Jan Stafford Kellis

The Invention of Everything Else

This novelized version of Nikola Tesla’s last days provides a painless history lesson and a glimpse of what might have been, had his lab been suitably funded to build everything he imagined. It’s disconcerting to contemplate the possibilities of free, wireless electricity for everyone (surely that would have been impossible,…

Ready, Set, Change Career

All my life I’ve worked inside. I’ve been a waitress, a grocery cashier, a credit union teller, accounting clerk, accounting manager, internal auditor, and an electric utility company member service representative. Now I wear work boots (!!) and have a company truck with a tool box to accommodate my sledge hammer and brush axe. I still have a clipboard. It helps me recognize myself when I picture myself in my mind’s eye slogging through the brush, jumping ditches and annihilating small trees and branches that have committed the crime of blocking my vision from one stake to another.

I’m a staking technician: the person (no longer the ‘guy’) who travels to potential job sites, usually alone, sometimes meeting a homeowner or electrician, to design new electric services, service upgrades or power line extensions or rebuilds. Luckily, I do this in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the most likely potential threats aren’t man or machine, but wolf or bear. Or domestic dogs, unchained and salivating, rushing to defend their patch of crabgrass decorated with their own leavings. This is where my brush axe becomes a multitasking defense implement that so far I haven’t had to utilize beyond brandishing it in a threatening manner. Dogs are easily impressed with long, swinging sticks with gleaming metal ends.

I’m the first woman to hold this position in my 72-year-old company. I don’t feel as if I’m breaking down barriers, just quietly enjoying the challenges of a physically and mentally demanding job. I’m 40, and I’ve convinced myself it’s a good time of life to drastically switch careers and also to do something outside with the hope of  maintaining my slowly ebbing physique. My education is not in engineering but in business management, with very little math, which turns out to be a regrettable disadvantage. But I’m having fun. Each assignment is its own project, much like a puzzle or mind-boggling riddle, and merits its own file filled with color-coded documents and drawings (I’m no artist but my sketches are improving–should have taken drafting as well as trigonometry) with a clear end, when I can close the file and stash it away in the ‘finished’ section of the drawer.

Every day brings a new puzzle requiring a creative solution and I approach it with interest and intensity.