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Wed, Oct. 16

Williams: I never wanted to be an Egyptologist

As I’ve indicated in previous columns, even though I’m beyond the career selection stage of my life, I continue to think about professions I would have – and would not have -- wanted to take on. Being an Egyptologist is just one in the “would not” category.

First, I’d have to learn how to spell the word on a consistent basis. Five and six-syllable employment was never feasible for me. I’d have grown tired of spelling it for everyone else, too. My business card would have required smaller print or a larger size to house all the letter salad.

There are plenty of careers that don’t require the better part of an afternoon to pronounce. It’s easy to know what an actor does, or a dentist, or a dog sitter or a painter, plumber, welder and so forth. What the hell does a biophysicist do (five syllables)? Or an archaeologist (five syllables)? Or a forensic paleontologist (too many syllables)? Or an aquatic instrumentation scientist, a scientist vascular progenitor, or an eschatologist? I can guess what a scatologist does. But I don’t want to.

Another problem with being an Egyptologist is that I’d probably have to spend considerable time in…Egypt. It’s hot, often exceeding 104 degrees during the summer months. And it’s dusty. You can’t peel a banana over there without a wind storm peppering your snack with 44-caliber sand pellets. I guess that’s why the favorite foods in the country are (instead of bananas) beer, bread, emmer wheat and salty fish. I prefer salty…pretzels, myself.

Based on the fact that Egypt’s heritage dates as far back as the 6th–4th millennia BCE, I’d have to work nights and weekends and still never catch up. True, I could study the ruins of Memphis, but I could do that today in some of the neighborhoods of southwestern Tennessee.

I suppose my strongest objection to studying the history of Egypt is the requirement to learn hieroglyphics. I was never good at deciphering puzzles, so I’d be awful at interpreting endless jumbles of ancient drawings.

A country would have to meet certain standards for me to invest my time rooting around in its underwear drawer. First, it would have to be a country that in its ancient time spoke clear and idiom-free English. In this way, paragraphs found on rocks, stone slabs and on the interior walls of crypts would be easily decoded. I could also easily find out if ancient civilizations took the time to inscribe bawdy jokes on rocks, stone slabs and on the interior walls of crypts. We might find out that many of our modern off-color jests and gags came from a rich ancestry.

Second, the country of my study would have to have a pleasant climate. If I’m going to visit this country and crawl around in its geographical – and historical --innards, I want comfortable working conditions, say, something around 72 degrees with very low humidity.

No dust. I will not work around a lot of dust. I don’t mind laboring amidst a mild build-up of naturally particulate matter in my home office, but excessively dusty conditions won’t be tolerated.

No wind. Soft breezes are acceptable, but nothing over 10 miles an hour, please.

No mummy fungi. The last thing I’d need would be infection from the mummified remains of anyone.

Based on the few requirements outlined above, I believe the one ancient country that I might want to study would be…San Diego. I could probably dig up a treasure trove of prehistoric surf board, body board and skate board artifacts there.

If only it weren’t in…California.

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