Dear Michael and Caroline,
One summer, when I was about 18, I worked in a warehouse. My father got me the job through a family connection. I loaded 50-pound sacks of flour onto railroad boxcars in 100-degree heat. I never labored physically so hard in my life, neither before nor since.
Every day that summer I came home exhausted, barely able to move. I had to blow my nose for five minutes just to eliminate all the accumulated gunk I inhaled in those boxcars. I came home so filthy, my hands smeared black, that I had to scrub myself with special industrial soap, scrub and scrub until the smell of the warehouse was gone.
I learned that that’s how some people work because that’s the only job they can get, and to appreciate the opportunity to go to college and get an education and work in an office where my fingernails would never get dirty. That job taught me a lesson I’ll never forget, a lesson well-learned.
I also delivered pizza in Hackensack one summer, driving around in our blue Chevelle with a hotbox in the back seat, trying to find the right houses and apartments, getting tipped 50 cents here and maybe a dollar there.
I put in some time at a Sam Goody store, too, at the Garden State Plaza, directing customers to the new Led Zeppelin albums and getting paid all of $1.60 an hour.
I worked briefly in a children’s clothing store, too, and for two whole days at a dry-cleaning establishment in Fort Lee (I was terrible at wrapping laundry).
I shoveled snow, too, sidewalks and driveways, for a few bucks here and there, more for the adventure than the money.
We always had money, but somehow my family impressed on me at an early age – my first newspaper route came at 12 – that I should hold a job. And that attitude carried into adulthood.
And again, I’ve benefitted from all my jobs. At my first adult job, at a weekly newspaper, I got to cover the news. Then, at a magazine for pharmacists, I covered the drugstore business. It was hardly the perfect job, but my editor, Stanley Siegelman, liked my writing and gave me free rein.
Years later, I would switch careers from journalism to public relations, and come under the tutelage of Morty Matz, in his cramped offices on lower Broadway, just two blocks north of City Hall, and then the masterly Howard Rubenstein.
And in those six years with those two men, I got to live a life few people ever see. I handled every kind of client from a socialite accused of assault to the world’s best known celebrity divorce attorney. I helped keep the famous famous and the rich rich. And in the process I discovered that I could practice a second profession as well as I had the first, maybe better, and certainly earn a better income.
I also came to recognize that I was capable of working harder and longer – and, yes, smarter, too – than I ever imagined possible. So let me bring this to a close and say that although I never really wanted to hold a job, it’s good I did, and do.