These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2011

real jobs

Every now and then I still get mistaken for my brother. One would think at least the facial hair would've done the trick to distinguish us, but sometimes, when somebody doesn't know either of us all that well - visually or otherwise - we get mixed up.

The other day at work was such a day.
But there was something about this particular occasion which stayed with me in a way other mix-ups have not. Usually, the identity confusion is a mild one and perhaps under silly circumstances (like at church, after I've delivered a sermon). Such mistakes can easily be brushed aside as blissful ignorance; they bother neither me nor my brother, and in fact we take it in jest, laughing about it. This instance was also quite an honest mistake, but the comment made struck home in a new way.

While finishing up a substantial job for a doctor and his family, I came out of the house we were working in to get something from the van. On the outside steps I met the very friendly home-owner, sitting and reading a manual for an outdoor light-fixture he was about to try installing. In a kind attempt to make conversation due to our proximity, the man asked, 'You're not in school right now?' To which I honestly replied, 'No, I've actually graduated.'

The question was genuine; it was the beginning of September and I was working in the middle of the day. It was only fair to be asked whether I was still in school or not, as not everybody will know my academic standing. But his next question caught me slightly off guard. He asked casually, with a pleased smile on his face while his eyes nonchalantly crossed the pages of his instruction manual, 'So, have you found a real job yet?'

A real job? My initial reaction was to lose all train of thought as the question sank deeper and deeper, like a slow-motion slap to the cheek. I tried to regain my composure - as I possibly let out an, 'Um' - at which the man continued, unnaware of my mental staggering, to ask, 'What's the job market like for an OT?' And at that, I realised he had mistaken me for Daniel, who is in his second year of Occupational Therapy. Therefore, I informed him, 'Oh, you're thinking of my brother.' He immediately began to try to find words to say, in a possible attempt at covering up his tracks, asking me about what school I graduated from, what degree I had, and awkwardly trying to wrap up the conversation as he stood, still staring into his manual - now with more obvious determination - and slowly but steadily shifting his body towards his light fixture project above the garage.

A real job?

With his question ringing in my ears, I finished locating whatever tools I had come down to the van for and headed back up to the second story of the 4 000 square-foot house we were working in. I finished the day - and in fact the week - with this remark in the back of my mind. I realise I don't actually know what his intent was with these words - they very well could have been innocent, though his apparent awkwardness following the identity clarification would suggest otherwise. Indeed, his language certainly was tell-tale of a subconscious opinion - an opinion shared, unfortunately, by many.

I know as a doctor, this man does a whole lot of good - a type of life-saving good that perhaps I could never equal, unless I joined his field of child-burn-victims expertise. Nevertheless, I don't feel it's fair to deem his job any more real than mine. In fact, if it wasn't for people like me and my dad, he wouldn't have a beautiful bathroom the size of Rebekah's and my bedroom, or a walk-in closet bigger than our bathroom. Granted, as a doctor he did earn enough money to afford these kinds of (exorbitant) luxuries - but who is it that he's paying to achieve them? Us; people like us who do have real jobs. Contrary to seemingly popular belief, a construction worker is not someone to be pitied - unless, I'd suggest, it's in regards to their underpaid and underrated existence. They're not the obvious heroes - like a fireman or a doctor or a police officer - but in their own right, they are heroes.

I'm not entirely sure why it is that renovators/contractors have such a lowly reputation, situated at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. It's a sad state of society when income is the determining factor for respect - a notion which feeds the status-obsessed culture we live in. Construction workers are generally looked down upon as though a blue-collar worker is not a real worker at all, as if they're some sort of sub-species with an uncomplicated job of pure drudgery. And yet it's these people who are building and maintaining the very structures and facilities those who look down their noses are working and living in. The work these people do involve as much skill and talent as any other job; not anybody can (or should), as I have seen first hand on a number of occasions, pick up a paint brush or a hammer. Yet, for some reason it seems everybody thinks they can do renovations, while nobody presumes to be able to match the years of experience a medical practitioner has - nor does anybody have the audacity to barter down the cost of a retail purchase, but then they somehow assume a contractor's job isn't their livelihood.

Now, I'm not trying to pit any one type of job over and against any other; I'm not trying to say one job is more significant, or more important, or more difficult than the next one; and I'm certainly not trying to elevate myself in any way. However, I do want people who work as my dad does to get a little more recognition and a little more respect, as I believe each unique job is as important as any other one, with its own challenges, and skill set. True, some jobs a renovator does is purely aesthetic, but his job is as valid as a surgeon's, a prime minister's, a teacher's, a gas jockey's, a banker's, a receptionist's, a bus driver's, or a tax collector's. They are all ways of making a living, and supporting oneself or one's family; they are all ways to do some form of good, and to contribute to society; and they are all ways in which a person can use their talents and interests to their fullest and best potential.

When someone loves their job as much as my dad does, one cannot help but feel insulted at the condescension of some doctor - even if it wasn't an outright attack, for even then the sentiments are evidenced as subconsciously woven throughout our societal structures.

But when all is said and done, I know I have a real job. I simply wish everyone else could recognise that.



[posted by ericjordan at 2314 hrs]  

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