Marolt: Figuring out work isn’t easy the hard way

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt

I used to be a hard guy to impress. It had something to do with me being a cocky kid who thought he could do anything … if he really wanted to … which explained the grade point average.

Life is a series of early mornings pierced by the sound of an old-fashioned alarm clock, with a simple electrical buzzer, no snooze button, sitting on the dresser on the other side of the room so that the only way to shut it off is by jumping out of bed, as if bitten by a scorpion, and racing across the room before the ever increasing volume of the buzzer that would otherwise not cease until the world runs out of electricity makes you feel what it must be like to be chased by an hungry cheetah through a burning rainforest.

So, let’s start with the big three rude awakenings, the things that only require a big break to be successful at: singing, dancing or acting. Take your pick.

I thought it was a good idea to start small. Trying out for a Sprite commercial would be perfect. All they required was playing volleyball wearing green and yellow clothes and then chugging a bottle of Sprite. There I was, jumping and spiking, wiping sweat off my face onto the front of the yellow shirt they gave me, and slamming bottle after bottle of Sprite. I thought it a good idea to show up thirsty.

It turns out they were a little picky. Not that much foam came out of my nose when I burped in the middle of my line. At least my acting reflected reality.

I took that experience to a Coke commercial tryout. I like Coke more than Sprite anyway. The tryout consisted of skiing the last three gates of an Olympic slalom, looking at the scoreboard in anticipation, and then reacting with joy at the realization of winning the gold medal. Kid stuff.

I came tearing through the mock course and made sure to knock down every gate. I threw up a cloud of snow on the camera crew for effect. I pictured a brand new Camaro getting mistakenly crushed in a salvage yard. This was to replicate the tense wait for my time to appear on the scoreboard. Then I imagined myself actually winning an Olympic gold medal. I lifted my skis over my head and threw them into the crowd. I ran around in circles like a fighter jet in landing pattern and then did a headfirst slide on my belly across the snow. I rolled over and started making snow angels. Of course that is exactly the way Wold Cup racers act nowadays, but I think I was a little ahead of my time. The producer just looked shocked.

I never did get into a TV commercial.

Perhaps I had an overinflated self-assessment of my talent from a young age. I spent the first 22 years of my life expecting to be a major league baseball player, but that turned out to be a hair more difficult than expected. I never would have guessed that 30 years later I would be in awe of the talent possessed by second-string utility players and pitchers with ERAs above 4.00. I’m very philosophical about this. It was life’s way of telling me that when it came to playing baseball I had lots of book smarts. So, I coached for a while.

Many other clues about things I couldn’t do well didn’t sink in quickly. I tried to sell expensive clothing, but didn’t feel comfortable enough in them to make anybody else want to try. I made a go at ski instructing only to find out patience is a virtue I need to work on. I signed up to fly jets in the U.S. Navy before finding out it wasn’t about riding motorcycles with pretty girls on the back when you weren’t buzzing the tower in your F-14. I worked as a landscaper, which segued off of my experience groundskeeping the graveyard. I’ve worked on building houses. I’ve sold ski gear to ski shops. I’ve bagged groceries, picked up range balls at the golf course and stacked lumber for Boise Cascade. I have a certificate that says I’m a CPA. I’m forever trying to figure out if I am really a writer.

Experience makes me impressed with almost all things people do that they are productive with. The great exception is politics. It seems the ones who are good at that get rich by doing nothing. Anyone could do that … if nothing else panned out.

Roger Marolt has no idea what he wants to be someday, but the knows being it won’t be easy.