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  • I knew the second I took this job that I would dread the question asked by all Civilized Human American Adults: So, what do you do?

    I cringe whenever I hear it. The way I make my money is not an area I'm eager to promote.

    It goes something like this:

    Civilized human being: (perfunctory) So, what do you do?
    Me: (hedging) I work in landscaping...(no pun intended)
    "Are you a landscaper?" They always follow up.
    No, horticulture isn't my thing. The color of my thumb is closer to charcoal than chartreuse.

    Awkward pause. Too awkward. I cave.
    "I do maintenance work on koi ponds and fountains."
    To which they seem obliged to say, "Oh...that sounds interesting" in a tone like they are trying to convince me. I'm not buying. We've come this far; now, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to trap this person and expound on all the reasons why it is not interesting.

    "Not really," I launch in about the filthy nets and bags of rotting sludge, the permanent stench in my car trunk. Or whacking my head on trees, stumbling over rocks, crawling through shrubbery. I can't seem to cooperate with polite, grown-up, Stepford style, I-love-my-job, fake enthusiastic chit-chat. (This is the point where my mother would point out, That's why you never make any new friends.)

    "Well, you must like the fish (or the water or the tranquility...)," they venture.
    No, I don't particularly like water or fish (strange for a Pisces, I know.)
    Do these same people tell the guy at the drive-thru, "Well, you must like hamburger buns (or sesame seeds or ground meat...)?
    Usually by this time they're looking around a little for some excuse to wrap up the conversation. It's just gotten too weird.

    "It's like gardening and cleaning your toilet at the same time!" I want to make sure and get that out before they slink away.
    Now they are desperate to get as far as possible from this weird girl with the tattoos who cleans mud puddles for a living.

    Maybe next time the better question would be: So, what do you want to be when you grow up?
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