I don't think I'm the smartest guy in the room. I've never claimed to have all the answers.
I just think that I know exactly what to do to make the world noticeably better, in the span of a year or two. That's all. I'm proposing that every person on the planet spends one or two years doing all five jobs on this list. I'm not saying it'll solve everything, just almost everything.
Every waiter reading this article is quietly saying. "Fuck yes" at this moment, because everyone who has ever waited tables at some point has had this realization: If everyone was forced to wait tables for one year, the world would be so much better!
"And Mondays should be part of the weekend, and dogs should vote!"
Everyone has that realization because it's totally true. I've waited tables at shitty, poorly run diners; expensive, fancy restaurants; and a Ruby Tuesday (to me, the exact middle on that spectrum of restaurants), and all I could think was "Damn, everyone should have to do this awful, awful thing."
Why Everyone Should Have This Job:
You learn a whole lot about people by serving them. How a person behaves to the guy fetching his drinks says a lot about that person. And you, as a waiter, start to figure out what kind of person you want to be. Are you the guy who makes eye contact with your waiter and speaks to him like a human, or are you the guy who hisses when he wants to catch a waiter's attention (happened to me)? Everyone on the planet should know what it's like to have to serve someone else. It's humbling, and sometimes terrible, and some other times mostly OK.
Teacher. Camp counselor. Parent. Any one of those jobs works for this one. I was a camp counselor for a few summers, but that was when I was 17 and thus incapable of learning anything that wasn't related to chasing girls or eating French fries. But I'm older now and every once in a while, I work with children. I don't want to get into the specifics, so let's just say I moonlight as the foreman of a very successful nunchuck factory that exclusively employs white children between the ages of 6 and 11. I got into it a few years ago and just fell in love with it.
Their little hands are good at pressing the elaborate series of buttons I've installed.
I've picked up a few important lessons in my time as a stern but fair toddler-wrangling nunchuck-peddler, and not just that using free labor is an incredibly smart business decision (although oh my God yes). I didn't learn anything from the kids themselves (children are lying little shitboxes), but I learned plenty from the experience. For example, after work one day, we all went to a nearby playground to unwind. One of the boy-kids thought it might be cool to see how many kids could fit on a tire swing, and he asked me for permission. I thought about it, agreed that it seemed very cool in theory, but I wasn't sure if it would be particularly safe to load 23 children onto a rickety old tire swing. But they weren't my kids, and safety wasn't really my call, so I just shrugged.
"Absolutely," I said. "I'm sure if this was unsafe, one of the adults would stop us." I trusted the vague concept of the ever-present adult person who always kept me safe when I was doing dumb shit on playgrounds. The grown-ups would never let us do something if it was unsafe.
And when the eighth kid got on and a dangerous situation was clearly underway, I had a startling realization: I am the adult!
"But no one told me!"
Without realizing it, I had become something that resembled a grown-up authority figure to a bunch of stupid fucking kids, which was weird, because in my head I was still a stupid fucking kid. Being the only thing standing between children and the death that they seem to so desperately crave with their manic recklessness is sobering, to be sure. When I realized these kids trusted and unknowingly depended on me, I never took my position lightly again.
Anyway we could only get 11 kids on that swing.
Why Everyone Should Have This Job:
It's important to, for at least a little while, be the person on whom little kids rely for their safety. Obviously parents don't need to do this job, but anyone else, like me, who is on a direct path of relaxing selfishness and childless leisure should have to understand the pressure and stress of trying not to ruin children. The quickest way to feel like a grown-up is to have a little kid hate you for keeping them safe.
Also, you'll learn to have more empathy for absolutely anyone who does have children, because kids are the worst people on the planet. Sticky little liars who can't even hunt, that's what all of them are, and anyone who dedicates their lives to raising them deserves slack, all the time, from everyone.
I've never had a job working in tech support, but I have called it, and I am an idiot, so I have a pretty good idea of what they have to deal with. Tech Support, as a concept, sounds impossible to me: You get on the phone with someone who has a problem they can't articulate that they want you to fix, and then they yell at you if you don't do it.
I'm not very tech savvy, but I certainly know more than my parents, so I try to help them over the phone whenever something goes wrong with their computer or Blu-ray player or the attack robot I bought them for their last anniversary. It's really tough for someone to talk about computers if they didn't have them growing up, because there's a language barrier; they just don't have the vocabulary. Everyone who has ever had to help their parents fix a computer knows this. And, if you work in Tech Support, you have to deal with the computer illiterate parents of the entire world. And other just general, run-of-the-mill idiots. Like me. As I said, I know more about computers than my parents, but not a lot. I still have to call a professional when something goes wrong with my computer. This is what one of those calls typically looks like:
Me: Hey, my computer's not how it usually is.
Tech: Alright, sir, I'm happy to help. Why don't you tell me what's wrong with it?
Me: It's just broken. And it's usually not. That's the weird thing.
Tech: OK, what's ... Tell me what you're doing, describe what things look like.
Me: I'm talking on a phone, things are looking good.
Tech: Talk about your computer.
Me:I hate it!
Tech: Sir, look at your computer screen at the parts that aren't working, and tell me what you're doing and what you see when they don't work.
Me: Well, I want to open a browser, but when I use the browser and click on the browser, the browser doesn't come up. What do you think it means?
Tech: I think you're calling too many things "Browser." I would like you to pick one thing to call "Browser." Doesn't matter which, just decide one of the things on your computer is the browser, and then give different names to anything that isn't that.
Me: I'm going to call the clicky thing that fits in my hand the "browser," because I use it when I browse the brows- Oh, shit. I'm still doing it.
Tech: That's fine. Why don't you just restart your computer?
Me: Help me! The screen is different now.
Me, doing my best.
Tech: That's fine. Are you seeing a blue screen?
Me: I don't know that I'd call it "blue," exactly.
Tech: Well, what color would you call it?
Me: Doesn't really feel like my place to say.
Tech: Sir, please tell me what color your screen is currently.
Me: I'll give you this: It's definitely in the blue family. It's, like, a cousin of blue.
Tech: That's fine, sir, thank-
Me: Like a second cousin of blue, I misspoke.
Tech: That's very good, sir. Now, if you-
Me: Ah! My phone's in my mouth now! Can you do anything about that?
Tech: Sir, I can't hear you.
Why Everyone Should Have This Job:
Tech Support is about teaching someone who doesn't speak the same language as you to fix their problems just by talking to them. Imagine how much better we, as a global community, would be at communicating with each other if we all had to spend a year in Tech Support. In the way that a lawyer trains her mind for organizing thoughts and building arguments, a Tech Support employee trains his mind for pleasantly and efficiently communicating with people who are much, much dumber.