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Staying dry in a hail of bullets
by Nathan Orme
Oct 04, 2008 | 610 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Joan Galt
By Joan Galt
“You really dodged a bullet.”

That old saying really holds true, but sometimes it feels like there are a whole lot of them whizzing by and one is bound to hit me sooner or later. How I’ve managed to avoid them all to this point is pretty amazing.

I have been very lucky in life. When you come right down to it, nothing extraordinarily bad has ever happened to me. Even when I have been in situations that could have ended in disaster, I have come out unscathed.

In high school, I worked hard and got good grades but my parents said they could only afford to send me to the local California State University, so that’s the only place where I applied. Out of the clear blue sky, my youth minister at the time told me about a scholarship program at the university. Lo and behold, I managed to get the scholarship, which paid for my tuition and books for the next four years. Since that time I have seen this scholarship program grow and, by the resumes of the students who are in the program now, I’d never get it again, but I was in the right place at the right time. I managed to walk away from college with no debt, a bachelor’s degree and some great experience that has helped me have a relatively successful career.

Speaking of jobs, things have worked out for me there, too. When I was a college journalism student more than 10 years ago, the word through the department was that all the jobs in the profession were drying up. I was under the impression that I’d graduate and at most find success writing about my life flipping burgers or documenting the tales of the people next to me in the unemployment line. But no, immediately after college I worked at a great internship as a reporter for a newspaper in Wisconsin, and when I didn’t get a full-time job there I quickly found a reporting job back in Southern California thanks to a reference from an old college classmate. When I was tired of that job and wanted to move, another college classmate gave me a good reference and again I landed gainful employment. Again when it was time for me to move on (this time to make more money), I found a small company willing to give a young guy a shot at an editor’s job. Finally, when moving to Nevada last year, I was again in the right place at the right time when the editor’s job here at the Tribune became available.

Despite the warnings I received as a journalism student, in 10 years since graduation I have never been unemployed. Heck, even in high school I always had a job when I wanted one and despite feeling like I was close a couple of times I have never been fired from a job. Even my dorky manager at Little Caesar’s Pizza who hated me didn’t get a chance to fire me. I managed to land two jobs in my effort to leave the pizza industry: one at a JCPenney portrait studio and another at a record store. That Christmas, everyone received CDs or movies courtesy of my 35-percent discount while working at the latter.

When I was first married, we accumulated quite a lot of credit card debt. Dodging that bullet was made possible when my grandmother, at a ripe old age and after a happy life, died and left a house to be sold. The proceeds were split up and my inheritance allowed us to pay off all the debt, make a large down payment on a very nice house and then do major remodeling on it. To add yet another layer of icing to my cakewalk of a life, I bought the house as the housing bubble was still expanding and after spending $100,000 of the equity, I was able to sell the house twice (it fell out of escrow the first time) within a few months and still walk away with enough money to again make a nice down payment here in Reno on a brand new house and outfit it with some nice accoutrements.

The divorce bullet was one I was not able to dodge, but even that wound seemed to hit a fleshy part (I guess my heart is fleshy) and cause minimal damage. The housing bubble has burst but at least I have a nice place to live that I can afford, so with some patience and some more luck that bullet should pass me by as well. I say all these things not to brag but to give thanks. I know I am a month early for turkey and pilgrims, but the longer I am around the more bad luck there seems to be in the world and the closer it gets. I am seeing someone I care a lot about go through a foreclosure that will mean letting go of her childhood home. She is struggling to get her life back on track after her mother unexpectedly died last year and I am trying as hard as I can to give her some normalcy and happiness, which is hard to convey to a person who has battled with intense loss — especially when it is coming from someone who has lived a seemingly charmed life.

Then this week as I spoke to employees at Fitzgeralds about the casino’s impending closure and the 475 people who will lose their jobs, I almost felt guilty. How is it that I have gone so long with such incredible luck, not ever really worrying about a place to live or having a steady paycheck with which to pay my bills? Sure, I’ve worried some about being able to afford a certain lifestyle, but never have I thought I’d lose even the basics that I take for granted. Never have I had to do what the Fitzgeralds employees are doing now, which is look at the calendar and know that if I don’t have another job by a certain date, the well will suddenly be dry. The best I can do, I suppose, is let those who need it drink from my well when I can.

I know life has a lot of bullets, and I don’t know if I’m just lucky to avoid them or if I’m like Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix” and I have the power to hold out my hand and stop them in mid-air, causing the flying metal to fall harmlessly to the ground. Perhaps I shouldn’t say anything to jinx myself. I’m not a religious person, but I know that but for the grace of God, there go I — and I don’t take that for granted.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find some wood to knock on.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at
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