It's a Living. Part I: David's Saga. Episode 4: Meatballs

Pesto Meatballs recipe
Frances Janisch
The previous episode of It's a Living ended with David having a heart attack.

A month later, David returned to work. Alas, as articles he had Googled indicated, his cognitive functioning wasn't quite what it was, nor his energy level.

So it wasn't a total surprise when The Big Enchilada made him part of the next round of layoffs.

For a moment, he considered invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act but doing that would violate one of his core beliefs: that a person should be employed only on the merits not because some law protects him. After all, if a law forces the employer to keep an employee when he could find someone better, it means a more qualified person is denied the job, the coworkers are denied a better co-worker and instead may need to carry part of the employee's load, and the company's products or services end up worse, thereby hurting the customers and shareholders. No, David knew he had to go quietly.

But now what? Despite weeks with plenty of time to think about it, he didn't know.

His wife Susan suggested he consider a lower-level job in his field: "David, big-data analytics is a super-competitive field. How about some easier marketing job?" But that would make his descent too obvious to himself. He needed something completely different.

But who the hell would hire him at any sort of decent salary doing something completely different, in which he had no training or experience, especially with his now-just-average cognitive functioning and energy?

Should he go back to school? He hadn't been in school for 20 years and now, with his memory not so good, it seemed too daunting. Besides, those years in school would not only be years without income but would cost him serious dollars in tuition. And of course, there's degree proliferation: Today, it seems everyone has a college degree and nearly everyone has a graduate degree. Getting a master's in something would not sufficiently differentiate him, let alone be the wisest use of his time and money, even assuming he could get into and complete a decent master's program.

"Well maybe I should start my own business? But what? And most businesses fail, especially those run by people who are starting their first business. Jeez, I haven't even shown any entrepreneurial interest. As a kid, I never even had a lemonade stand."

But Susan said, "Why don't we try a really simple business like selling meatball sandwiches from a cart near a train station. You always said my meatballs were the best in the world."

Figuring there was nothing to lose by writing a one-page mini-business plan, they did. They even came up with a name: Balls of Joy. And for the first time in a long time, David got excited and Susan got excited...until they encountered one pound that threw cold water on their meatballs: The California Food Code. (Note: California law has recently been revised to allow some cart businesses more flexibility.)

The next episode will be published the next business day.

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