I get paid to read. Yep. If you are a serious reader, you recognize how cool that is. There's a little bit more to the job of editing - correcting computer files and styling them for the designers, negotiating with authors without alienating them - but the heart of the job is reading critically and uncovering all manner of infelicities.* Editors make writers look good. It's an important job, although not highly compensated, except sometimes intellectually.
But, if you can believe it, I'm fortunate enough to be able to say that reading for a living is not the coolest job I've ever had. Not by a long shot.
I used to work at Old Frontier Town. We had donkeys and goats on the streets, a shootout every noon, a hanging at two, and gift shops in all the little buildings of the town. A steamtrain was molested by outlaws on the hour. The guy in the jail sold t-shirts, and the couple in the trading post sold penny candy and all manner of hillbilly paraphernalia (such as the hillbilly switchblade, which was made from one and a half clothespins and a rubber band). I was in the undertaker's selling handmade baskets.
I dressed in a prairie dress with an apron - yards and yards of pastel cotton print - and wore a bonnet when I went out on the street. It was if the baskets I made were magic. No matter how many I made after hours, I could never keep my shop well stocked. Baskets, cradles, chairs with caned seats flew out of the shop and went home with tourists from all over the world. No one told me what to make or how to make it. I kept raising my prices, and customers kept buying. It was a charmed life.
Was that the best job I've ever had? No.
I once worked as an assistant to The Amazing Gregor, magician extraordinaire. His wife was pregnant and had to stay off her feet, so she coached us, lying on an antique chaise in the back of the theater. I got the job partly because I fit the wardrobe, and every day I got to choose whatever gown and fancy heels I wanted to wear on stage.
Twice a day and three times on Saturdays I was cut in three parts and reassembled. Two blades of surgical steel! Gregor would shout and crash the blades together like cymbals before he pushed a blade across my knees and another across my chest. For that illusion, I screamed on cue. I agreed not to disclose his secrets.
We had rabbits and doves and self-lighting cigarettes. Umbrellas with hollow handles and magnetic playing cards. A box with a false bottom and a carton with a hinged door in the back. A box that made Gregor's head disappear. Flash paper and Chinese rings and a straightjacket.
Well, I can't choose. I've had great jobs. Jobs you wanted to be on time for. Jobs that were more fun than not. Jobs you can't believe someone would pay you for.
What is the best job you've ever had? What job would you have if there were no limitations on your imagination? Whose job would you like to do for a day?
*Other kinds of editors exist, but this is not a lesson in publishing, so I'll leave that subject for another time.