The case of the missed calling

From across the room, I can see my daughter’s deer-in-the-headlights look and I know someone has asked her The Question.

The Question that every adult asks every teenager.

The Question that every teenager thinks they should know the answer to.

“What are you going to do after high school?”

And my daughter, like every teenager, squirms and wonders, “How am I supposed to know at 16, 17, or 18 what I am going to do with my life?”

I get it — in high school, I considered becoming a chiropractor, studying vampire bats and driving tractor-trailers. In other words, I had no clue.

An article I recently read makes the case that high school isn’t too young to make this decision, it is too old. The “Theory of 10” hypothesizes that whatever made you happy at age 10 or 11 will lead to a fulfilling career. It sorta makes sense. The end of elementary school is when taste is formed. Back then, I liked dogs, rhubarb and camping; I still do. So, maybe, choices based on childhood preferences could be a recipe for happiness.

Financially, I’m not sure. Fortunately for my family, I never knew about this theory until I was ready to retire, as there isn’t a great demand for professional Capture the Flag players.

But, then again, what if my entire career was a mistake? Should I have followed my 10-year-old self’s dream?

Other than playing with the neighborhood kids, my time was spent reading. This could have easily led me to a different career. While Nancy Drew mysteries were my gateway drug — Trixie Belden had me hooked. Trixie was 13, lived in the Hudson Valley, and frequently got in trouble for being impulsive — I could totally relate. Trixie and her best friend aspired to open a detective agency someday. That, too, was my dream.

My childhood friend Jay and I honed our detective skills the summer before middle school. We had the supplies: a notebook, an ink pad for fingerprinting and a pair of purple binoculars. She lived on a hill bordered by large pines on one side and a grove of crab apples on the other. Both had limbs low enough for our favorite pastime — climbing trees and spying on the neighbors. The older couple on one side were sweet and boring, but the other neighbors were decidedly suspicious.

They were new and from the city. They were young and childless. They kept their curtains closed. Their car was actually parked in the garage! No one we knew did that. Garages were used to store bikes and other toys. Each of these details was curious; together they constituted an entire criminal profile.

The crime itself was uncovered one afternoon while we were on a crab apple stakeout. As any gumshoe knows, surveillance can take a lot of time. As any kid who has ever hung out in a crab apple tree knows, it is easy to eat too many. Just about when Jay and I realized that we should’ve stopped crunching apples a while ago, the car slowly pulled into the drive.

The female suspect got out and opened the overhead door. We seized the opportunity to look into the shadows of the nearly empty garage. There, lined up along the far wall, were a number of wrapped bales. Before we could process what was going on, the car was parked inside and the door was shut.

Jay and I looked at each other as our hearts raced. These bales were unlike anything we had ever seen. They weren’t hay — that was for sure. We mouthed the same word: “drugs.”

There was only one thing to do … investigate further. After combat crawling through a grassy field, we peered into the garage window. The garage was dark, and it was nearly sunset. Between the fading sunlight and the window screens, we couldn’t discern a thing. Maybe the windows were completely covered from the inside? More damning evidence: these people were obviously concealing their activities.

We needed evidence to corroborate our theory. Because The Scooby-Doo Gang aside, who would believe a couple of meddling kids? We went through our case notebook: city people, no children, car in the garage, pulled shades. The suspects were definitely involved in something. The bales said it all. There was no other possibility; Jay’s neighbors must be major drug dealers camouflaged in a quiet neighborhood in a small town.

The next day, Jay and I continued our investigation. This time we brought our equipment. We climbed our favorite tree, ate an apple for sustenance, took out the binoculars and gasped. The culprits were outside and so were the bales.

Was a drug distribution about to go down, right in front of us?

As the couple stepped into the garage, we got a clear view of the bags.

Slowly, we made out the writing.

Was it exotic?

Was it the country of origin?

Was it the final damning clue?

It was … peat moss.

Suspicions unfounded.

Case closed.

Conclusion reached: Elementary, my dear Watson, was not the time to choose my career.


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