Sunday, July 19, 2009

Some are happy just to have a job

I just finished reading an article in the newspaper about part-time, overqualified workers in my state who are working part-time only because that's all they can find for work.  One man is busing tables at a pancake place because he can't find anything in his field; he's a veteran carpenter and trained diver.  To his credit, he has a very good attitude about the whole thing and is happy just to have the work.

But that got me to thinking about what it would be like if say doctors, lawyers, dentists, college professors, and other professionals could not land jobs in their fields, and so had to take a big cut in pay and hours, along with a demotion to such positions as clerks, cashiers, laundry workers, and burger flippers.

Now even though it would be very unfortunate and unfair to these professionals, I think it would be hilarious to witness.  There are some "bigwigs" I've come across over the years who have a very pompous, self-righteous, "I'm better than you are" type of attitude.  So for such people, having to lower themselves to some of the aforementioned positions would be a nightmare.  But I'd think they'd learn something valuable from the whole experience.  It's humbling to perform a job for low wages and find out what it's like on the other side of the fence.

A few years back, desperate for a part-time job to supplement my writing income, I signed up with a temp agency.  The job they found for me was stuffing envelopes--all day long.  That's all I did all day long was stuff about 3 to 5 letter-sized papers into these big envelopes.  Talk about boring.  There is no possible way to make a job like that fun or interesting.  I knew it was temporary--supposed to last about 2 weeks.  But for a college graduate with a degree in English and concentration in creative writing, doing something so monotonous and brainless for eight hours a day is indeed a challenge.  I made all kinds of deals with myself just to get through the two weeks.  I tried to bring in very tasty lunches to give myself the reward of food--something to look forward to each day.  One day, early on, I heard one of the younger workers (there were about 15 of us working in a big room) talking on her cell phone during a break.  She was speaking with the person who'd signed her up for this temp job.  One of the things she said really cracked me up.  I tried so hard not to laugh out loud.  She said, "I'm really enjoying the job so far!"  Lots of enthusiasm in her voice.  I sat there, mystified, thinking: How the hell can you say you're enjoying stuffing envelopes????

So she was either lying/exaggerating  just to please the recruiter.... OR (amazingly) finds enjoyment in stuffing envelopes.  If it's the latter, well, I don't know what to say about her particular IQ, etc.

But, getting back to my point about overqualified people doing work that's below them, I did learn a few things doing that temp job.  I talked to some of the other workers and got to know them.  A few were older ladies at or near retirement age who just wanted something to do during the day.  They were cheerful and helpful and actually very good workers.  They breezed through their envelope stuffing, laughing at each other's jokes, sharing anecdotes, and commenting on news stories coming over the radio.  The radio stayed on all day long and these happy workers sang along to the oldies, making it a pleasant atmosphere for all.

So one day I sat there and thought:  This ain't so bad.  There are worse ways to earn a living.  And it's only for two weeks.

I can hang on that long.  And I can smile doing it.


  1. Hey, you got to go home and not stress about work, or bring work home, right? That's a miraculously wonderful thing compared to the stress that many folks go through, professionally :) So that's DEFINITELY a bright side to that :)

  2. I feel like my head is exploding, thinking about stuffing envelopes 8 hours a day. But you gotta do what you gotta do, even if it's boring. You have an excellent attitude about it.