Let it be said that most jobs are thankless, and even those which get some props don't usually reward the actual work being done, just some vague idea or association.
Take the U.S. military for instance, whose inherent infallibility has often been touted by partisan news outlets and the jingoes in our midst, yet the bolstering of our freedoms for which our thanks and praise is demanded is at best being perpetuated by unmanned drones flown from hundreds and thousands of miles away. So yes, a controller behind a heads up display is keeping us safe from tribal Pakistanis and Yemenis. Let us now praise famous slackers.
Earlier this afternoon I was reprimanded for dismissing the role of several surveyors as they checked out a parking lot behind the Strip. My contention was that they were simply adding to the pay-to-park plutocracy in the lower Fort by keeping a pay lot in shape, and so if I briefly walked in front of their optical equipment I was simply slowing their progress. This led to a reminder that when I work as a cook and get complaints on food prepared perfectly to spec a certain self-destructive fury descends from high and I have the express urge to destroy every piece of porcelain in the kitchen. Thus, no matter what I think about a person's job, to be dismissive and rude to them for just working to pay the bills is an incredibly hypocritical move.
One of the members of our party brought up the fact that these men were like geographers, who do this kind of work since it requires expertise in their field. Even so, it isn't particularly fulfilling work. I started thinking about what exactly I could do with my well-framed liberal arts, do-you-want-fries-with-that degree and realized many of the options are equally mundane. After all, I could continue my studies and eventually terminate with a Ph D., maybe publish some books along the way and maybe even find a place in the American canon — that's the dream of most people in my position. On the other hand, I could write greeting cards or vapid ad copy for the rest of my life. The fact of the matter is that just because you have a college degree doesn't mean you'll find stellar work in your field of choice, but there is always a niche to be filled that society might continue to chug along like the bloated behemoth it has become.
Appreciation of people's work, whatever it may be, is a simple act of compassion and commiseration. It's safe to say that most of us in the working world are not excelling at the jobs we hoped to have growing up or during our studies, but the argument about there being so few jobs available becomes moot when we turn our noses up at less-than-desirable work that actually keeps the status quo in check. Someone has to cook your food or cut your hair, to comfort or entertain you, and while you could argue these are things you can do yourself, by reading this your have bought in to the social contract and body politic we propagate through work and consumption, so you'd better learn how to interact with others in a respectful and hopefully thankful manner.
Perhaps this is blowing one interaction completely out of proportion, or an admission of guilt and a mea culpa. Whatever the cause, sometimes a reality check can come from the most unlikely of places and no matter the catalyst, I'm grateful to have it. Fighting the overwhelming compulsion to become the biggest cynic in the room and deflate everyone's optimism is a day to day fight, and sometimes being called out for a random act of passive aggression can be all the cause you need to turn your attitude around. Or, you know, someone calling you pig in jest for a little while.
As you walk the rapidly diminishing real estate venture that is Cumberland Avenue and see people at work, try to appreciate what they are doing, no matter if it is slightly obstructive. You can get in the boat or you can swim, but you will get where you're going a lot faster with a few more people rowing than dog paddling against the current.
— Jake Lane is a graduate in creative writing. He can be reached at email@example.com.