Labor Day question: Do the fortunates choose work they love--or fall in love with work that chooses them?

Those who hate their jobs do them badly. Those who take pride in their work are immediately obvious.

Looking unsuccessfully for a neck pillow in a large department store, I found the linens salesman, who knew his business. He went to the storerooms. About 20 minutes later, after going through stacks of dust, he came back with a pillow--but not one with the stuffing I sought. The next day, after another treasure hunt, he called rejoicing that he'd found just what I wanted. I bought not only the pillow but also a king-size blanket.

The Chron remembers an Austrian man who saved his own way of life because he liked to work.

As World War II began, Herr Martinovic was a ship's cook on the German liner Columbus. The ship was scuttled off the coast of Virginia, but Martinovic was pulled out of the Atlantic by an American merchant ship, given a merchant marine cap, and safely sat out the war in internment camps in Canada and the western United States. He showed his gratitude for being rescued from the ocean and the hardship and privation of wartime Europe by working at what he knew best--cooking.

After World War II, Herr Martinovic was proprietor-cook-waiter (and probably dishwasher) of a small cafe near the U.S. consulate in Vienna.

Chron said when the consulate staff lunched at the cafe, "Martinovic put on his American merchant marine cap, greeted us at the door and, without asking, served up hasenpfeffer, pheasant, venison--whatever he cooked was what we got. We were rarely disappointed."

In Washington, a small restaurant we go to at least once a week has the best salad bar in town, and the worst straw chair seats. Only two chairs have fabric, which we prefer. The agreeable waiters, when they see us come in, hasten to offer them, turn down the music and adjust the temperature. The talented cook ensures that the meat on my plate is done, not pink.

Since I never can finish the day's entire lunch combo, the pleasant staff kindly gives us a carryout container. Thus, we have California roll sushi in the evening, while Spock lives long and prospers during TV's umpteenth "Star Trek" rerun.

At our other favorite restaurant, noticing how long it took me to eat the delicious blue-cheese-embellished salad, our excellent waitress thoughtfully offered to swap my yet-untouched soup for a hotter serving.

A nearby grocery went up in our opinion the other day when a staffer who knew his job took time to hunt up superior croissants for us. The pleasant cashier responded to customer questions about where to find salt-free and sugarless food, promising to suggest to the management that such healthy edibles be grouped. At the curb, the loader put six heavy bags in our car at one carrying.

The most pleasant people to buy from are salespeople who take orders for mail order catalogues, widely dispersed over the country. With charming regional accents, they work all night long, all holidays--augmenting catalogue descriptions.

Though you frequently have to wait when "all our people are helping other customers," when they do answer, they are always courteous, friendly and helpful.

In hospitals, you see the best and worst workers--especially in emergency wards. Those who truly care go to great efforts, easing pain, comforting the ill and consoling the patients' distraught relatives. The kindest work the night shifts, and even provide a comfortable chair for the resident relation. Unfortunately, others who obviously love not their occupation stick in tubes without explanations, or refuse to consider a patient's experience.

Hospitals, like most big buildings, are labyrinths, unequipped with guide dogs, maps or crumbs to drop to find a way to return. Thankfully, courteous cleaning crews and even priests know their way around and go extra miles (long corridors) to ensure that the lost person won't end up in the furnace dungeon.

The most variable workers are those at computer companies trying to answer phone questions--often from desperate, stupid callers such as me.

At 3 a.m., after the computer has eaten several hours' work, I call the computer helpers, threatening to take a hammer to the evil machine. Some experts are marvels of patience while dealing with those people like me for whom gates are closed to Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, some experts seem to know even less. One I remember said he was giving it all up and going to be a priest.

Clerks to cleaning experts, helpful people rightly take pride in their expertise. I made my own choice in the second grade, eons ago. I penciled a class newspaper, a true penny-dreadful, selling it to other pupils. Subscribers were few and my writing hand soon gave out.

Yet after all those years, I love being a Chronicler--I hope you can tell.