Workplaces Illustrated

Back in the 1980s, when personal computers first became available, they seemed destined to become ubiquitous in the workplace. My friends and I wondered how we would ever learn to use these things. We were out of school and in the workforce, but opportunities to learn the new computer technology were nonexistent as far as we knew. We thought that we would be left behind as the world changed around us.

Fast-forward to today. I’m running my own computer consulting company, developing websites, programming newsletters, and troubleshooting internet issues.

There was no way I could have predicted which of the various paths would take me from the past to the present. My work life has taken many twists and turns, without much consistency from one stop to the next.

Pharmacy, bakery factory, woolen mill, convenience store, lead‑smelting company, bank mailroom, restaurant kitchen… these are among the places I’ve worked, each one a dead end in terms of a career path.

However, as I’ve learned, a dead end is just a cul-de-sac without the sac. Even the dead ends I took provided useful experiences that helped generate positive outcomes, just not in the way I imagined at the time.

Here, then, is a gallery of some of the stops along the path I took, with my paintings as illustrations. (You can visit my online gallery at shuchter.com.)

Title: Used Book Seller

One of my very first jobs was working in a used book store. That’s not me in the picture; that’s the owner of the bookstore. However, that is my mess on the floor to sort through and put on the shelves.

I spent most of my earnings purchasing used books.

Title: Asbestos Remover

That’s me on the ladder vacuuming asbestos from the ceiling of the Baker Library at Dartmouth College. A very hazardous job, the painting makes me look more vulnerable to the asbestos dust than I really was. But reaching over my head for hours in that hot suit was grueling.

The one thing that made this job enjoyable was spending time with the mural on the wall by José Clemente Orozco, one of my favorite artists. In my painting, I included a portion of his mural as an homage.

Title: Office Worker

This painting portrays the restricted feeling of being an office worker. The chair and cubicle is confining for her body; the keys on the keyboard are smaller than her fingers; the shoes she’s expected to wear are too tight for her feet.

Her environment is sterile, but the woman is a vibrant presence.

Title: Depot Pond with Tree

After several jobs working with computers, I decided to switch paths. I moved to Cape Cod to dedicate myself to being an artist.

While there, a former boss of mine, namely one Michael Katz, called me. He asked whether I still did computer work, and could I help him out with a project or two.

That phone call helped launch the business I now have.

Title: Barista

In recent years, thanks to the internet, I can work virtually in my favorite location, a cafe.

I spent many work hours at the Caffe Paradiso. (The one in Cambridge is no longer there, but the original is still in Boston’s North End.)

In a cul-de-sac, you can simply turn around and drive out. In a dead-end, you might have to back your way out, which is often harder and more complicated. But either way, you can re-start your journey afresh.

Whether you express yourself with art, words, or deeds, I wish you the best for the stops along your journey!