My Paper Trail of Adulthood

Dan Lyksett

I recently retired my business cards from their little slot in my wallet. I saved one for the rubber band-bound archive of my previous work and school ID's and business cards. It's my paper trail of adulthood.

Sorting through the cards, I count 11 former identities. The oldest: 1970 Wisconsin State University – Eau Claire student ID. The most recent: The now pastured “online news editor.” The worst photo: Machine operator, Andersen Windows, Bayport, Minn., start date May 7, 1973. No beard, bad hair.

One of my favorites is “Cavallaro's Liquors & Deli,” Monterey, Calif., Spring 1978. I'd just migrated  there and needed a job, so I answered a newspaper ad for a night clerk. I go to the store and get an application from a thin, pale, older guy behind the counter who seems mildly amused by my collared shirt and tie. He tells me the owner will be in anytime. 

When Joe Cavallaro bursts through the door, his aura screams “owner.” Middle-aged, short, thick of body and beard, quick on his feet and electric of manner, Joe commands the room, barreling toward the back of the store but pausing in mid-stride to straighten bottles askew on a shelf, then noticing dust and, offended, orders its immediate removal.

The clerk slows him down enough to mention I was in about the job. Joe gives me the once-over and gestures for me to follow him. He leads me through a door to his “office,” a cluttered desk shoved in the corner of the back room. He falls into his chair, motions for me to sit across from him and starts scanning my application.

“You bartended, so you've run a cash register,” Joe says without looking up. I nod.

He puts down the application, leans back in his chair, sticks out his chin and says: “You're from Wisconsin.”

“Yes.”

“You hunt?”

“Yes.”

“Ever fire a handgun?”

“Yes.”

“When can you start?”

I had the job. And before I fill out the W-2, Joe shows me the .357 magnum revolver hidden at the front counter and the Remington 870 12 gauge stashed in the back room. 

“You got five rounds” Joe says, gesturing to the shotgun. “Two buckshot - one in the chamber - two slugs and one more buckshot in case things aren't going so good.”

I loved working for Joe, and thankfully I never had to break into the armory.

My business card archive includes titles like employment counselor, store manager, core staff supervisor and more than three decades worth of various reporting and editing positions. Thumbing through the cards, I consider how closely I've always tied my identity to my jobs. And I sense the now-empty slot in my wallet where business cards live. 

So I think I'll print my own business cards. But what is my new job title? “Writer?” Perhaps, but that feels presumptuous. “Retired?” No, not yet. Right now, I guess I'm leaning toward “Explorer.”

Dan Lyksett took 15 years to graduate from college and spent 34-plus years as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor. He wonders what will happen next.

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