Last night I watched the presidential debate. One of the questions was (paraphrasing): do you see healthcare as a right, a responsibility or something else I’ve forgotten. McCain said responsibility (of the government to make sure affordable healthcare exists) and Obama said it was a right for people to have healthcare.
I see it differently. I see healthcare as an investment a nation makes in itself. Whether you enable your citizens to get healthy and stay that way through government programs or a regulated free market, we should be appalled that people’s brains and skills are being wasted because they can’t obtain a medicine or therapeutic measure that’s readily available. Who knows what these individuals might accomplish, given the chance? Why do we not want this for our nation?
Because we assume that if they were valuable people, they’d be rich. Pure and simple; that’s what Americans are conditioned to think. Social Darwinism: if you’re worth something, the money gods will shine on you. If the money gods don’t shine on you, you must be mistaken in thinking you have something to contribute.
One that note, I’ve been thinking about those low-paying jobs that most people think a monkey could do until they learn the hard way. The hardest jobs I’ve ever had were waiting tables and being a receptionist at a busy office. These jobs call for true multi-tasking of the sort that studies now recognize the human brain just isn’t capable of: your focus must switch every few seconds, and you need to remember dozens of details at a time. These were the jobs I performed most poorly at, and they were nearly the lowest-paying jobs I ever had. Retail paid even less – while I found it easier than waiting tables and doing reception, that’s only because I never had to do it very long at a stretch. The amount of abuse you put up with from assholes who perceive you as a captive audience to whatever hostility they want to vent is ridiculous for any salary.
Here’s why I say a lot of CEOs couldn’t wait tables to save their lives – an example of what a waiter can go through in just a few minutes of a normal shift:
- You’ve got two new tables at once. You greet the first one, intending to get a drink order and run to the next table. They instead ask you questions about the menu. To which you don’t know the answer. You promise to find out and be right back.
- You greet the next table and get a drink order.
- As you pass one of your other tables, you notice their drinks are running low. Another of your tables stops you and asks for more napkins, a lemon, and another basket of free bread to fill up on so their tab and your tip will be even lower. Another server asks you to check if her order is up when you get back there.
- You go to the kitchen and get everyone’s drinks. You hopefully remember to ask a manager the answer to the menu question, get the napkins, the lemon, the basket of bread, a pitcher to refill the low drinks which you’re pretty sure were regular Coke not diet and check the other server’s order.
- While you’re back there, the manager asks you to restock the salad dressings, and you promise to do that after getting orders from your new tables.
- You come out of the kitchen with a tray loaded with heavy beverages (and the lemon on a little plate, and the napkins) balanced on one arm and a pitcher of cola in the other. You catch the other server’s eye while she’s busy taking an order and shake your head to let her know her order isn’t up yet. You deliver everything…
- …and remember you forgot the bread. You promise to bring it in just a couple of minutes.
- You go to take the first table’s order and they take all the freakin’ day about it. They’ve obviously been chatting the whole time instead of looking at the menu, so now they’re going to peruse the whole damn thing at their leisure while you stand there. If you’re confident you can do it in a friendly way, you let them know it looks like they’re not ready, and you’ll be right back in a minute.
- You take the other table’s order. Fortunately, this goes pretty smoothly.
- On your way back to the first table, you catch another server and ask them to bring bread to the table that wanted it.
- You go back to the first table and they’re ready. It still takes longer than usual because they want to reinvent the menu with all sorts of modifications and substitutions, and ask you diet & nutrition info on 90% of what they’re ordering. But you get through it.
- Another of your tables is ready for its bill now and getting impatient.
- You go to the machine (hopefully a computer, if you’re lucky) and run off the bill for the table that needs it and ask another server to take it to them. You enter the two table orders into the computer next, but get stuck at one point because you don’t know how to enter one of the modifications you’ve never had requested before today and have to find someone who can tell you.
- While looking for someone who can help you, you realize the other server didn’t bring the bread out to the table that wants bread. There goes whatever tip you were likely to get from them. You go fetch the bread while you keep looking for someone to help.
That’s assuming the kitchen is operating perfectly. When it’s not, things can get a whole lot hairier. When your tables are all difficult at the same time, it’s pure and utter hell. What I just described could all happen within 10 minutes or less, easily. I’m not describing the physical impact of the fast walking and heavy carrying that’s involved either.
What are some of the jobs you know of that don’t pay much and are perceived as something “anybody” can do, but actually require skills that a lot of people working at much higher salaries don’t possess?