“Do you work?”

Clark Gable: “Oh, Mr. Faulkner, do you write?”

William Faulkner: “Yes, I do, Mr. Gable. And what do you do?”

It’s a simple enough question, posed to me by the office manager at my dentist’s office this morning while I’m paying my bill. (I’m not really dressed to be out in public, so this may be one reason she’s wondering. Sometimes I forget that everyone doesn’t run around town in their sweats. Without makeup.) This, after just being told that one day my gum may separate from my teeth, bottom left, thereby allowing “stuff” to accumulate in the resulting pocket.

“What happens then?” I ask, not really wanting to know. I am still gripping the sides of the dental chair, even though the examination and cleaning are over.

“We send you to a gum specialist,” says the smiling dentist. Man does he have nice teeth.

“But let’s not worry about that just yet. For today, everything is fine.”

Obviously the smiling dentist does not know me as well as, say, Precious or my therapist. For worrying about instances that might never happen is my favorite hobby. Right up there with borrowing trouble and catastrophizing about events that statistically occur once every gazillion years if you live in the Outback and don’t have insurance. At least that is what the old me would do; the new, 2011-me is going to be laid back, carefree, a go-with-the-flow kind of middle-aged goober. So I smile back at the smiling dentist with the perfect teeth and sort through the basket of free toothbrushes looking for one with a purple handle. I have just read, in Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness (Karen Rauch Carter, Fireside, 2000) that purple is a color of prosperity. I can’t find a purple toothbrush, so I throw caution to the wind and go with red. The old me would have never done that. I’ll have to look up what red means asap. I’m hoping it indicates “bold” and “confident.” “Published.”

“Yes,” I say to the woman behind the counter. “I work. I’m a writer.”

I am terribly pleased with myself for answering her so directly, free of excuses about not being in the New York Times or not having been an Oprah Book Club pick when there was still time to be an Oprah Book Club pick.

“Do you enjoy your work?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, I do.”

“Then you’re lucky.”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, I am.”

2 responses to ““Do you work?””

  1. Love, love, love this. I’m lucky, too.

  2. Amy, I love this. I especially smiled when you wrote that you worry about things that may never happen. Me too–got that from my father. I also liked the ending. Yes, lucky to be able to figure out our lives, or at least represent them, in print.