4 Valuable Lessons You Only Learn from Having a Crappy Job
Most people have probably had a shitty, disposable job at one point. Maybe you're in one now, reading this on your phone in a futile attempt to escape reality (IT GETS BETTER). Toiling in minimum wage bullshit can at least give us empathy for others in such jobs after we've moved on. Imagine the tipping culture we'd have if everyone was forced by law to work eight months as a server. In a mismanaged Hooters. Next to a football stadium. ("I don't need a menu, I JUST CAME IN TO LEAVE A TIP!!") But, in an attempt to bring some meaning to such hilariously underpaid toil, what else can we learn? Looking back on my own majestic run of underemployment, shitty jobs definitely offer a few noble truths ...
People Have Shitty Jobs Because They Can't Get Good Ones
Why do people have shitty jobs to begin with? Because they can't get good jobs, and not always due to the economy.
Often it's just teenagers who'll take any job, but more often it's for other reasons. I worked at Burger King in the whitest damn neighborhood in Canada, and yet the staff was Planeteers-level multicultural, because it's no secret that we love to gaze upon a massive immigration wall of distance and money and sorrow and red tape and electric eels (probably) and then declare that anyone who climbs over it is somehow not in shape and thus only fit for jobs the locals are too goddamn special to do.
Non-racism reasons people can't get good jobs: they're mentally ill, they're incompetent (and those two are not related), or they're sketchy as fuck, with a 1981 haircut and a mustache and of course they're named Randy and only want a job in the first place because they need money to buy crystal meth from the Hell's Angels and I spent nine hours with that dude incorrectly rewaxing a floor in an overheated mall walkway and that was a shitty fucking job. Additionally, people can't get good jobs because they just don't have any connections. Think about how you got your job/apartment/romantic partner, if you have a good one. Was it because you knew someone?
I didn't know anyone, and that was either because of or the cause of my other problem, which was/is an absence of social skills and confidence. You're not gonna get a good job when you're too socially calamitous to go hand out resumes -- you're gonna get whatever dregs are left where they'll hire anyone and not care if they just stand off to the side murmuring worryingly. With people who've scaled the immigration wall, you at least get super overqualified employees. I was fuckin' GREAT at Burger King. But I and half the other people working there should have been doing great at something else.
The Service Sucks Because People Aren't Paid Enough to Offer Service
Anyone who complains about the service anywhere has never had a shitty job. Anyone who has had a shitty job and is not a sociopath does not complain about the service (up to a point) because they know that people are not being paid enough to do the basic aspects of their job, let alone go above and beyond. Nobody with a shitty job is earning enough to survive, so if the cashier didn't smile at you, well maybe she's a Bosnian refugee being paid just enough to show up or to forget 1/16 of her troubles but not both, and if the waiter took too long, maybe he's the only one on tonight because the boss is too cheap to pay three people to do the work of three people, and if the cleaners didn't get the gum off the carpet, maybe we fucking tried for like 45 minutes and then had to move on and it was your gum to begin with and our list of duties is long and we had to train ourselves and offering nonexistent 1950s-style how-may-I-suck-your-dick-today-sir levels of customer service is not what you get for minimum wage, you get what you goddamn pay for, so get mad at the boss or the company, but not the person not being paid to not act like you're an entitled ass.
It's a Shitty Job Because of the Boss
Speaking of the boss, Burger King was a shitty job because the owner was some absentee dude who was nice but like us was there for the money, and the manager was some impossibly creepy guy who so closely resembled Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons that it HAD to have been deliberate (like, $800,000 worth of illegal South American cosmetic surgery and meticulously practicing the facial expressions in the mirror kind of deliberate). Actually, every disposable job was shitty because the owner was absent and the manager was some lunatic/obvious pedophile/teenage girl in a woman's body/additional absentee, and never someone you'd ever willingly work hard for -- not that your will matters to begin with in this context.
The last low-paying job I had I worked like 50 deafening hours a week mowing lawns, no lunch breaks, searing heat, evil and insane old people for customers, drained of all energy by Friday night. Yet this was in fact the non-shittiest job I ever had (and I'd probably still be there if I didn't have other ambitions), and it was great because the owners were great and that's what separates good jobs from bad -- it's not the customers or the actual duties, but it is the motivation. If you're working for friends, then everyone's happy, because you'd do anything for your friends. Terrible bosses will never get it, but it's the only lesson one needs in terms of leadership (as opposed to reading books about leadership by people who didn't learn leadership from books).
It won't help with shitty employees because they're shitty for the same reason shitty bosses and customers are -- they don't give a fuck about other people, they're just there to take. But being a friend WILL make sure you hang on to the good employees and ensure that nobody ever says that working for you was a shitty job, no matter how trying the customers could be.
Having a Shitty Job Is Sort of Worth Doing (Sort Of)
The shittiest fucking job I ever had in my life was some beyond-nihilistic phone survey thing where you electronically kick people's doors in while they're relaxing for the evening and assault them with a 68,000-question survey about banking and you don't want to be there and neither do they and they stammer a few answers and you try to type out what they've said but you're too slow and you have to ask them to keep repeating it with fewer syllables and both of you are descending into fury and you're only three questions in and you have a quota to meet and you're not even close and out the window you'd be able to see people with good jobs going for dinner except you don't even have a window and then the person whose evening you're ruining inevitably hangs up on you because they are literally going to get in the car to come and kill you and you're back to square one and you hate being alive and you realize that the job was so suspiciously easy to get because they will take everyone because "everyone" is the only pool of people statistically large enough for them to find people who are actually desperate enough to do that for a living, and after the first four hours of doing it I told them I was leaving and then I called my parents from a payphone that no longer exists and said I literally have no money but I'm still not poor enough to do phone surveys.
And then right after that I found a job that wasn't a soul-erasing triathlon of despair and after a few years of that I had the money and opportunity to do what I actually wanted to do for a living. And like everyone else who is doing what they want, it's because I was able to quit doing what I didn't want. Because not being able to succeed at the wrong things is also a skill, and having and leaving a succession of shitty jobs is a great way to learn it.
That's the only good thing about disposable jobs: They're disposable. And if they weren't then half of us would still be in the first job we ever got instead of something a lot more fulfilling than some low-skill bird cage with money that's too good to walk away from. If I'd been able to find a good, steady job, I'd still be there, and that's not the right situation for everyone. But I never had something I couldn't walk away from, and consequently I now do. Obviously every job should by law goddamn pay a living wage, but until then the various greedy companies and shitty bosses of the world must be at least sneeringly thanked in a desperately-looking-on-the-bright-side kinda way, for in not valuing people's hard work, they ensure that someone else will reap the rewards of that hard work, to the benefit of all but greedy companies and shitty bosses -- the true disposable ones.
Plus they made me a really good tipper (20 PERCENT MINIMUM YO).
Winston Rowntree is also available in webcomic form. Like me on Facebook too or I'll get you.
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