Su Lum: Slumming | AspenTimes.com

Su Lum: Slumming

Su Lum
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

As I enter my 47th year at The Aspen Times, I’ve decided to take some time off to contemplate retirement from my “real job” here, my job as ad salesperson or, as they call it now, “account executive.”

This is different from my “home job” of writing this column, a job that doesn’t pay the rent but which I’m not ready to abandon.

But ad sales? It took me about five minutes to decide. It’s time. I have enough trouble keeping up with my pills while the parade flies by with new computer systems and team efforts to sell social networking when I don’t know the difference between an iPad and an iPod and don’t even have a cell phone. It’s time.

What would I do with myself, I’ve been wondering for some time. Would I lie abed and rot, sloth begetting sloth? I thought I might need the “structure,” having worked all my life. What would my dachshunds, Nicky and Freddie, do if I didn’t sing the “Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go” song every morning, sending them into deliriums.

On the other hand, by the time I shower, shampoo, saddle up my oxygen pack, heist the dogs into the Volkswagen Beetle and herd them down the Times alley, my back is already hurting – I could make life easier for myself.

The Aspen Times has been very, very good to me. Decades ago, when we were still using linotype machines and a hand-fed press, I fell into the job as ad manager by being in the right place at the right time. It never seemed like work, though I did work my butt off during those days when I’d melt wax on my kitchen stove and paste up ads on a little light table at night using a popsicle stick to spread the wax on the back of the ad copy.

Over the years as I eased off and eased out, they let me do it at my own pace, and now I’m down to a handful of clients and a handful of hours – time to pack it in. And pack up the contents of my rolltop desk, a daunting prospect. I always said I’d die at my desk to avoid that chore, and there’s still time.

The Aspen Times was part of my family, the building an extension of my home. What will I do now? But I have so much stuff to do that I think retirement will be more work than working. There are boxes and boxes of papers to sort, writing projects to get going on, people to see and correspondences to keep up, and with every passing year time goes by faster and faster. If anything, I’ll be too busy.

The easiest thing to imagine is letting go of all the extraneous computer information that’s cluttering up what’s left of my brain. All those random passwords and different instructions for different programs, all those customer numbers and ad numbers and phone numbers we have to deal with. I can already feel all of that crap being sucked out of my head with the gentle vacuum cleaner of freedom.

The hardest thing to imagine is being cut off from the corporate email. I won’t much miss the inspirational sales messages, but I will dearly miss the flurry of accusations about the overflowing refrigerator (I haven’t dared open the fridge door in 20 years), the missing marijuana buds or the outrage over who peed on the toilet seat, accidentally or on purpose.

Finally, there’s the prospect of surrendering my key to the Times, my second home. That will be especially hard. Maybe I can make a small nest for myself in the front-office window with our old company cat, Scoop. You can come in and pet me from time to time.


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