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New career at the Jville Visitors Center

It is said a person lives several lifetimes within the whole. It was I who just said it. A door slams, and a gate appears or, sometimes, a sledgehammer.

I used to envy those who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. They attended college, achieved the appropriate degree for their chosen line of work, toiled for 20 or 30 years, then retired to RV travel. My course has not been thus, and I’m OK with that.

I’ve enjoyed several jobs during my lifetime, each one bringing special people and education, though I never found one with which I could be content for long. New beginnings often hide around corners. Mine waited in Jacksonville, giggling like an excited child with a gift.

This week I start a part-time shift at the Visitors Center, which is perfectly located smack inside the historical train depot. I sell trolley tickets instead of train tickets. I realize that doing a happy dance at this stage of life is somewhat unorthodox, but I ask myself, when have I ever cleaved to the orthodox?

I’m already familiar with most of Jacksonville and curious about the rest. I can point people to the public restrooms, the library, eating places, coffeehouses, cemetery, hiking trails, Beekman’s Bank and several wine-tasting rooms.

But I was never good with dates, so should someone start asking me about years, they may receive a perplexed but sincere smile. In history class, all those numbers ran together like a combination lock, though I usually got the century right.

Our VC has a wall of brochures and racks of booklets to show people every slice of entertainment in our beloved valley and beyond. Because I’ve covered so many places here, I feel good about this new adventure. Did I mention it’s in an old depot?

In a way, this VC job reminds me of one I had in Phoenix, Arizona, when I worked as a taxpayer service rep answering questions for the IRS. Except instead of being on vacation, our callers were somewhere on the angry spectrum of merely irritated or ready to blow. Plus, they were sweating.

One distasteful element of that job was the electronic counters. We were expected to answer as many calls per hour as possible — a numbers game. At break time, there was this mad rush to the Wall o’ Counters to see where they stacked up. The gloaters were always stampeding ahead. I preferred to take my time and make sure the irate or mildly peeved person on the other end received the help they needed. So I got in the habit of answering and hanging up the phone between calls. Click, click.

I have a clicker in this office too, but it’s simply ... to keep track of ... how many ... Hey, wait a minute. Life comes full circle after all.

At the IRS, I feared if I stuck around for long, I would start to resemble most of the other women who had been celebrating someone’s birthday for years with casseroles and platters overflowing with cakes and cookies. I mean, it was like one extended Southern Baptist potluck. Someone was always having a birthday.

Heck, some of us had four or five a year. Those Feds could cook. I still have a handwritten recipe for Farnesi’s Italian Cream Cake somewhere in my recipe box. I need to pull that sucker out and celebrate. They fingerprinted us for that job. That’s how everyone got their dishes back.

I still plan to pen this column for as long as they’ll have me, so don’t you start celebrating. In fact, I’ll be writing feature articles once more for the Jacksonville Review, a quality community publication by Whitman Parker, a dear man who picked up the phone and called me at an opportune juncture. Writing is what I’ve always wanted to do, after all.

Visit me at the VC Fridays and Saturdays so I can count you on the clicker. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, but BYOBC (bring your own Bundt cake).

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com. Be nice, or she’ll call her old friends.