Since I turned pro, I never worry about myself. I’m too busy worrying for others. That’s how I earn my living. I’m a professional worrier.
From fretting about my sister’s toddler running into the street to global climate change, I carry the world on my sensitive shoulders like Atlas.
It’s a demanding job, one I reluctantly undertook six months ago after my wife forced me to make a mid-life career change.
“For crying out loud, is someone paying you to worry?” Sharon exploded in the midst of traffic en route to Palm Springs for a summer weekend getaway. “This is your last warning. I don’t’ want to hear about the oven, lights, doors, faulty smoke detectors……”
“What about the sprinklers? Sure we turned them off?”
Sharon lunged for the car door.
“Okay, take it easy. It’s just that we’re in a drought. We could get fined for wasting water.”
“Give me a break,” Sharon volleyed back. “Do you think anyone on this blistering freeway is worried about the drought?”
I surveyed the frustrated drivers to my left and right. “No, they’re probably worried about their cars overheating. Notice, I didn’t say anything about ours.”
Boiling over, Sharon fanned herself with my voluminous trip list. “So why don’t you add all their worries to your list?”
I tore my eyes from the temperature gauge and gave Sharon a hard look. “Sarcasm aside, you might have a point. They say 98 percent of the time worrying doesn’t help, so what’s the harm in turning it over to a professional worrier?”
A malignant spark flared in my wife’s eyes. She smacked me with my list.
“Hey, you could start a business. The possibilities are endless. I can see it now…My husband, worrier to the President. Reporters are crowded around Barack verbally pummeling him. Is the President worried? ‘Nope,’ he says, ’but check him out’. He points to you clutching your tense cheeks, shaking your head. ‘nukes, Putin, Obamacare, the dollar, my legacy, oy vey.’”
In the side view mirror I peered at the visage of a nebbish. A hundred petty worries hung on my sallow face like rusting chains. I couldn’t remember the last time I slept through the night or laughed. I knew I had to change. And change I did.
I transformed my wife’s skepticism into success charging a buck a worry. I can barely keep up with demand. Most of my jobs are trivial: errant pets and kids, weather, nettling co-workers and bosses, pesky in-laws, fear someone will get sick. Like a lodestone I’ve attracted hordes of new friends since switching careers.
Even my neighbor, Elliott, has befriended me of late or vice versa. Driving away on my new lawn tractor, he waved nonchalantly. “I won’t worry about returning it. You can do that for me. Just put it on my tab.”
Surprisingly, I’ve taken my mounting work load in stride though none of my clients get short shrift. I not only serve as steward of their troubles but nurture them while they’re in my care. Parents who ask me to fret that their teenagers might be bored while fending for themselves at home will hear a host of lurid scenarios that could transpire. Turns out boredom is the least of their concerns.
I also try to put my clients’ anxiety in perspective. “Instead of losing your hair, how would you like to worry about losing your job just before you’re vested in the pension program,” I told one complainer. “Compared to many of my customers you have nothing to worry about.”
Of course, remarks like that could put me out of business. C’est la vie. That’s life.
“You look so serene. Don’t you have any problems of your own, or does someone worry for you?” an elderly lady client gently probed. I just smiled.
That evening in bed I shared the observation with my wife.
“Are you kidding me?! The man who put ‘W’ into worry has no worries. Are you sick?” Sharon patted my forehead.
In the dark I tried in vain to stifle a throaty laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Sharon demanded.
Like a volcano my joy erupted. I couldn’t stop laughing much to Sharon’s consternation.
“Stop it, you’re worrying me,” she pleaded.
I tucked a dollar bill under my wife’s pillow, kissed her good night then slipped into a satisfying cocoon of slumber as she lay awake vexed over how I, of all people, managed to cash in on life’s great escape.