Case of the Parallel Universe Career

In response to my plea for topics to write about, my friend Golightly comes through with this question: What is the job you would want if you did not do anything literary and why?

“EASY,” I thought to myself, after not really reading her question adequately, “novelist, of course.”  But then I looked at the question again and realized I am not allowed to choose anything literary. That is very tricky of you, Golightly!

At the moment I’m not sure I can pick just one non-literary job, so I’m going to back it up for just a minute and give you the list of what I call “parallel universe jobs” — the jobs other Vagues have in universes parallel, but not identical, to this one.  Some of these are literary, but most aren’t. Please note that this list includes my parallel-universe-job ideas reaching back to around high school, so take them with a grain of something.

Baker / Pastry Chef



Rock Critic

U.N. Translator

Private Detective


Greeting Card Designer

“Artist” of Undifferentiated Type


“Head” of a Hip Magazine (I was never exactly sure what this entailed and still might not be)


But which of these would I choose today?  Let’s see…I’ll have to scratch off Novelist, Poet, and “Head” of Hip Magazine because they violate the non-literary requirement. I suppose Rock Critic is also at least semi-literary, and we all also already know that I can’t actually write about music for shit, so that goes too.

“Artist” of Undifferentiated Type has to be eliminated, since that’s obviously more of a concept than a job. U.N. Translator is unrealistic — I didn’t realize way back in high school how difficult translation/interpretation is in general, let alone on-the-fly speaking translation. No way.

Spy is a no-go (or at least that’s what I’d have to tell you guys, right?), because I have a deep suspicion that the actual spy business is not what shows like Alias and Chuck would have us believe, what with the sexy disguises and handler-on-asset action.  Heh.  HANDLER on ASSET.  Get it? Ahem.

So that leaves: Baker / Pastry Chef, Greeting Card Designer, Photographer, and Private Detective.  All four of these are things I already do, to some extent, at home.  I take pictures, as you may have seen on flickr.  I make a mean greeting card and an even meaner batch of yuzu-ginger wafer cookies. But what do I do most often? INVESTIGATE, bitches, that’s what!

I am always investigating shit!  Where are my keys? Investigate. What is the source of that unpleasant smell? Investigate. Could this paper be plagiarized? Investigate.  There is a neighborhood commotion? Investigate. (Well, fine, in that case I did more lurking and peeking than actual investigating, but I think you see what I am saying here.)

Thus, your answer: Private Detective

Case Status: Closed

Now I have a question for you: What jobs would you have in any parallel universes?  Inquiring minds must know.


  1. From least probable to most probable:

    * A spaceship
    * Your mom
    * Spaceship pilot
    * Biologist (genetics and ethology)
    * Comparative religionist (?)


  2. I have been a saxophonist, “The Dues” were just too high. Drunken old ladies pulling on your shoulder, asking “Can you play Hava Negila?” while you’re in the middle of a solo.

    About 10 years ago I realized that, except more my IQ limitations, I would have LOVED to have been a failure analysis engineer.


  3. You, Lady, crack my shit up. (Investigate!)
    I think I already have my parallel universe job: mom. But other than that I would like to be:
    a chef
    ani difranco groupie
    marine biologist
    magazine editor (not fashion)


  4. Wow, chef and marine biologist / biologist are popular ones. After I posted this I remembered my own biology phase, where I wanted to be a naturalist. I was reading a lot of Edward Abbey and hiking and whatnot. Anyway, keep ’em coming! These are fun.


  5. For me, the question-asker, the career that I’m almost sure I have in a parallel universe is owner/manager/booker for an arthouse movie theater. Parallel-Golightly and her strapping cinephile husband find a run-down old theater that still has amazing architectural details beneath the dust and grime. They restore the theater and show Breakfast at Tiffany’s on opening night. They run classics as weekend matinees, cult midnight movies, and independent and foreign films the rest of the time. Occasionally the film breaks, or one of the ushers has to stop a fight, or the popcorn girl has to be fired because she never shows up for her shifts. Otherwise, peace and harmony and movies.


  6. My parallel universe jobs:

    Graphic novel writer
    War-zone photographer
    FBI agent
    Homicide detective
    Assassin (Of either the Martin Blank or Léon the Professional varieties)


  7. Alexis — another marine-animal lover! But who can blame you? Those seal pups are cute as all hell.

    Sho — AHA! Another person like me, who get’s crazy career ideas from watching too much TV and movies! Martin Blank – he’s the coolest. You’re a really good photographer in real life, by the way, though.


  8. Golightly–I hope you serve alcohol at this parallel-universe theater, however that may increase the amount of fights that have to be broken up, but those fights will still most likely be about which film Bogart is best in, Casablanca or Key Largo. Also, I know that popcorn girl; I worked with her at a coffee shop in college, and she was always late and came in stoned. Ask Alfina. She was there.
    Alfina–I was “this” close to going to college in Charleston for Marine Biology. I had my room assignment and a scholarship and a roommate. Lucky for you (and me!), WU offered a better scholarship and wasn’t on the coast with a great marine biology program.


  9. Discounting anything Economics related, or related to scientific chemistry (working on doing that, probably can’t also be in a parallel universe…more like an orthogonal one):

    Brew master (which is more like baking than you would think)
    Brew-Pup owner
    Contract Attorney
    Stand-up Comedian
    Indie-Rock singer


  10. @Timothy: I am a physicist – it’s not all it’s made out to be… These stories of personal Igor’s and beautiful groupies? Sadly, they are not true.


  11. hmmm…well, outside the legal field, i would say:

    -film/tv writer
    -indie bar/music venue owner
    -jenny lewis/kim deal/kim gordon/debbie harry/siouxsie sioux
    -cirque du soleil performer
    -travel show host


  12. C – I am so glad you didn’t decide to go there and become a biologist, for purely selfish reasons! 🙂

    T – One of my old bakery plans involved having a bakery/brewery — a friend was going to be in charge of the beer and I in charge of the bread, but obviously we would have been doing a lot of business with the grain supplier!

    J – I find it hard to believe you do not have physics groupies. C’mon, now, spill it!

    M – You and W should totally start a rock venue / bar. That would be so cool! Also, to your indie singer plan, me too — too bad I can’t carry a tune.


  13. @Silliyak Oh no, I need to stop leaving the imahginary hiring to my strapping cinephile husband is what I need to do.

    @Clarabella That is why said popcorn girl is a type. As for the alcohol, I left out a whole imaginary battle with the theoretical city council that we win in order to get a liquor license. Victory and screenings of Sideways and The Saddest Music in the World! (the only alcohol-related films I can think of right now that are alcohol-themed without being entirely peopled with pathetic drunks.)


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