Despite all the careers I’ve had (at least five depending on how you count, including teaching English in Japan, being a congregational rabbi, then a hospice chaplain, and now Chief Marketing Officer for my husband’s investment company), one of my favorite jobs was the one I had in the summer of 1983. I was a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin majoring in linguistics, and had just been let go from my job of selling bagels on campus shortly after joining their enterprise. Seems I was too overdressed for the image they wanted to project. I did not happen to have shirts with holes in my possession.
I did not want to repeat my other temporary job experiences in Austin such as peeling vegetables in dank kitchens, so I applied to be a security guard at one of UT’s dorms. Given what you might know about me, you may be thinking, how could a sweet girl like you want to take a job like that? Goes to show you honey you never can tell. Turns out the boss had hired me as the first woman to fill this position. Oh, I thought. I am a trailblazer. Little did I dream this would be the precursor to my being one of the first 200 female rabbis in the world when I was ordained in the early 90’s at Hebrew Union College in New York City.
I was to patrol the dorm halls as well as the various levels of the parking garage nearby to protect and defend the vulnerable residents. I especially loved walking around the garage; being up high in the cross breezes was a relief from the Texas heat, and I got to have a terrific view of the stars during my 4 to 11PM shift. Once in awhile I had a friend or two join me for that view. And at the reception area, I was to let in male visitors to the dorms only if they submitted an entry permit to my scrutiny, and only after I called the lady in question to confirm that the visit was desired. I wore a blue uniform (Whew, no issue about how I was dressed), and carried a walkie-talkie where I got to say “Unit One to Unit Two, come in please,” just like on the detective shows. I also was armed with a canister of mace as I bravely went about my duties.
One time, two male youths were vandalizing light bulbs on one of the parking lot floors. I first approached them to ask them to stop, and then discretely reported the incident to my boss on the walkie-talkie. I found out later that he had deliberately sent them up there to see if I would do something about it. Another thing I remember was when he hired another guard to replace one of my peers. When this newcomer made unwelcome commentary regarding my gender, all with alcohol on his breath, the boss got rid of him straightaway. What a great boss! Remember this was in the 80’s. No wonder I liked this gig. He protected me, gave me challenges, and explained that he had admired and therefore hired me, woman and all, because I was more savvy due to my life experiences. Unlike many other UT students, I had lived and worked in El Salvador, Colombia, and Japan.
There you go, all the elements of a rewarding job: adventure, pleasant surroundings, variety, a leisurely pace, exercise, and above all, a boss who respected and appreciated me. Now then: what’s that you were saying to me about the summer job you yourself had when you were a student?
For more of my writing on a small scale, see me on https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan