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Enjoy a biweekly test of verbal tomfoolery. WWW fame is at stake! Confused? Read all about Word Games in this brief introduction. Brought to you by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, the creators of The Atlantic Puzzler.


Mind on Vocation
(8/23/96-9/6/96)



This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

(Click here to go directly to the winning entries.)



The idea for this contest was suggested by chc@ontario.com (Charles Cantrell), who is hereby held responsible for any and all silliness that may ensue. As Mr. Cantrell is not an AOL member, we see no point in showering him with free AOL hours; but we can and do offer him a free book from the Atlantic Monthly's online store.

Mr. Cantrell tells us, "I always wanted to write computer code, but I just couldn't get with the program." He also confides that he has a friend who "always wanted to be a cowboy, but he didn't have the range." Furthermore, he knows of a guy who "always wanted to be an electrician--but his first job came as a shock."

Now, it so happens that we always wanted to be restaurant owners--but we had to table the idea. And after that, we thought of being cinematographers--but we just couldn't picture it. So we decided to go into mountain-climbing--but we peaked too soon.

Your job is to write a sentence, similar to the ones above, in which you state the profession you always wanted to pursue--and the reason why it didn't work out for you. To give one more example, you might write:

I always wanted to be a tent maker--but my business folded.

Senders of our three favorite entries in this line will each receive 5 free AOL hours plus a free book from The Atlantic Monthly's Store.

When you've written your sentence, send it to puzzles@theatlantic.com by e-mail. Multiple entries are okay, but for our convenience pack all your entries into one letter whenever possible, and please don't use attached files.

We will continue accepting entries to Mind On Vocation through Friday, September 6. Results will be posted on Friday, September 13.

Okay, punsters, punch your time clocks!

--EC and HR (who always wanted to be belly-dancers, but had no stomach for the work)



Mind on Vocation Results

(All names without @ symbols are AOL screen names.)

You know, folks, we always wanted a job with the U.S. Mail, but there simply wasn't any post available.

Speaking of mail, our online box was saturation-bombed with entries for this crazy punfest. Some people were content to pepper us with one-liners, but others stormed in with barrages of *hundreds* of jokes! And many contestants, once their brains were locked into Pun Mode, went off on amazing flights of verbiage. The following, by way of example, is just a small selection of a spree perpetrated by EdsMyName:

"I could have had a field day being a referee. Shoot, basketball is my favorite sport anyway, with all that hoopla! Do those guys work as bouncers? Is it imperative to have a foul mouth? Can you play on the net? I'm just courting the idea because golf ain't my bag, nor is tennis my racket."

In the limited space available here, we can share only a fraction of the voluminously loony wordplay we received. Naturally there were many duplications among the entries. In addition to computer programmers who couldn't hack their jobs, detectives who didn't have a clue, surfers who got bored, guitarists with no pluck, IRS accountants who found their work too taxing, taxidermists who didn't have the right stuff, surgeons who couldn't cut it, and gardeners who couldn't dig the scene, we received (in no special order, and with the set-up line given at the top):

I always wanted to be a...

baker, but couldn't raise the dough.
obstetrician, but couldn't deliver.
mime, but talked myself out of it.
cardiologist, but had no heart for it.
wallpaperer, but couldn't get the hang of it.
golfer, but had no drive.
rodeo rider, but missed out on the big bucks.
fortune teller, but saw no future in it.
operator, but it wasn't my calling.
trapeze artist, but couldn't catch on.
human cannonball, but got fired.
shoe salesman, but couldn't get my foot in the door.
faith healer, but lacked the hands-on experience.
deep-sea diver, but couldn't take the pressure.
gambler, but it wasn't in the cards.
coin dealer, but couldn't make heads or tails of the business.
preacher, but didn't have a prayer.
roofer, but my plans fell through.
nurse, but my patience ran out.
nun, but had very bad habits.
tailor, but was unsuitable.
sculptor, but made a bust of it.
archaeologist, but saw my career in ruins.
bellringer, but didn't have enough pull.
submariner, but the business went under.
telemarketer, but had too many hangups.
stenographer, but was the wrong type.
elevator operator, but got the shaft.
massage therapist, but rubbed people the wrong way.
loan shark, but lost interest.
astronomer, but lost focus.
cosmetician, but it wasn't in my makeup.
teacher, but didn't have enough class.
librarian, but had to shelve the idea.
scuba diver, but was in over my head.
X-ray technician, but people saw through me.
refrigerator repairman, but blew my cool.
photographer, but had a negative experience (and was framed).
travel agent, but had too many reservations.
Braille writer, but had no feel for it.
mortician, but it was too grave an undertaking.
trial lawyer, but lacked conviction.
chef, but it didn't pan out.
pianist, but kept losing my keys.
stripper, but couldn't bare it.
seamstress, but was only sew-sew.
donut maker, but gave up the hole idea.
novelist--but that's another story entirely.

As we said, that's just a fraction of the total output. The longer listing below is confined to those entries relatively unduplicated. (If your entry is not represented, it's most likely because other contestants repeated or paraphrased your pun.)

For providing the judges with the most original and resounding laughs, we hereby award our three favorite punsters: SeestorLiz, MiladyJoan, and R T Sumo. You're hired! And everyone else--whew! Take a 5-minute break!

***The Winners***

I wanted to be a lion tamer, but I didn't like the clause in my contract. (SeestorLiz)

I was on the road to becoming the new Emily Post, but I took the wrong fork. (MiladyJoan)

My father was a grocery bagger, as was his father before him, and his father before him, and I was going to bag groceries for a living too, until the bottom fell out of the industry. (R T Sumo)

***And Other Top Favorites***

I thought of being a casino operator, but I couldn't find an open slot. (Booksie2)

I always wanted to be a skydiver, but the pilot and I had a falling out. (MSL@OUP-USA.ORG)

I wanted to be an atomic scientist--but I got a splitting headache. (woontner@comteck.com)

I studied to be a court jester, but I was nobody's fool. (Vette76a)

I always wanted to be a philosopher, but I never could find my Nietzsche. (hmsmd@cris.com)

I wanted so much to be an oenologist, but it was just sour grapes. (hmsmd@cris.com)

I always wanted to be a windshield repairman, but no one would give me a break. (JNak)

I always wanted to be an oceanographer, but my grades were below C level. (JNak)

I always wanted to be a thief, but I sat on the fence. (Laurabear)

I wanted to raise pelicans, but couldn't fill the bill. (BabsG XADA)

I wanted to work for the Selective Service, but the office was too drafty. (BabsG XADA)

I'd like to be a lighthouse keeper, but I haven't the foggiest idea how. (PEGASUS TT)

I could have been a baseball player like my brothers, but I struck out on my own. (djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu)

I worked in an herbal shop, but was fired for taking unpaid leaves. (djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu)

I wanted to be a barber, but couldn't handle the part. (djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu)

I opened a coffee shop, but there weren't enough perks. (djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu)

I was studying to be a chemist, but I fell in with the wrong element.

(djwixted@facstaff.wisc.edu)

I was a highland piper for a while, but I bagged it. (ASBEntropy)

I wanted to be a cop, but I couldn't make the height requirement. It was a case of arrested development. (ASBEntropy)

I wanted my hobby of taxidermy to help me get out of debt, but my troubles were mounting. (ASBEntropy)

I wanted to be a halfback, but the jobs were all full. (ASBEntropy)

I wanted to be a locksmith, but they picked someone else. (ASBEntropy)

I want to be a manicurist, but I'll need a hand to get started. (ASBEntropy)

I liked the idea of becoming a bricklayer but my wife was mortarfied. (Hunny3)

I wanted to be a dairy farmer but was in whey over my head. (Hunny3)

I had the brilliant idea of being a painter but I could not hold my lacquer. (Hunny3)

I wanted to be a gardener but was too bushed at the end of the day. (Hunny3)

I was inclined to become a bridge builder, but was put on suspension. (Hunny3)

I could not figure out how to be a puzzle writer; I was riddled with indecision. (Hunny3)

I wanted to be a personal trainer for entomologists, but couldn't work out the bugs. (Rickwins)

I wanted to be an itinerant lawyer, but my motion was denied! (Rickwins)

I wanted to be a priest at a nursing station, but they dispensed with my services. (Rickwins)

I wanted to be a vegetarian puppeteer, but I pulled a ham string. (Rickwins)

I wanted to be the next Franz Kafka, but then I had a reality Czech. (Rickwins)

I wanted to publish the works of e.e. cummings, but I was undercapitalized. (Rickwins)

I always wanted to be a garbage collector, but things never picked up. (BlueLT)

I always wanted to be an exotic dancer--but I kept getting veiled threats. (KMccad1575)

I always wanted to be a chef, but I didn't have the skillet required. (Kristina_Clarke@quickmail.ucsf.edu)

I worked in a shroud factory, but I didn't like the graveyard shift. (guy@research.att.com)

I was a forger, but I never made any real money. (guy@research.att.com)

I worked as a mattress tester, but my boss caught me standing up on the job. (guy@research.att.com)

I had a job minding the rotisserie, but I turned chicken. (guy@research.att.com)

I ran a diet clinic, but my patients grew thin. (guy@research.att.com)

I've always wanted to study sleep disorders. I've been up all night thinking about it. (Mark daley)

I always wanted to be a guard at Buckingham palace, but I couldn't stand it. (Mark daley)

I always wanted to teach sign language, but my wife wouldn't hear of it. (Mark daley)

I always wanted to study multiple personality disorder. No, you didn't. Yes he did. Hey, so did I! Me, too! (Mark daley)

I always wanted to build a time machine, but I already have. (Mark daley)

I wanted to be a pole vaulter, but I always got the short end of the stick. (GARROBMIL)

I wanted to be a copier repairman, but I couldn't stand the duplicity. (GARROBMIL)

I always wanted to be a college dean, but I lost my faculties. (GARROBMIL)

I always wanted to be a bingo caller, but I've said that B4. (GARROBMIL)

I always wanted to be a cryptologist, but jfdk fd pyqdk dkx ezkkf eyp kjkzfr. (GARROBMIL)

I applied for a job in a thermometer factory but was told I needed a degree. (EZWriterMJ)

I wanted to be a rabbi but I was passed over. (EZWriterMJ)

I had a great job as an allergist. The pay was nothing to sneeze at but I quit because the office was too congested. (EZWriterMJ)

I worked in facial electrolysis but I found it to be too high-brow. (EZWriterMJ)

I was a hotdog vendor. I used to do my job with relish. I worked my buns off. But I had to quit because financially I just couldn't catchup. (EZWriterMJ)

I could have worked on the cattle drive but I preferred a stable position. (EZWriterMJ)

I used to repair TV remotes but found that I had no control. (EZWriterMJ)

I thought I could handle double shifts at the bubble gum factory but I guess I bit off more than I could chew. (EZWriterMJ)

I could have been a ski instructor but there was nowhere to go but down. (EZWriterMJ)

I worked as a manicurist but got fired for messing up their filing system. (EZWriterMJ)

I tried to be a sailmaker but business was spars. (GiarcF)

I wanted to be a tree surgeon until I decided to branch out. (GiarcF)

I tried being a realtor but I didn't like selling a lot. (GiarcF)

I applied to be a chimney sweep but they brushed me off because I was unsootable and hadn't had my flue shot. (GiarcF)

I always wanted to be a soup chef, but the stock slipped. (ClueFree)

I always wanted to be a wealthy hermit, but no one would leave me a loan. (ClueFree)

I tried to be a cellist, but I was too high strung. (Karen Ariz)

I auditioned for opera singer, but I was from the wrong aria. (Karen Ariz)

I tried being a troubadour, but I ode too much. (Karen Ariz)

I tried farming, but it went against the grain. (Karen Ariz)

I tried to become a trapper, but my license got deferred. (Karen Ariz)

I wanted to be a punster, but I've outgroan it. (Karen Ariz)

I always wanted to be a:

bread baker, but my plans went awry. (PSTOLLMACK)

obstetrician, until I had a midwife crisis. (PSTOLLMACK)

drummer, but I couldn't stick it out. (PSTOLLMACK)

magician, but I became disillusioned with the whole thing. (PSTOLLMACK)

electrician, but I didn't have the right connections. (PSTOLLMACK)

I wanted to be an authority on Hamlet but it wasn't to be. (DarkPoetNY)

I wanted to be a roller derby queen, but when push came to shove, I quit. (DarkPoetNY)

I wanted to be an an oil driller, but I found myself between a rock and a hard place. (DarkPoetNY)

I always wanted to run a monastery, but I had no prior experience. (Ravensegg)

I always wanted to dive for gold coins, but I couldn't raise the money. (Ravensegg)

I always wanted to be a tailor, so I needled my Mom for a loan, started my own business on the cuff and chalked up a growing clientele. Even though the long hours left me panting, I never slacked. But I wasn't suited for the trade. Soon my livelihood was hanging by a thread, it seemed. All that I had pinned my hopes on became so materially altered that I sold the shop and clothed the door. (Ravensegg)

I always wanted to be a meteorologist--but what the hail! (Joni 0812)

I always wanted to be a glass maker, but I ended up blowing it. (Joni 0812)

I was going to become a preacher, but just wasn't amenable to it. (HROBS)

I applied for a job as a transvestite, but was dismissed. (HROBS)

I wanted to be a captain on a ship, but was too can't-anchor-us. (HROBS)

I wanted to work for the Red Cross, but my first job was a disaster. (HROBS)

I wanted to be a lumberjack, but my hopes were felled when I saw I couldn't make it. (MINightOwl)

I wanted to make fabrics, but kept weaving from one thing to another. (MINightOwl)

I always wanted to work at Weight Watchers; but I was downsized. (Astorian)

My mom suggested that I become a butcher, but somebody was always busting my chops. (KlnKut)

I wanted to be an oil man, but I couldn't leave well enough alone. (KlnKut)

I decided to become a bungee jumper, but I had reached the end of my rope. (KlnKut)

I wanted to be a hairdresser, but I just curled up and dyed! (KlnKut)

I always wanted to be a proofreader, but I ran into a bad spel. (Taimse)

I wanted to be a brewer, but doctors couldn't figure out what aled me. (ShedPot)

I worked at a dog pound, but I incurred too many problems. (ShedPot)

I always wanted to be a music teacher but the pay scale was too low. (SSchri6565)

I volunteered to work in the library but their schedule was already booked. (SSchri6565)

I tried working in a doughnut shop but it was so boring my eyes glazed over. (SSchri6565)

I tried selling treadmills but that was a job going nowhere. (SSchri6565)

I wanted to be an auto mechanic but I wrenched my back monkeying around. (SSchri6565)

I always wanted to be a traveling artist, but I couldn't make my van go. (mbacon@surfsouth.com )

I always wanted to be a jeweler, but I kept getting stoned. (mbacon@surfsouth.com)

I always wanted to be a librarian-- until I checked it out. (GraceLrena)

I thought about being a farmer, but the idea just never grew on me. (SKATPOPE)

I wanted to be a cashier, but it didn't register. (Sbu4943)

I wanted to be a locksmith, but couldn't get into Yale. (Sbu4943)

I wanted to be a race car driver, but I got all the bad breaks. (Sbu4943)

I started a rabbit farm, but it was a hair-raising experience. (Sbu4943)

I wanted to be a pig farmer, but I have poor penmanship. (Sbu4943)

I wanted to be the Republican nominee for Vice President, but was told I was too unkempt! (BPhill9040)

I wanted to be an astronaut, but gee, forces were against me. (MHVMike)

I almost became a dietitian until I weighed my options. (Lam420)

I wanted to be in the tennis racket, but I didn't have the guts. (LeeLeesa)

I always wanted to be a prize-fighter, but I was beaten to the punch. (DSP0526)

I've wanted to be a seamstress, but I couldn't see eye to eye with the boss. (thinga@norand.com)

I wanted to be a jam and pickle maker but was afraid the work would be too jarring. (Sunyata44)

I always wanted to rustle sheep, but I ended up on the lam. (Nysssa)

I had planned to become a medium, but my decision came back to haunt me. (ZinCats)

I thought of becoming a fireman, but my hose always ran. (VMc21348)

I was a painter until my business dried up. (LeonardJK)

I wanted to be a candle maker, but my interest tapered off. (LeonardJK)

I've always wanted to be a dentist, but I couldn' t follow the drill. (CWIECH)

I was going to go to Hollywood to get a job as a set designer, but I didn't want to cause a scene. (Ellen.Auriti@ucop.edu)

I was itching to be a dermatologist, but I didn't want to make any rash decisions. (Ellen.Auriti@ucop.edu)

I always wanted to be a roller coaster designer, but I was thrown for a loop. (PLBReg)

I really always wanted to be a wedding photographer, but it was just a flash in the pan. (PLBReg)

I always wanted to be an editor but I couldn't emend my ways. (Pun Bud)

I was going to take a job at an auction house, but I got a better offer. (BalkyNYC)

I made money a few times by selling blood, but it took too much out of me. (BalkyNYC)

I wanted to be an altar boy like my brother, but how could I hold a candle to him? (BalkyNYC)

I wanted to be Walter Mondale's Secret Service agent, but I was on the fritz. (SASadler)

I wanted to be a chicken farmer, but I never had enough scratch. (Mnussbaum)

I was unable to cement a position with a paving contractor. (Mnussbaum)

I couldn't make a living as a sculptor because all my customers kept chiseling me down on the prices. (Mnussbaum)

I always wanted to be a cruciverbalist, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise (Leroy2001)

I always wanted to be an artist, but I couldn't draw on my talents. (Wolf Thing)

I always wanted to be an herbalist but I was never on thyme. (HeidiP2)

I wanted to get into livestock rendering, but I just didn't have the knack. (jonathan.wiener)

Banking just wasn't my job, and I have to give myself credit for realizing that. (SAPPHIRBLU)

I turned down a post as an elephant trainer because I heard the job paid peanuts. (SAPPHIRBLU)

I thought about manufacturing backpacks for the community, but I never got around to canvassing the neighborhood. (ForTsumpn)

I wanted to farm on shares, but I came a cropper. (RDH9995)

I wanted to be a chiropractor, but it was too much of a stretch. (RDH9995)

I wanted to be a spiritual medium, but I just didn't give a rap. (RDH9995)

I wanted to be a furrier, but I just didn't give a wrap. (RDH9995)

I wanted to be an apiarist, but it was not to bee. (RDH9995)

I wanted to be a postal worker but my friends thought it was just my mail-ego again. Besides, if I saw a torn package I'd just letter rip and stamp my feet! (EdsMyName)

I sort of wanted to be a doctor, but thought better of it upon examination. (Robmur)

I tried being a cashier, but it never rang true. (Robmur)

I always wanted to be a nun, but I had some. (COCC)

I always wanted to be a carpenter, but I bit my nails. (COCC)

I wanted to be an astronaut, but I was in my own little world. (GoSnoGo)

I wanted to be a chef, but I had to put a lid on it. (GoSnoGo)

I always wanted to be a senator, but I'm over the Hill. (PabloMason)

I always wanted to be a night watchman, but that idea never saw the light of day. (PabloMason)

I always wanted to be a wheat farmer, but I bailed. (PabloMason)

I wanted to major in dairy husbandry but they gave me a bad steer. (DotD10)

I wanted to be a shepherd but I didn't pass my baa exam. (DotD10)

I always wanted to write a dictionary, but nobody would take my word for it. (Ms Kaethe)

My low salary as a dancer had me tapped out. (Lawlss)

I was a dog walker until I barked my shin. (Lawlss)

I wanted to be a police officer, but I shot the breeze too much. (DURDENG)

I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, but I was floored by the training, told to stop horsing around, warned that I was too broad in the beam, and finally barred from competition. (Pandria)

I tried to be a bareback rider, butt... (Pandria)

I thought about working in a muffler shop, but I was too exhausted thinking about it. (LTelles336)

I thought about being a baseball player, but I couldn't afford the diamond. (LTelles336)

I always wanted to be a birdwatcher, but it wasn't my tern. (BALD MT)

I'd love to work for my dad's bread store, but I know he'd fire me for loafing. (TDonatacci)

I always wanted to work in lingerie, but I got the pink slip. (TDonatacci)

I wanted to work for Microsoft, but I don't do windows. (CTAYLRMRTN)

I wanted to be a butler, but couldn't wait. (CTAYLRMRTN)

I always wanted to be a brain surgeon, but I couldn't get ahead. (IMZ1I12B)

I always wanted to be a tour guide, but I took the road less traveled. (IMZ1I12B)

I always wanted to be a hairdresser, but everyone was a cut above me. (Suthengirl)

I always wanted to own a coffee shop but it was such a grind. (Sandrauno)

I always wanted to be a farmer but I wasn't outstanding in my field. (Sandrauno)

I prospected for oil--but the project didn't go well. (gino@qadas.com)

I wanted to be a chemist--but my boss didn't like the way I reacted. (gino@qadas.com)

I tried being a carpet cleaner, but always felt like taking a nap. (Archan2900)

I also wanted to be a long distance operator, but it took its toll. (Archan2900)

I always wanted to be a hosiery manufacturer, but I hit a snag. (Archan2900)

I always wanted to be a Las Vegas card dealer, but got clubbed in the head with a spade, lost my diamond, and my heart was broken. That job didn't suit me at all. (Archan2900)

I always wanted to be a French chef, but I found that everything moved at a snail's pace. (Chin Ho 17)

I always wanted to be a bra salesman, but I couldn't support myself. (Chin Ho 17)

I always wanted to be a salesman, but I was Loman on the totem pole. (90601@wslms0.wslm.wec.com)

I always wanted to be a funeral home director, but no body showed up. (90601@wslms0.wslm.wec.com)

I always wanted to be a hotelier, but I didn't run with the inn crowd.

(90601@wslms0.wslm.wec.com)

I worked at the inn for several years until someone lodged a complaint. (Safetnet)

I wanted to drive 18-wheelers but I was no good in a clutch. (RikSornsen)

I wanted to be a carpenter until I heard I couldn't Maaco lot of money. (peter.n.horne@boeing.com)

I wanted to be a watchmaker but didn't have the hands for it. (peter.n.horne@boeing.com)

I started as a beat cop, but went down in defeat. (Mcj626)

I always wanted to be a short-order cook, but I made a hash of it. (BobKard)

I fell into being a private investigator while trying to find myself. (Klamwall)

I wanted to work for Minute Maid but couldn't concentrate on the job. (QuipRosen)

I wanted to be a cobbler, but I couldn't find it in my sole. (GZalimy1)

I always wanted to be a veterinarian but it just seemed too petty. (Katwriter)

I always wanted to be a reporter but I was having trouble with my circulation. (Katwriter)

I've always wanted to be an elevator operator, but I couldn't memorize the route. (kaaatje)

My plans to become an ophthalmologist were stymied (by Liddy Dole). (Ottomic)

I always wanted to be a veterinarian but I just couldn't take the bull by the horns. (Mutt Vet)

I always wanted to breed domestic animals, but I couldn't take the heat. (Bear MacD)

Dad charged me with the responsibility of becoming an electrician, but Mom thought that was revolting. She said, " Wire you even considering that?" So currently, I remain disconnected from the job market until I find something else that turns me on, though I have taken a battery of tests to try and get on the writing circuit. (MedicMac)

I always wanted to be a scam artist--but I lost confidence. (Jjaneway)

I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but I lacked the animal magnetism. (MarylandOO)

I wanted to be an AOL sysop but was misguided. (KRDesigner)

I wanted to be a church musician, but I couldn't get organized. (KPhill2998)

I always wanted to be a flower child, but I was a late bloomer. (MiladyJoan)

I always wanted to be a:

priest, but I had no rite. (MiladyJoan).

lawyer, but I lost the will. (MiladyJoan)

brewer, but I didn't have the head for it. (MiladyJoan)

palace guard, but I couldn't stay the knight. (MiladyJoan)

ski instructor, but realized it's snow fun. (MiladyJoan)

comedian in Tibet, but couldn't get my yak together. (MiladyJoan)


Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.