Essentially Ashland: By Lance K. Pugh

I have always had a knack for finding the silver lining in the darkest of clouds and, with your consent, will shortly share some encouraging news with you.

We are thrashed daily by a tsunami of discouraging economic miasma, which pounds at our hopes and dreams. Jobs that have not already been outsourced are being pink slipped to the dumpster just as retirement savings, savaged by sour times, seem headed to the bottom of a once beautiful pool of inspiration and seemingly endless possibilities.

As the rack winds tighter and our collective groans merge into a dire dirge, there is one bright spot on the horizon: We in Ashland have a unique job built right into our town, making it possible to earn a meager living attending to the needs and demands of our hallowed guests and visitors — the plenipotentiary concierge.

People on vacation need things done and, if not staying at a landmark hotel, have to depend on their own ingenuity instead of the steady hand and manifold connections of a seasoned concierge.

With the help of the City, which, of course, takes a cut, gathering points around town are designated concierge zones. Qualified, licensed and well-dressed "ambassadors to Ashland" there await as our visitors drive by and inspect the crowd, picking out one or two to hire for a few days to pave their way through the minor pitfalls and inconveniences of modern vacationing.

Some of the many services that a good peripatetic concierge might provide:

Crossing the streets of a town with a state highway cutting through it can become risky if not down right dangerous. A thoughtful concierge would, of course, step first into the crosswalk to gage the likely compliance of a wall of drivers all talking on their cell phones while trying to remember all the ingredients for dinner. All it takes is some initiative, a leap of faith and enough agility to vault over a car's hood if it fails to stop. Do it right and a big tip might be in store. Make a mistake and you will be grounded for awhile, if not much, much longer. Hustling up a San Francisco Chronicle and a couple of steaming lattes is always in order and a good way to start the day. The visitor's lap dogs surely need to be taken for a walk a couple of times a day and, as a local, you know the alleys that elicit the best results. Walking a respectful distance behind your "clients," your arms loaded with bags full of their latest shopping, is always part of the job when you are not walking ahead to pick up any offending trash while temporarily relocating groupings of mendicants with proffered lattes and dog biscuits for the canines in their care. Hand-washing the Mercedes when the visitors take in a show never fails to make a positive impression. The same result accrues by putting together a local flower arrangement after making reservations for them at a fine restaurant. When they skip off to their marvelous meal you can always disappear for a moment and down that peanut butter and jelly sandwich that you keep invisibly on hand to ward off those nasty fainting spells that seem to surprise you after working your other two jobs.

So, essentially, being unemployed is a state of mind, for there is always so much to do for others. Though the competition may be fierce, those "ambassadors of Ashland" — who are fluent with the plays, display a total command of opening all doors and speak French — are always in demand and, with any luck, even manage to occasionally get a tip as their "clients" briefly wave goodbye while their lap dogs bark mindlessly through the back window while seated on matching, oh so cute, pillows.

Indeed, this is a job that needs filling and, if you also are in need of dental care, you just might qualify.

Lance@journalist.com was last seen delivering two Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Lattes and a couple of croissants to a parked Jaguar near the upper duck pond in Lithia Park. His gait was as light as a feather.