Most of us want a position that's more than a "nine-to-five job." We want the money that goes with greater responsibility. We want the responsibility itself: a better chance to show what we can do. And we want the prestige that goes with advancement.

The trouble is, this kind of job often takes more time than nine to five, or eight to four, or whatever its nominal hours may be.

And then the job starts to conflict--rather drastically at times--with other areas of our lives.

But the lawn needs mowing and the laundry needs doing, regardless of our office deadlines.

It's politic to have a present in hand instead of a promissory note on your spouse's birthday, in spite of having to work during those lunch hours when you intended to go shopping.

Like time and tide, the phone bill waits for no one--at least not very long.

And then there's the matter of therapy. Periodically, we need a game of golf, tennis, racquetball or squash . . . a retreat into a trashy novel . . . a burst of stitchery . . . an hour or two of furniture refinishing . . . or some other form of tension release. In fact, the greater the demands of our jobs, the more some such diversion is a downright necessity in the midst of an often stressful existence.

I was reminded of this whole collision of needs and responsibilities by the looming, cursed, seemingly impossible-to-meet deadline for this column.

Only minutes before I began writing it, I was wondering whether this moonlighting sideline of mine is worth the aggravation. I've been up since 6:30. It took from 7 to 8 to get to the office. I worked till 7 tonight with just a 15-minute lunch break. Got home at 8. Took a wild, frivolous 10 minutes to talk to my wife and another 10 to eat dinner.

At that point I still didn't know what I was going to write about. Since doing my last column, my job and other time-consuming necessities had barely allowed me to worry about my next one, let alone conceive it.

But now I'm actually marveling at my good fortune. I've fulfilled an assignment just by writing about the obstacles in its path. I wish I could get away with that at the office once in a while. After all, a job can be hard to fit into your schedule, too.