I’ve been working for a long time. A very, very long time. Since birth, I believe it was – straight out of the womb and onto a factory line. Those were good times.
And so I would like to take this blog, today, to talk about one of my favorite job-related subjects: learned helplessness.
One of the first jobs I ever had was working as a busboy (we were ALL busboys back then, regardless of gender, just as we were all paperboys. The sexual orientation of the lower-ranked help was of no interest to anyone but the lower-ranked help, but I digress). There was a waitress at this particularly truck stop who claimed that she could not vacuum at the end of her shift because, and I quote, “I don’t know how.”
You heard that right, people. She didn’t know how to vacuum.
This wasn’t a trick vacuum. There was the canister, the hose, and the on/off button. That’s all it had, technology-wise. It didn’t sweeten the air, it didn’t make anything any freer from allergens – the damn thing barely sucked up dirt.
But she didn’t know how to vacuum.
You’d think there’d be a test for that sort of thing before hiring, wouldn’t you?
Needless to say, I was forced to kill her and bury her in the back with the other brain-dead waitresses.
I mean, that’s how you guys deal with willful stupidity, right?
But lest you think that hand-fluttering, eyelash-batting stupidity comes only in a female flavor…
You ready for this?
Because I came across a similar situation here at work this morning.
“’Morning, Pearl! Say, I need you to make copies of this for me.”
It is at this point that I should interject that I do not support/type for/schedule for/take orders from or give a rat’s ass about this person’s in-box in any way, shape or form. I have my work and he has his. I would also like to point out that this person has been here for a number of years – this is not his first office job.
“Why, good morning, Adolph! The copier is right over there.” Insert mad pointing here. “You put the original on the glass, punch in the number of copies you want, and then you hit the big green button. Voila! Tiny monks working at the speed of light make your copies.”
“Ha, ha, you’re funny, Pearl.”
”I soitenly am, Adolph. Now get away from my desk.”
OK. Maybe I didn’t really tell him to get away from my desk. Maybe I did. Who can tell? I was pretty drunk at the time. But this “I-don’t-know-how-to-make-copies” thing is right up there with “I don’t know how to vacuum.”
Perhaps he felt, my title being “executive assistant”, that I was available for not just the Vice President I support but am available for all, that my secretarial status – like waitresses, bartenders, taxi drivers, and daycare workers – implies that I am here to serve all and sundry…
Perhaps he felt that I would be pleased to have the opportunity to make him copies, since he has no admin of his own.
Or perhaps he’s just another weight on society, perfectly at home with others taking care of the details for him while he potters off in search of leftover donuts and free coffee.
Winter mornings and pottery
9 hours ago