Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“What do you do?”

'The False Mirror' by Rene Magritte (slightly altered)We’re all familiar with the question “What do you do?” Is often one of the first ones asked when meeting someone new. Most of us have well rehearsed answers prepared, so much so the response becomes a kind of reflex. This is what I do. This is who I am.

I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post how I’d been to my father’s retirement party a few days ago. Got asked the “What do you do?” question a lot that night, actually. Was an especially fun, memorable time, and I wanted to share just a couple of quick thoughts from it here.

My father has worked at the same place for more than 40 years. In other words, for a long time he has always had a ready answer for “What do you do?”

In some respects the party was a kind of “This Is Your Life”-type deal for him, with friends, family, and colleagues from across the decades all turning up to show their appreciation and support. Indeed, I also had the chance there to reunite with a number of people whom I hadn’t really seen since I was a child or perhaps a teenager. I met a lot of other people, too -- colleagues of my father, past and present -- and so, like I say, it was an enjoyable night of socializing with a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds.

Have noted here recently about how I am also stepping away from a long-time place of employment. My decision wasn’t in any way connected to my father’s retirement, but I will say that I have known for a long time I wouldn’t be working in the position I was in for forty-plus years the way he did.

Long ago, Pop had found for himself a genuine “calling,” and had the additional good fortune of finding a place that fit especially well with what he wanted to do. For me, I knew that in my job I was neither pursuing a genuine “calling” nor was I working at a place that was suitably nurturing, challenging, rewarding, what have you.

Given that I’ve just left a job, I found myself in the potentially awkward position of having to introduce myself a little differently than I have over the past few years. I’m a freelance writer, I told everyone, and after a few times of doing so it became more comfortable to say. When pressed further, I explained that while I’m writing in different areas, one in which I spend a lot of time and energy is poker. Most were intrigued by that, and it made for some interesting conversation.

Some readers might recall my having written here in the past about how, generally speaking, I have tended not to volunteer such information in these types of gatherings. A couple of posts -- “The Double Life of the Poker Player” and “Poker at the Dinner Table” -- spring to mind.

In any event, it was during one such conversation with an elderly couple -- both septuagenarians -- about my poker writing that the husband mentioned his wife liked watching poker on television. She then explained how much she enjoyed watching that mean man lose to the girl the other day. “She was just twenty-one!” she said.

I knew immediately to whom she was referring. You probably do, too. She’d seen the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship a couple of weeks ago, and was referring to Annette Obrestad’s second-round victory over Phil Hellmuth. I explained to her that a lot of people enjoyed seeing that one turn out that way.

I came away from that conversation thinking how NBC, ESPN, and others have done pretty well in their efforts to package poker as a kind of sporting event or game show, thereby making it seem interesting to a wide audience, including those who may not have otherwise considered the idea of watching people sit around a table playing cards something to see.

I also thought about how I liked having that reference point for future conversations about what I do with people otherwise outside of our little pokery world. Just about everyone I spoke to the other night had at least caught a glimpse of poker on ESPN, or seen the commercials for PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker. They know there is such a thing as professional poker and that media cover it.

Helps simplify the explainin’ somewhat, when it comes to my trying to answer that question “What do you do?”

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Blogger ALC said...


Annette Obrestad not only beat Phil Hellmuth, she really outplayed him. It should be a real wake up call to Hellmuth. He is so blinded by his tremendous ego that he can't see that the game is passing him by.

A quick story about when my Father retired. He had been retired for about a year and we went to see someone who he knew very casually. The man asked, "How's business?" My father's reply..."Slow."


5/11/2010 9:53 AM  

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