The Best Things In Life

Chaos in Print

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short existence, it’s that I am not destined to be happy. I gave up on setting goals a long time ago, having realized that I’ll always, always find a way to choke at the finish line. I still work hard, giving 110% to every task I do, even though I know it’s pointless. Hard work means nothing when your rival is much more personable or is on a first-name basis with the boss. The methods I’ve been taught to follow are not the methods that the world runs on.

To help pay my bills, I’ve been working all summer with my father in his oilfield consulting firm. It’s hard work. You have to hop in the truck, drive to the middle of nowhere, unload the quad, go another 20-km west of the middle of nowhere, and pick weeds. Recently, we’ve been working in the wonderful world of sump sampling. See, the sump is the pit next to an oil rig where all the liquid waste gets dumped. We have to go out and test it to see if it’s toxic. If the tests come back “toxic,” then it has to be pumped out and taken to a safe disposal site. If the tests come back “environmentally friendly,” then we tell the oil company that they can bury it.

No one in the oil patch enjoys sump sampling. As I said, the whole goal is to find out if it’s toxic or not. By the time we get out to it, it’s nothing but mud; foul-smelling mud that can suck you under if you take one wrong step. There’s the very distinct possibility that, what lies in that mud, can eat your skin, give you a nasty infection, and even cause cancer. Now, could you please stick your arm in it and fill up this little jar?

I was out at an oil rig a few days ago with my father. We were supervising the pump-out of a sump that had been deemed “toxic.” As we were walking around the job site, we noticed some water pooling down in the ditch. Now, this presented a very real concern. If some of that toxic sump fluid got down into that ditch, it could do some serious damage to the local ecosystem. We went on down to check it out.

We surveyed the ditch, and it looked like just your plain old regular swamp water. The ditch itself was mostly dried-out muskeg, making the earth beneath my feet to be unusually soft and spongy. We looked again at the water. Yes, it looked fine, but we needed to be sure. Dad gave me a sample jar and told me to collect a water sample. I took a look at the pond. I noticed a really tiny peninsula of very dark mud, just large enough for my right foot. I thought I’d stand on that patch of much and get just a little closer to the water. I stepped out onto the mud.

My leg was swallowed up by the Earth. My left leg remained on solid ground, and was the only thing that kept me from sinking into the quicksand. Once I had regained control of my body, my right leg was completely submerged in mud, right up to my mid-thigh. I tried to remain calm. Dad was freaking out a little. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. The suction on my right leg was incredibly strong. Try as I might, the mud just kept sucking me under. I was stuck.

Dad didn’t want to get any closer, for fear that he might get sucked under too. He went in search of stick. He soon came back with a 5-foot pole. It quickly turned into a scene from a Tarzan movie. I grabbed onto the pole and pushed as hard as I could with my left leg. Dad pulled with all his might, and I was eventually pulled from the mud. I flopped around on the ground for bit until I was able to right myself. My right leg was coated in mud, but unusually dry. We all breathed a sigh of relief and continued with our work.

Oh, and the water was not toxic, by the way.

We returned to the hotel that evening, where I immediately took of my pants and jumped in the shower. When I emerged all clean, I dropped down on the couch and tuned into the 6 o’clock news. I will admit that, given the recent busy time in my Dad’s work, my job hunting and following of the radio industry has slowed to a standstill. So I was surprised to see Edmonton’s radio station 96X featured on the news.

For those who haven’t heard, Brad Pitt is coming to Edmonton. He’s making a movie about the life of Jessie James, and the producers figure that Fort Edmonton Park will make a great set for the turn-of-the-century town featured in the film. Edmonton is the throws of Pitt-mania. Naturally, 96X is trying to cash in on this. They’ve put out a price on Pitt’s head. $10,000 can be yours if you can drag Brad Pitt down to the 96X studios for an interview. You can get $20,000 if you can nab Pitt and his current sweetie Angelina Jolie, and $50,000 is yours if you can get Pitt, Jolie, and Pitt’s ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. The news report went on to say that all this Pitt-mania may actually scare the film’s producers away from Edmonton.

As I watched the news, I couldn’t help but notice that the 96X announcer they were talking too looked awfully familiar. I recognized him. I knew him. He was one of my classmates at NAIT. He was the class goof-off. I had several run-ins with him and his goof-off ways. This man wanted to be a radio announcer, yet he routinely skipped his on-air shifts because he was drunk, high, and/or hung over.

And now, fresh out of school, he’s an announcer on the #1 station in Edmonton.

I couldn’t believe. I still don’t believe it. Things like this don’t happen. All I heard at NAIT was lecture after lecture about paying your dues, struggling at the small-market stations, and maybe, someday, you’ll be an announcer at a major market station. But here’s the class jerk-off doing it fresh out of school.

I’ve always known that this was to be my fate. I know that I’ll never get a job in radio. No one would hire me for my practicum. It took the head of NAIT’s Radio and Television program – one of the most powerful people at NAIT – calling in a favour in order for me to get a program. I’ve been working my tail off all summer trying to get that first job, and it’s gotten me nowhere.

So, I’ve learned my lesson. Hard work is not the way to get ahead in the world. You have to slack off, goof around, and just plain know that work comes second. Giving 110% to the job you love is the perfect way to screw yourself out of that job. Hard work will never achieve your dreams. The only place hard work will get you is knee deep in mud.

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