I Didn't Know What The Fork To Do
I’ve reached a point in my life where things are relatively settled. I don’t, on a regular basis, have too many monumental decisions to make. It’s basically, “what am I going to have for lunch?” and “should I take a safety-whiz before I leave?” I have my job, my house, my family, etc. The monumental shit is already in place.
However, it wasn’t always like this. And I know there will be additional forks in the road I’ll be forced to consider in the future. I’ve just been enjoying a 15 year or so forkless stretch. And that’s standard, right? In a three-act play there’s all sorts of chaos during the first and third acts, and the big middle section where life just happens. Act three is coming though, and I’ll be reacquainted with the forks soon enough. Ugh!
Occasionally I’ll torture myself and contemplate the Big Decisions I made earlier in life. As is my nature, I assume I screwed it all up. But I don’t know. Maybe I’m too hard on myself? It hasn’t all been laughter and pot roast, but I’m generally happy with the way things have gone. Oh sure, there’s room for improvement, substantial room. But I love the people in my life and cherish the experiences and memories I’ve accumulated. When I get to contemplatin’, though, I can’t help but wonder if I made wise choices.
One of the earliest and craziest forks I encountered was when I was offered a job with the FBI. Can you believe that? I can’t. I was 20 or 21 and answered an ad in the newspaper for a vaguely described position with an unknown organization. I went for an interview (arriving late), then got called back multiple times and was asked to take an IQ test and all sorts of weird evaluations. I even had to go for a physical, performed by a doctor I didn’t know, in a building I’d never visited.
Eventually it was revealed that they were considering me for some sort of agent-in-training position, based in Washington, DC. There was an extensive background check that involved people coming to my hometown, knocking on doors, and asking random folks about me. They even went to my old high school and met with a couple of my ex-teachers, and questioned a friend who was in the Army and stationed in Colorado.
I thought I was just applying for some kind of clerk job, and now I was involved in some kind of insanity I didn’t feel like I had any control over whatsoever. It seemed exciting, but nothing I’d ever thought about. Heck, I wanted to be a writer for Late Night with David Letterman, or work for a big record company. The FBI? Law enforcement?? How did all this happen? I mean, why not grain silo inspector or lion tamer while we’re at it?
One day while I was working at my stupid grocery store job, where we were all called “numb nuts” and “shit for brains” daily, they paged me and said I had a phone call. The only person who ever called me there was my girlfriend Kelly, so I answered with a ridiculous “YELLOW?!” Needless to say, it was the FBI, offering me the position. It was all very formal, devoid of warmth and humor. I was to report to the J. Edgar Hoover building in 10 days. End of conversation.
The floor of my ass nearly fell out. Talk about forks in the road! One minute I’m stocking the Hydrox cookies with like-minded dipshits in Dunbar, WV and the next I’m being summoned to FBI headquarters. You know? That old cliché?
After a couple of sleepless nights and multiple conversations with Kelly and my parents, I called them back (the FBI!) and declined the offer. They didn’t seem super-happy with my decision. In fact, it felt like they were borderline pissed. I felt guilty about it, because they’d invested a lot of time and effort in me. But I was a goofball dumbass, not special agent material. Heck, I’d probably end up shooting myself in the dick or something. Or maybe knocking over a Dr. Pepper during a high-leverage situation and inadvertently triggering a war. No, it was in the country’s best interest if I just continued replenishing the canned apples at Fas-Chek. It was my patriotic duty.
But I often wonder what would’ve happened if I’d said yes. My entire life would be different, I would have been off on a whole other trajectory. I never would’ve met most of the people I now know, including my wife. Our kids would not exist. Heck, I might have a different wife, and different kids. Or I could be long-dead by now. It’s a mind-bending exercise.
And I was so close to going. It was 51% no, 49% yes. I wish there was a way to tap into a parallel world, to see how things would’ve turned out. Maybe I don’t want to know? That’s a possibility, I guess.
But I’m cool with it. I have no regrets. Not about that, anyway. Oh, I certainily have some regrets, let’s be serious, but not about the FBI job. I’ve built a quality portfolio of experiences and memories. And I consider that to be a big-time win.
Thanks for reading! I’m publishing a new column on the first day (or so) of every month about some aspect of getting older. Here’s some additional information. I hope we can have a few laughs together about a subject that’s not always super-funny. Feel free to leave a comment, and/or forward this to anyone who you think might enjoy it.
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