I have had many jobs I didn’t like in my life.  I’ve worked fast food.  I’ve delivered pizzas.  I’ve cleaned motel rooms.  I’ve handed out the audio tour at a National Park.   All of these things I did simply to pay the bills, no more no less. 

Then I started doing Clear Blue Water and suddenly I had a job I loved that people tend to think is cool.  I had the perfect answer to the “So, what do you do?”  question. 

My strip was syndicated for 4 1/4 years and in that time do you know how many times I was actually asked this question?  Less than a handful.  It just didn’t happen.  I would never volunteer this information to anyone unprompted, so I hardly ever got to use the, “I’m a cartoonist,” line.

The few times I did get to chat about it were interesting conversations.  “I’m a cartoonist,”  I’d reply modestly.  “Really?”  they’d say, with such longing in their voice.  Like you just said, “I get to play all day long, day in and day out for millions and millions of dollars,” (because most cartoonists are millionaires, don’tcha know). 

“What, like you do comic books?”  the conversation would continue.  “No, I draw a comic strip.  For newspapers,” I’d continue, already starting to dread the next question.  “Wow!  What strip do you do?” Here I would hesitate, tempted to say Garfield, or Doonesbury, or any strip with name recognition.  (these random people don’t follow comic strips!  I’d tell myself.  They’d never catch my lie!  I’d be totally safe!)  I would sigh long-sufferingly.  “It’s called Clear Blue Water.  You’ve probably never heard of it-”

“I’ve never heard of it!”  They’d narrow their eyes.  “What papers you in?  Any around here?”  “Um, no.  I’m not in any of the local papers at all,” I would be forced to admit.  …Things tended to go downhill from there.

These conversations weren’t actually much fun, so I don’t know why I wanted to have more of them.  Probably because hope springs eternal that they’d actually have heard of, and enjoy my strip, and then we could talk about it and become life-long buddies, and… Sigh.

One time, I had a layover in an airport in a city where Clear Blue Water was in the local paper.  I bought the paper, sat down, and actually got to read my strip on actual newsprint in real time.  What a thrill!  I had to stop myself from prattling on to everyone seated around me that this was MY strip.  “Look!  See?  I’m the cartoonist, really!  I’ll show you my license!”  I looked around to see if anyone else was reading the paper, perhaps the comic section, but surprisingly, no one was.  They had books or laptops or cellphones but no newspapers.

Another wasted opportunity.

…I still have the newspaper.