The Mike Mementos

You can take the boy out of Jersey City, but you can’t take the Jersey City out of the boy. Fortunately, I never had any Jersey City in me. Even more fortunately, I no longer commute to Jersey City, either.

I decided that my job at New Jersey City University (Motto: Yes, Jersey City has a University! Google it!) was a bad fit for me.

This bad fit became apparent after I was hired by Macmillan to write a children’s chapter book series. The main character in the series, Prince Carlos Charles Charming, was a prince who’d much rather be a court jester. Prince Carlos’s internal conflict mirrored my own; I was an alumni magazine editor who’d much rather be a freelance writer.

My dear wife, Ellen, who is always supportive and always awesome, agreed that I should return to freelancing.  So I quit.

I also decided to take a little souvenir.

I have a habit of taking souvenirs when I leave a job. Nothing big, mind you, nothing that anyone would miss, just a little memory. On my last day as a newspaper reporter, for example, I took a letter opener that advertised a garbage company. (I had this job back in the ’90s before email dominated everything; pretty much half of my day involved tearing into envelopes.)

Here’s some free advertising, A. Fiore. So howzabout a little taste of that sweet, sweet sanitation money?

My A. Fiore & Sons letter opener doesn’t get as much exercise as it used to, but I’m glad it’s still with me.

Selecting a souvenir to commemorate my 11-year tenure at The Lawrenceville School was a no-brainer. For more than a year, I had a habit of wandering Lawrenceville’s nine-hole golf course on my lunch hour. When I stumbled upon a lost or abandoned ball, I would slip it into my pocket. These balls would then be emptied into my desk drawer. On my last day at Lawrenceville, I had 376 of them.

So I took a couple of balls home. An orange practice golf ball now lives on my car’s antenna. (It’s really easy to find my Kia Spectra in a crowded parking lot.) Three other balls live in the drawer of my drafting table.

Fun fact: The Lawrenceville School sells golf balls with The Lawrenceville Seal. Using any other ball on the Lawenceville golf course is unbefitting a Lawrentian.

My NJCU souvenir was less creative: my NJCU ID card. I had always wanted to edit a college alumni magazine. My ID card was proof that I had done so.

Unfortunately, the NJCU Human Resources Department didn’t care about any of this. HR would not allow me to keep the card. In fact, they wouldn’t give me my last paycheck until I sent it back to them.

Because I value paychecks more than souvenirs, I complied with their wishes.

It’s fun to be compliant and obnoxious!

Fortunately for me, I had a backup souvenir. Something that, I think, symbolizes my time at NJCU quite well.

This book:

I wrote a post about this book a few months ago. Long story short, I rescued it from an abusive relationship. Its previous owner was a thug and a monster.

The book deserved a good, loving home. So it’s not a souvenir, exactly; it’s a humanitarian act.

“Fear not little book,” I whispered to it on my last day at NJCU. “You’re safe now. I will repair your binding. I will stand you upright on a bookshelf with similar nonfiction titles that are alphabetized by author. And if anyone tries to rip your dust jacket or dogear your pages they will FEEL MY WRATH!”


Something tells me that spending time in Jersey City may have tweaked a few of my brain cells. That’s kind of a souvenir, too, isn’t it?

50 Replies to “The Mike Mementos”

  1. I never thought about taking a souvenir when leaving a job. It’s such a great idea. The last job I left was involuntary. The company I worked for closed our office and all of our team was laid off. Because they closed the office we were allowed to take many of the office items including furniture and window treatments. It was a doctor’s office so every time I cover a gash with a pilfered band-aid, I’m reminded of the wound of that layoff. But right now I’m sitting in a cushy office chair and using a roller mouse that were both part of my share in the divorce. I have one more job to leave before I enter the world of retirement in a year or two. This time I’ll pick a fitting souvenir. If I can remember to do it with all those tweaked brain cells.

      1. I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever had to buy a staple. Maybe it’s just me, but my house seems to produce staples out of thin air. I cannot even begin to imagine a stapling circumstance whereby I could ever use them all up.

    1. A not good path? Are you suggesting that I corrupt young minds?

      *tents fingers* Excellent.

      The souvenir thing is a habit that’s nearly as old as I am. In fact, I still have the vest they made me wear when I was a 16-year-old cashier at the Grand Union Supermarket. It’s a darn fine vest, if a little snug. One day I hope to find an appropriate occasion to wear it again.

  2. KIA in a crowded parking lot – Killed In Action
    I didn’t take anything from my last job…but the one before that, I took my mechanic with me. Lived with him for over 20 years. Married him too!!!

  3. I’m so glad you’re out of that un-Mike-ish job. I didn’t like it either since you were never around. I missed your posts and was going to have to start rereading old ones. Kudos to Ellen for supporting your return to… happiness. Now get writing. 😀 😀

    1. Who’s to say you can’t read my old posts now? They do feel mighty lonely and unloved these days.

      But, yes, my wife is the bestest.

      She knew I missed freelance. And I knew she missed teaching in the classroom. So it was serendipity. This is The Way Things Are Supposed To Be.

  4. Damaged brain cells as a souvenir from a past bad-fit job? Yep. Now to use that damaged DNA in your writing. Clearly, you’re doing that here. Am wondering how you’re going to fit it into chapter books. Could be hilarious….

  5. I knew you didn’t belong there. I was just kind and didn’t say it (write it) out loud. Now I will. YOU DID NOT BELONG THERE! You belong at home, folding the laundry and devising a new devious plot for Prince Carlos Charles Charming. You belong at home on your lawn mower, drinking a cup of coffee and cursing at every gopher hole. You belong at your home office, writing another fun/funny/wise and silly blog post EVERY WEEK. You belong with us, Mike.

  6. This one is a keeper. What a bunch of jackasses at that school.

    Well done, Corey

    On Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 7:39 AM, heylookawriterfellow wrote:

    > heylookawriterfellow posted: “You can take the boy out of Jersey City, but > you can’t take the Jersey City out of the boy. Fortunately, I never had any > Jersey City in me. Even more fortunately, I no longer commute to Jersey > City, either. I decided that my job at New Jersey City Univ” >

  7. Somehow I knew you wouldn’t last. 🤔😳

    That said you did vastly improve the place whilst you were there…

    You’ll be much happier freelancing and free wheeling!!

    Let’s get that book party planned!!

  8. I see I’m not alone in my opinion that the job was never a good fit for you. It j
    ust didn’t seem like you could use your creative genius to it’s utmost there. Schools are notorious for their stupid rules (like not being able to take your id) and other such self importance. I suppose technically they didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands or for you to turn up on a murderous rampage at some future day in your life where you finally snapped after thinking about the book abuser. btw, I couldn’t believe that was from this job. That seems forever ago. And oh, isn’t it the sweetest feeling not to have to go to a job you really didn’t like anymore. I felt trapped and a prisoner in my last job. It all started out well and fine, but after a series of good bosses, The Evil Ice Queen or Soul Sucker as she is known in some circles, was moved in and she managed to take all the joy out of everything. So cheers to more freedom and creativity!
    As I went on my walk yesterday, I encountered several wooly caterpillars, all heading south across the road except one who was confused and going north. (maybe you could incorporate that into a children’s book)
    I also saw a couple of crickets, and grasshoppers. So I texted my adult sons and husband, “What do a cricket, a grasshopper and a caterpiller all have in common?” The answer, I saw them all on my walk today,” did not please them for some reason. ha ha ha

    1. I hear ya, Jude. The quality of one’s job can almost always be determined by the quality of one’s boss. There have been more than a few occasions where I had to say goodbye to a perfect job because the boss was a turd and a tyrant.

  9. It’s beautiful to KNOW. Now you know what it’s like to edit an alumni magazine and to temporarily have a golf ball collection and to match white sports socks and to write a 6 book series. Knowing the good and the bad of each versus just wondering. And you KNOW Ellen is amazing. Congratulations on the book deal!

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