just for Kids calendar and driving to snoball stands, tree-related press conferences and tourism seminars as a roving reporter.
Newspapering was not all fun and games for the Towson University transfer student. “Learning how to talk to a stranger and pretend that I’m completely confident was hard,” Rabold said.
In her two-week stint, Rabold also got a taste for the perks of journalism. “I got to go to events and interview people. I got free Renaissance Festival tickets. It was great.”
Funeral Director: 52 • St. Leonard
Maybe it’s in her blood, but it wasn’t something she expected to do. “My father was a funeral director, but I never thought I would follow. My first funeral was Christmas Eve, 1972. We were just sitting down to a big holiday dinner when my father was called to work. I felt bad he had to leave, so I went with him.”
The job has changed with the county, says Rausch. “Calvert funerals used to be cookie-cutter. Not any more. Now we have many different religions and backgrounds. Nothing’s the same.”
To personalize a funeral, family members are asked to bring a personal item of the deceased. “We’ve had to draw the line at motorcycles in the funeral home. We just don’t do that.”
Master furniture/cabinet-maker: 66 • Barstow
Creating fine cabinets and custom furniture is a second career for Simmons, who began his working life as a Prince George’s County firefighter. “I started out as a volunteer when I was 16 and stayed until I retired in 1985,” he says.
Taking advantage of a firefighter’s shift-work, he opened his cabinet shop in 1983. He credits a “real good” high school shop teacher for getting him interested in furniture making. “Making furniture is creative, and I love the challenge. It takes five to six weeks to make just a simple four-poster bed. An intricate design will take longer.”
Today, selling custom furniture is also a challenge. Keeping up with popular design, Simmons finds himself building more cabinets and shelving. “Most people today aren’t interested in furniture. Instead they want big wall units and such” for those big TVs.
Naval Communication Specialist: 27 • At sea USS Harry S. Truman
Once a land-lubber living in Owings, Troutman found his calling at sea. Today he is seeing the world’s oceans and terra firma as a Third Class Petty Officer with the U.S. Navy.
“I love to write, and I joined the Navy primarily to be a journalist. Working on the ship’s newspaper has enabled me to write consistently. I have an associate’s degree in graphic arts and multimedia, and I apply those skills to maintaining the ship’s website. I love this work.”
A benefit of Troutman’s job is the travel. “So far,” he says, “the Navy has taken me to Dubai, Rhodes, Greece and Marseille, Monte Carlo, Monaco and Paris. Traveling across the French countryside to get from Marseille to Paris was probably the most memorable journey of my life.”