Saturday, December 28, 2013


It wouldn't be hard, as some of have done, to suggest that this guy check his class privilege at the door.  It's Christmastime, though, and I can afford to be a little more sympathetic:
The blog's anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn't get a job offer though.

This grad still hasn't found legal work and took a job selling cologne just before the holidays to make ends meet. Now he says he's "liveblogging the loss of my last shred of dignity."
I've never liked it when people talk down about being a janitor.  Our soon-to-be-ex-superintendent threatened a district administrator by saying he'd demote her to janitor.  I get that it's not a glamorous job, and certainly not one I'd enjoy, but I think that implicit in such talk is that being a janitor is beneath your dignity, that some are too good to be a janitor and some are not.  I'm very uncomfortable with that kind of elitism.  Honest work shouldn't be beneath anyone's dignity, no matter what the job.

So the blog writer mentioned above could be mocked, or chastised, because he talks of losing his dignity.  No one takes that from you, you give it away.  People have faced a lot worse than a retail job and managed to retain their dignity.

But we all understand his point.  He wanted "more" than a retail job.  He worked for more.  And he currently doesn't have it.  Whether it be prestige or pay or whatever else, he wanted more, and he can rightly feel disappointed for not yet having achieved it.  I can sympathize with that.  And I respect his decision to take the (honest) job he took in order to support himself.  That's admirable.

On the other hand, his current situation is temporary; I can't imagine that he'll still be selling cologne in a few years.  Instead of whining about his dignity, he should continue working towards the profession for which he's trained.  Instead of talking down about customers or the people he works with, he should take some pride that his fellow employees come to him expecting him to know the answers to their questions; perhaps he can gain some empathy by working amongst the people he seems to look down upon.  He doesn't look down on them as people--he feels a kinship for working the same "dehumanizing" and "soul-crushing" job with them--but since he doesn't think anyone should have to work retail, and some of the people he writes about do have to work retail, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that he does think he's better than they are, at least in the abstract.

He's looking at his current condition as a glass-half-empty.  He could choose to look at it in a different way.


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Thank you. It's very true. The only jobs beneath us are the ones that are illegal and immoral.

Though I'm with you on having a list of "jobs I certainly wouldn't prefer." God bless.

Ludo said...

I appreciate your blog post and for at least trying to understand where I'm coming from. These comments that I "check my class privilege" are ridiculous. I am working class and have been my whole life. I went to undergrad and law school on nothing but scholarships and federal loans. I don't look down on anyone who works for minimum wage. People seem to be harping on and reading way too much into the 'last shred of my dignity' title. The work is dehumanizing because of the way people treat you. It's not that I'm too good to do it or better than anyone who does it, it's that you are treated like a piece of shit in these kinds of jobs.

PeggyU said...

Ludo - Believe it or not, you have not scraped the bottom of the barrel as far as jobs go. At least you are inside where it is warm, your hands don't end up rough and calloused, and you are not cleaning up body fluids. Those are some of the job hazards my college friends and I had doing agricultural labor, working in a nursing home, and doing janitorial work. We also graduated in the middle of a recession and did not find immediate job gratification.

One thing I hope you take from this is that people can be cloddish and inconsiderate without realizing it. I bet you never treat retail people poorly as a result of this! I hope you will also step up when you see clerks being treated badly.

Ludo said...

Like I said, people are reading way too much into the last shred of dignity thing. obviously there are worse jobs, I've worked jobs worse than this. But complaining about your job is just human nature. and that's only a very small part of the blog anyway

also I already treat people in retail well. I think it says a lot about your preconceived notions of me that you would assume I needed this job to teach me to treat people well

PeggyU said...

Ludo - I did not assume that you were rude to people. You read that into my comment. What I said was you will probably never be rude to retail people as a result of being in their shoes. I believe we are all capable of unintentional inconsideration. Some of what you experience may simply be the result of ignorance, and those people might be mortified to learn they have caused you grief. People do make mistakes or have bad days themselves - even urbane, well-educated, intelligent people.

Once you work in a job, you know what aspects of it irritate you, and you develop a sensitivity. Because of that, you are careful to not create the same situations you found unpleasant. A heightened awareness is a good thing. Even if you were well-mannered before, the personal experience drives it home, IMO.