February 26, 2002
Knives and Dirt

miles to go: 1,913.6

According to the Munsell Soil Color Chart, dirt comes in nineteen different shades of brown. They are: Pale Brown, Very Pale Brown, Brown, Strong Brown, Light Brown, Dark Brown, Very Dark Brown, Light Yellowish Brown, Yellowish Brown, Dark Yellowish Brown, Light Reddish Brown, Reddish Brown, Dark Reddish Brown, Grayish Brown, Dark Grayish Brown, Very Dark Grayish Brown, Light Olive Brown, Olive Brown and Dark Olive Brown.

Reads a little like a Miss Clairol color chart, doesn't it?

But wait. There's more. There are five different soil moisture conditions: Dry, Damp, Moist, Wet, and -- my personal favorite -- Saturated (aka "Mud"). 

There are seven different consistency levels in clays and plastic silts, beginning with Very Soft ("Can be easily grooved with knife or fingernail; core breaks with light manual pressure"), progressing all the way up to Extremely Hard ("Can't be scratched with knife; can only be chipped with repeated hammer blows"). Rock weathering levels range from Fresh ("No discolorization; not oxidized") to Decomposed ("Rock decomposed; resembles soil").

Don't even get me STARTED on drive cylinder density samples. We'll be here all night.

This week, I have been given an exciting new job assignment at The Dirt Company, and it's pretty much all I can think about at the moment. Effective immediately, I will be responsible for inputting and processing Boring Logs for the Geotechnical Department. Mainly this will consist of me creating incredibly complex, minutely-detailed reports on the composition of soil samples, from the topsoil level down to wherever the bodies are buried. These samples have been meticulously 'bored' from the ground: hence the name. I spent most of today training on the incredibly complex, minutely-detailed new software. I'll be training again tomorrow. It's clear that I will soon know more about dirt -- and about the difference between coarse- and fine-grained soils, and about organic and inorganic silts, and about gravels and seepage and 8" Diameter Hollow-Stem Auger drilling methods -- than I ever thought possible. 

It is also clear that Boring Logs are aptly named. 

But what can I tell you? A job assignment is a job assignment. I like learning new things. I enjoy a challenge. I appreciate the confidence that my employer is showing in me. If my nice boss tells me to sit in front of my computer and type teeny-tiny numbers into a coma-inducing software program all day ... then, by god, I will sit in front of my computer and type teeny-tiny numbers into a coma-inducing software program all day.

And I will do it with a big, happy, moderately cemented/fine-to-medium-grained SMILE on my face.

Still, I can't help but wonder how I get myself into these things in the first place. How in the world did I end up working for a DIRT COMPANY, anyway?! That wasn't my plan when I left the Totem Pole Company last fall. I was going to actually go out and find a more interesting place to work ... remember? It wasn't even the job itself that had to be interesting. I would happily lick ashtrays and change fax toner cartridges -- every day --  as long as the industry, product or service 1.) is something I am passionately interested in, and 2.) does not involve aluminum, tuna labels, traffic engineering, carpet cleaning, real estate, fitness centers, elevator music, circulation billing or "sports knives."

Publishing, for instance. Or greeting card design. Or alphabetizing 45's at the radio station. Or QA/QC at the Honey BBQ Wings factory.

Of course, this is the exact same thing I promise myself every time I'm job-hunting. Whenever one job ends -- whether it ends voluntarily or not-voluntarily -- whether I leave with a *Farewell Party* or with a summons -- I always vow to take my time job-hunting. 'This time,' I tell myself, 'I'm going to *shop* more carefully for a job that better fits my abilities and interests! This time, I'm not going to jump at the first opportunity that presents itself! This time, I'm going to be pickypickypicky!

And then the next thing I know, I'm answering phones at a knife factory. Or typing up bazillion-page voicemail messages all about Offset Barrier Type-Y Crossings With Signalized Crosswalk Indicators.

Or categorizing dirt by color.

But that's the way it goes. After all, if I could actually afford to take my time and 'shop' for the perfect new job, in the perfect industry, I wouldn't need to WORK in the first place. I could sit around the apartment in my bathrobe all day ... surfing the Internet, writing greeting card jingles, alphabetizing David's record collection and product-testing KFC until I explode.

Instead of becoming the world's foremost authority on knives and dirt.



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