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Suzanne Baumann likes to describe herself as a career temp worker. Graduating from Kalamazoo College with an art degree, she's had about 50 jobs since, including a well-paying stint in design at K-Mart's children's clothing department and a one-time gig illustrating Metro Times' astrology column. But possibly the most serious eyebrow-raiser in the collection was her first job out of school: headstone design. At Inch Memorials in Northville, she worked for three months putting names on tombstones.
"In the back there was a workshop with slabs of marble. You could smell the stone from up front, where I worked on computers for the design process." Sometimes she'd work on custom pieces, like a request for an elaborate scene for a deceased husband, featuring a photo of his pooch and a pheasant he'd shot and stuffed.
She liked the work. There was a discipline to it. Design outlines made too wide would pick up dirt, so strict guidelines had to be followed. She learned from the job, but she didn't have goals in the memorial business. She says, "I knew what sort of adult I wanted to be, but I didn't define that as a job."
Baumann, who lives in Hamtramck, continues to take on temp jobs while working as a cartoonist for the last 15 years, self-publishing comics. None of the other jobs have seemed quite so odd as the first.
Cherri Buijk is a Metro Times editorial intern. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.