Today's career question is: Should you work at home?
Of course the home is not the ideal place to do certain types of jobs, such as coal mining. But many modern employers are willing to be flexible. The Ford Motor Co., for example, recently started a pilot program under which employees who don't want to leave their preschool children may elect to build Taurus station wagons in their homes. Oh, there have been problems. Some cars wouldn't start because of what was later diagnosed as Play-Doh in the cylinders. But most employers are willing to overlook such drawbacks, because studies show that the average corporation actually saves money when employees stay home, inasmuch as when they come to work, they spend the bulk of the time stealing office supplies.
But the real beneficiaries of the work-at-home trend are the employees themselves. I work at home, and I have found that this arrangement has a tremendous potential for personal growth, because nobody will notice if you eat as many as 20 lunches per day. Plus you have no incentive to take showers, which results in personal growths in your armpits, which tends to limit your social life. If you have dogs, which I do, you find yourself talking to them a lot, not in a condescending manner, but as equals. Eventually you abandon personal hygiene altogether and degenerate into a primitive life form, living in your underwear and licking Cheez Whiz directly out of the jar.
But you can get a lot done at home. The key for me, in terms of productivity, has been my personal computer, which can be linked electronically via telephone lines to the newspaper. This means that, when I have a column due, I merely press a few keys, and within seconds, thanks to the miracle of modern microchip technology, I am playing "F117A Stealth Fighter." This is a computer game wherein you're the pilot of an extremely advanced Air Force jet flying dangerous missions over enemy territory while enemy fighters attack you and enemy bases shoot missiles at you and enemy editors call you up demanding to know where your column is. I am extremely good at "F117A Stealth Fighter." This would not be possible if I did not work at home.
Of course there are drawbacks. The one that has probably already occurred to you is that if you work at home, you could be killed by a large lump of bread dough falling from the sky. This danger was made chillingly clear to me recently when several alert readers mailed me an Associated Press report from Bellingham, Wash., stating that "20 pounds of white-bread dough somehow fell from the sky and crashed onto the roof of Doug and Paula Ward."
I am not making this report up. The dough landed on the Wards' home on St. Patrick's Day, with what Doug Ward described as "a horrendous crash, like a sonic boom."
I spoke with Paula Ward by phone a couple of weeks after the incident, and she said it remains a mystery.
"An astronomer took a sample, and he said it was just regular bread dough," she said. "The religious people think it was a sign from God, because you know, in the Bible, God dropped manna. But it doesn't look like religious dough to me. We still have it, and it hasn't risen yet. It's looking kind of slimy."
One possible explanation is that alien beings from the Planet of Bad Nutrition are flying over in F117A Stealth Saucers and dropping unhealthy foods on people's homes, starting with white bread and gradually escalating to Ring Dings and Slim Jims. But Paula Ward has a more chilling theory involving another alien life form, one that is even more menacing to human civilization.
"I think it's college students," she said. "We live right near a campus [Western Washington University]. I think they figured out a way to launch dough."
And people have the gall to say that our educational system is not getting the job done.
Anyway, it appears that this is an isolated case, which should not be blown out of proportion. The truth is that if you work at home, the chances are less than one in two that you will ever be killed by any form of high-speed baking ingredient. The worst that's likely to happen is that, being alone all day, you might find yourself riding weird trains of thought. Believe me when I tell you this.