Monday, April 30, 2007

I'm Baa..ack

Washington, DC.

I wonder if this is the most diverse city in America? Something I noticed...I didn't encounter a single entry level job filled by a white person...African Americans, African Africans, Middle Easterners, some hispanics, and lots of Asians, but no young white kids.

Let me leave untouched for the moment the racial implications of this unscientific observation and just say that every young person in America should have the joy of working for minimum wage at some point in their employment career. Some folks think mandatory military or public service should be a part of every person's obligation in this country but I think it should be burger flipping. Want to know what life is really like? Try saying "You want fries with that?" and smiling at someone who essentially treats you with all the respect they would give to wallpaper. Try doing that for a living...Well, except that you can't actually live on what you make.

Think about how this would change our leaders. Suppose George Bush's first job had been at the car wash or the grocery store instead of working for Salem Bin Laden at Arbusto Oil?

Ok, I guess some folks are going to say W's first job was in the National Guard, and he did get an actual pay check. He didn't show up for that one after they told him he was going to have to pee in a bottle and being a Senator's son in the National Guard isn't actually much of a job no matter how you look at it.

So anyway, I have several hard working friends even though I myself don't work very hard. Two of the best workers and most successful people I know started their careers in grocery stores bagging groceries, stocking shelves, and following little old ladies to their car with a cart, but I missed that one. My first job was flipping burgers, which I did for a bit before moving on to the entreprenurial world of newspaper delivery. Then it was construction and a bad rock and roll band. Then sorting packages at night for UPS in order to pay for college and then off to the professional world. The minimum wage jobs taught things that just weren't an option in other places. How to make change, for instance. How to say "thank you" while looking people in the eyes and smiling, especially when they aren't smiling back and you aren't really all that thankful for the way they are treating you.

I forget that lesson from time to time.

But while I am guilty of forgetting one of life's best lessons...Soem folks never learned it in the first place. I am afraid for America. Our society is changing in such a way that we will no longer have shared experiences. I've been relatively successful and have had lot's of people working for me at times. I'm not the perfect boss but I have been on the other side of the desk. I've served fountain drinks and ice cream to my "betters" and I know how it feels.

There's a poverty to a working career that starts in a business suit.



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