I’m lying on my bed, watching a ladybug spin around the light fixture. As a child, I was told that ladybugs are good luck. Since they seemed fairly non-threatening, I always felt it was worth the mild annoyance of incessant fluttering in order to avoid bad luck. Right now, though, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just put this one out of its tedious existence.
I’m in Pittsburgh, enjoying my own tedious time with my family. Normally, I would only stay for a weekend at most, but I recently lost my “I’ve got to get back to work” excuse along with my job. So I’m here for a couple of weeks, testing the possibility of moving back home in order to save some money. I would ask my parents for financial assistance, but I’d just get the offer to move back, followed by a lecture on career choices. They’d tell me I should have become a doctor, a lawyer, or something else they could comprehend. Being an account manager for Web development is not something they understand, so she’ll casually suggest an entirely different career: “You know, nurses are really in demand. Anne recently got three offers.”
Anne is oldest of the two daughters of my mother’s best friend and biggest competitor, Lee. They live just a few houses from us, and Lee had played surrogate stepmother to me and my sisters while our parents were at work. I say stepmother, as my sisters and I felt like Cinderellas in their house. We stayed in the basement den, not allowed upstairs unless to use the bathroom. We could eat or drink only when Lee said, and watched whatever Lee’s daughters, Anne and Jenny, watched, usually soap operas. Thanks to the vast knowledge gained from Days of Our Lives, I once made my grandmother cry at my uncle’s funeral by telling her not to worry, he’d come back next month.
Anne and Jenny were raised to find doctor husbands, and Lee set their nursing career paths towards that goal. I used to feel sorry for them, but my mother asks for the fifth time if she told me about Anne’s three offers, I wonder if I haven’t made a huge vocational error. If I had become something more stable, like a nurse, I wouldn’t have to worry about the economy’s ups and downs. Besides, what had once seemed boring to me, dealing with illness all day, now seemed interesting compared to my temp job prospects.
I think about this as I drive to the nearby Wal-Mart in search of something more to read than want ads. While shopping, I notice that even a retail behemoth like Wal-Mart can be customized to appeal to local shoppers, kind of like how McDonalds will serve the McCrabcake sandwich in Maryland or the McPoutine in Montreal. As I stand between shelves lined with processed beef product, I realize that in our town, we’d have McJerky. No less than 40 varieties of jerky line are available, leading me to wonder how I came from a town where the demand for Slim Jims has clearly outweighed that for books and magazines.
Back home, I find my parents shouting at each other because they can’t hear very well. My father sees snow falling and tells my mother that he’ll have to get the snowblower out in the morning. Not hearing “in the morning,” my mother responds, “You should wait until the morning.”
“That’s what I said,” he tells her.
“You said you were going to get it out, and I’m telling you it’s stupid to do it now.”
“I said I was going to do it in the morning.”
“Well, I still think it’s stupid to do it now.”
I go upstairs, stopping by my sister’s room to ask her how her afternoon went. Megan, a college sophomore, works part-time at the Ladies Footlocker. As I enter, she hands me a job application and says, “Mom asked me to pick up this up for you.”
I sadly take the application and return to my room to resume watching the ladybug spin around and around. I try to recall, is just having ladybugs around good luck, or do I need to do something with them? Considering I’ve never won a raffle or even a free Pepsi, I used to doubt the ladybug luck ever worked for me. Now, with my only job prospect being a shoe jockey in the land of jerky, I know it doesn’t.