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How I Fared

I have an old token from the New York City subway that reads, “Good For One Fare.” I keep it in a dresser drawer and usually forget about it until for some odd reason I stumble across it.

How have YOU fared? Photo Courtesy of jfc215: iStock

I found it in an “economically priced” hotel room in New York City in 1983 when I was fresh out of college and “pounding the pavement,” dropping off resumes.

As a business/journalism double major, my greatest credential was being on the college newspaper, so the $500 in my pocket had to last. The Carlton Arms was a small budget hotel at the corner of East 25 th Street and Third Avenue.

Limited amenities included a black porcelain sink, a box spring, and a mattress; I was told to bring my own sheets. A communal bathroom was down the hall, and the sounds from the street were raucous and constant.

As I unpacked my suitcase, I noticed something on the floor catching the neon light coming through the window. It was then I made acquaintance with that shiny token.

“Good For One Fare.”

I didn’t have much luck in New York (other than selling a handful of jokes to the Late Show with David Letterman ) and didn’t fare much better in Los Angeles three months later (that trip peaked with a two-day material review with Paramount Pictures).

I returned to Cleveland and began to justify my college degree with a variety of $6-an-hour jobs, as times for recent graduates were tough in the early 1980s. I slowly began to abandon my dreams of being paid to write, and started laying a path to a career in business.

I was hired by a solid company and developed a reliable name for myself. Despite having a degree, I opted for more of a laborer’s job to start, getting to know the company from the bottom up.

Working out of a truck five days a week as a surveyor’s assistant, I created the images on the ground that would later go on a map. Four years later, I advanced to become the assistant manager of one of the park reservations that was a part of the company’s conglomerate holdings.

I actually began to use some of the business skills I had learned in college, and was feeling like my patience was beginning to pay off.

One evening, as I was digging through some old papers to retrieve an inspirational essay I thought I could use with my staff, I discovered that old token.

“Good For One Fare.”

Thinking about how long it had been since I had written anything or attempted to get published, I pulled out my old college typewriter and bought a new ribbon the following day. I dedicated an hour each evening to writing.

Having found an ad in a local “city entertainment” rag that called for concert reviewers, I submitted a review of a James Taylor concert. My piece was accepted, and I was asked to do more … and I would be paid. Paid?

Soon, the paper was sending me backstage passes, and my articles included interviews, front-row seats, and on some occasions--nachos and cheese fries.

One time my review of a local band was so positive it generated a lot of interest and increased the group’s ticket sales. The review was an entire page, and my byline was huge!

Local bands were now seeking a strong review from me; I was having the time of my life. By day, my regular job was coming along nicely; at night, my moonlighting reviews were fulfilling the creative side.

I wanted to develop a serious career, but also wanted to do what I enjoyed--whether I was paid or not.

I started carrying that token with me as a good-luck charm.

“Good For One Fare.”

As my regular job progressed, my employer offered to pay for my master’s degree in business. I was beginning to understand that my ability to dedicate so much to the job rested in my overall pleasure in being “whole.”

The job was fulfilling, my leisure time was fulfilling, and now it simply became a matter of how to keep it going. I’d found my “groove.” Opportunities for promotion were still presenting themselves at work, and I began to write more, with increasing compensation.

But I began to feel a tug in wanting to share my ideas, my thoughts, and my life with someone; further, to bring about children who would listen and find wisdom in my words (it took awhile for them to see the “wisdom”).

Today, I am married with a family, have put 30 years into my career, and have a pension available at the ripe old age of 51. I continue to write this column and my bi-weekly blog for PRB , and still feel validated through your cards and letters, as well as by the compensation. I have been so very blessed.

I don’t carry that token in my pocket anymore. It’s back in that same dresser drawer, for I don’t really need to be reminded of its wording. When I picked it up out of the deep pile in the carpet of the Carlton Arms, I never would have guessed how prophetic those words and the ride would be.

“Good For One Fare.”

Indeed.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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