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Turning the Page

Kenyon Sayler

I RECENTLY WROTE about taking a seasonal part-time position during the holidays. My job at the bookstore has now ended. Later this year, I’ll decide whether I want to take another part-time job. With that in mind, I thought I’d review the good and not-so-good aspects of the job, while they’re still fresh in my memory.

Let’s start with the plusses. First, the job gave structure to my weeks. My employer provided me with a work schedule three weeks in advance. That allowed me to plan my other commitments around the job. Most mornings, I woke up knowing what I had to accomplish that day. Even days when I didn’t work required a bit of planning, since I had less wiggle room to postpone tasks to the next day.

Second, there was the interaction with coworkers and customers. I enjoyed talking about the latest books. I’d never before heard of Colleen Hoover. Some customers had never heard of Tony Hillerman or Bertrand Russell. It was great discussing Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books with a customer who had just discovered them. I learned far more about manga and romance novels than I thought I’d ever need to know. I can now at least discuss both genres without a blank stare on my face.

The third benefit was that I lost weight while working. I regularly walk the dog, ride my bike and do strength training. But the job provided several thousand additional steps on workdays as I traversed the sales floor shelving books and assisting customers, plus the work schedule kept me from sneaking in a mid-afternoon snack.

Finally, there was the money. I hadn’t taken the job because I needed the money to meet daily living expenses or to keep up with inflation. Instead, I opted to work to keep from being bored. But let’s face it, bringing in a few extra dollars can be satisfying.

What about the job wasn’t great? Paradoxically, the daily structure may have been a benefit, but it was also the largest drawback. I was once again working for The Man—or, in this case, The Woman. While my employer was flexible about when I worked, I didn’t want to be a burden and place too many restrictions on my work schedule. That meant that, for six weeks, I missed my biweekly game night with friends. As we get older, we have fewer friends and connections. Skipping those games for six weeks was a bigger deal than I’d imagined. I also missed a family gathering that took place one weekend.

Next October, I’ll have to decide whether the benefits of seasonal part-time work are greater than the drawbacks. Which way am I leaning? Right now, it really is a toss-up.

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