Saturday, November 30, 2013

What's My Line?

One of the cool things about the olden days was that if someone told you what he did for a living, you knew what it was. You had your butcher, your baker, your candlestick-maker. Occupations started to get more obscure when I was a kid and now it's all out of control. I have no idea what anyone's doing.

When I was growing up in the humid shadow of the nation's capital, if anyone asked me what my daddy did, I said "he works for the government." Everyone else in my class did, too. There would be a few whose dads were in the military and their kids knew their ranks and stuff. The rest of us really didn't have a clue, nor did we much care. Daddy went off in the bus at seven and as long as he came home in time to carve the meatloaf and dish up the green bean bake, that was all we needed to know. There's evidence that I didn't even know everything my mom did, even though she did it right there at home. At least, by the time I'd gone to college, it would appear I believed in laundry fairies.

When I got into my teenage years I knew enough to say "my father is a statistician for the Veterans' Administration." Sometimes I'd say "mathematician" because it sounded smarter. But still, to this day, I do not know exactly what he did every day when the bus dumped him off in D.C. There's something about people being dead and gone that makes you suddenly way more curious about them than you were when they were around to answer questions.

I did not contribute to the general obfuscation about jobs. I was a mailman. Everyone knows just what that is. Most people think it's sort of cute.

Spanky Grommet Flapper
But now someone can tell me what she does for a living and I'm right back to being clueless. You ask a young person today what she does and she gives you her job title, sometimes a job description, and then she might follow up with a snappy, self-deprecating bon mot. My friend Munny, for example, is an Associate Consultant at Pivot Leadership. "I'm the associate consultant responsible for program implementation from project pitch through program delivery," she'll explain.

All I know from that is that candlesticks are not involved. "I support operations for the grommet synchrony module," she might as well have said, adding, with a chuckle, "basically, I'm a spanky grommet flapper." And everyone in the room smiles and nods and someone remarks that you can't swing a dead cat around here without smacking a spanky grommet flapper. Merriment ensues. Someone eventually notices my blank look and wonders if I need to have the explanation drawn on my forehead with a crayon.

I used to stick letters through holes in people's houses. That's right. Ask me what a letter is all you want, kids--I'm not telling.

75 comments:

  1. A spanky grommet flapper is a person who flaps spanky grommets. Isn't that obvious?

    I suppose it's possible that someone like an "associate consultant responsible for program implementation from project pitch through program delivery" actually does something, but I'm skeptical. With executive-level jobs, the situation is clearer. I have worked at companies where the CEO or CFO had quit, and because those jobs were so "important", the search for a replacement took six months to a year, while the company got on just fine with the position vacant. But if the receptionist quits, they get a temp in the same day, because that job actually does something.

    Don't forget, these guys are the ones who decide what's important and who gets paid how much. If they're playing World of Warcraft in their offices all day while raking in seven figures a year, how would anyone know?

    If every corporate executive in America went on strike for a month, and every mailman in America went on strike for a month, which would have more concrete impact on the country? Would the former strike even be noticed?

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    1. Bad example. I'm not sure anyone would miss the mail. I wish they would, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, I do believe Munny does something real, and apparently she does a good job of it, and gets a lot of travel out of it. And as a Retired Person, I don't need to know what that is.

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    2. In my opinion it's the little people, the receptionists and process workers who actually do the work, that should be raking in seven figures a year. But who listens to me?

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  2. Okay, I'll bite: what's a "letter"? My job was pretty useful, but when I think back about those on the corporate level, you're right: they must do something, but I have zero idea what it is. :-)

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    1. Must be something really important! Otherwise why would they make a thousand times more money than you did?

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  3. That IS the problem isn't it? Continual job obsolescence and word shading.

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    1. So I've heard there's enough money and things to do that everyone in the world could work three hours a day and live just fine. If all the money weren't being siphoned to the top.

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    2. Why does a hedge fund manager make the same annual wage as 68,000-that's not a typo-teachers. What the hell can the position holder be doing that is that fugging important ?~! I hate it and it makes me cry with frustration.

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    3. The hedge fund manager has no moral compass. He wasn't taught right.

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  4. Funny stuff because it is so true.
    I hated working on Wall Street and always being asked "got any good tips?" So I tool to saying "I am a low level smuck working operations for a Brokerage Firm." They still asked, "got any good tips?" I told them to invest in Grommet Flappers.

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  5. You are so right - I understood what people did in so many now obsolete jobs. I am clueless to techies and job titles are meaningless, but I guess long titles make people feel good about their jobs even though they might not be paid much.
    Happy belated Thanksgiving!

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    1. Hey thanks! You too! I guess I should have put in a Thanksgiving post. Hm.

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  6. Heck, I just found out I don't know what I do. A colleague , who for 14 years did (presumably) exactly what I do all day, asked me to write a letter of recommendation as she attempts to change careers. I had a helluva time describing the skills needed to do what we do.

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  7. "...were so "important", the search for a replacement took six months to a year, while the company got on just fine with the position vacant. But if the receptionist quits, they get a temp in the same day, because that job actually does something.

    Also note that they will assign someone from the company as temporary CEO, but have to go outside the company to a temp agency to get someone to fill in for the receptionist job.

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    1. When I was little, the only thing I could think of being was a receptionist. I had no other ideas.

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  8. Ooooh, I intensely dislike all the mumbo-jumbo that is used these days to convey job descriptions, mission statements, goals, etc.

    I equally dislike acronyms used in government bodies, especially when they are used with the general public and no one knows what the heck they are, and then just for fun, they're changed every three years to a new acronym. Grrr. But maybe that's only in Canada?...

    Love the last few lines of your post. If it's not that extreme yet, I think it soon will be.

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    1. The post office uses so many acronyms that I just let them wash over me in the last few years. I took pride in not having any idea what the boss was talking about. At least I knew what I was supposed to do every day.

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  9. It's also difficult to come up with your own job title when you freelance from home. I'd describe it instead, but I'd lose out on being able to see your blank look. ;)

    And now we all deliver much of our own mail instantly - several times a day. Despite how that cuts into your past work, I can't say I hate the convenience.

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    1. I feel the same way. Heck, I was an early adopter of paying bills on line. And that sucker has REALLY bit into the profit line. But I so love the idea of people coming up to your house every day with little goodies. I guess most people in the country have to go down the block to a gang box for their mail now.

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  10. There are a number of fairies filling important roles in this house. The laundry fairy, the kitty litter fairy, the toilet paper fairy. Sadly they are me. And if I could find a clean sheets fairy who wasn't me, she would have a daily job.

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    1. "Fairy" is a legitimate job title in my book. Wait a minute. DAILY job? Uh-oh.

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  11. My late husband was a cop for 30 years. When people would ask him what he did for a living, rather than tell them what he really did and get into arguments about the pros and cons of whether this, that or the other law was moral or enforceable, he'd just tell them he was a garbage man. Pretty much the same thing.

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    1. Around here he'd get an earful about the various recycling requirements. There's probably nothing a person could do that wouldn't get somebody fired up.

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  12. Years ago, before Mr.Jobs had even started his box of bits, and there was much more paper in offices (all of which had to be filed in cabinets)...some "senior executives" told their receptionist they were in an important conference and not to be disturbed.No phone calls, no interruptions. Turns out, they were looking at smutty pictures.Who found out? The tea lady, when she wheeled her trolley in!

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  13. And then you have someone like me, whose official job classification bore absolutely no resemblance to what I did every day. Try explaining *that* on a resume!

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    1. You'll have to explain it a little more right here.

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  14. My lads didn't know what I did either, Murr. One of them told their teacher in grade 2 that I was a minister of existence. Possibly for them, true, but I doubt if the Dean saw it like that.

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    1. Um...what exactly did they misconstrue?

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    2. College Administrator at a university, administrative assistant to a Dean.

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    3. "Minister of Existence!" You must be so very proud.

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  15. I work at a college and one student told me he was working towards becoming a theoretical particle physicist. He must have noticed the blank look in my eyes, so he began to try to explain what that was. His explanation did not help me learn anything more. My response was, "My, that sounds so interesting. Good luck!" And I walked away hoping that whatever it was he would do would be beneficial to the world!

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    1. Ooo I've written about theoretical particle physicists before. They need to have theoretical particle physicist friends to go to parties with.

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    2. Someday, they might be real particle physicists.

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  16. Does CFO stand for Chief F**k-up Officer? I have no idea. Graduating from my first college I was presented with a NNEB Certificate. It allowed us graduates to legitimately work as child carers in day-care centres. It wasn't until I applied to come to Oz that I learnt what the EB of the NNEB stood for!

    This fairy has waved her magic wand so now she takes no notice of any acronym. Whoosh and they no longer penetrate her brain.

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    1. ps: Love the picture of your dad. You look so much like him. xxxx

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    2. Google says "National Nursery Examination Board"

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  17. It IS really confusing. I still have no idea what my husband does. And my daughter, who at four years of age aspired to "turn letters" looks like a rastafarian Vanna White in Goodwill Chic as she wanders around rural Mexico working on the most obscure thesis that will surely land her a job doing only God knows what. My son plays the saxophone, that I know for sure.

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  18. I'm retired. That means I put a new set of tires on my car.

    Other than that, I read, and write, and shovel snow, and chop firewood. (We're in Canada, eh?)

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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  19. After I retired from teaching at a medical school I was a consultant for big pharmas.....I described my job as 'looking distinguished and nodding knowingly", and was paid well for it. Should started that sooner.....

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    1. I'm not sure I could pull that off. Never had the wardrobe for it, for one thing.

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  20. My job description was self explanatory too, checkout operator. I probably could have called it nutritional purchases processor or something equally fancy, but I just didn't care enough. Now tell me please what exactly is green bean bake?
    Obviously it is baked green beans, but I'd like the recipe. I can't just toss a few beans into a baking dish and heat them up....
    My kids never believed in laundry fairies, I had them helping me from an early age and they learned to use the washer by the time they were out of primary school. Whatever makes my life easier is what I taught them. Besides, if they forgot to bring out the socks from under their beds, I wasn't going looking for them, they'd just have to wash a load of socks when they needed them.

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    1. Let's see if I can get this about right:

      1 can green beans
      1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
      1 can Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup
      1 rinsed can of Minute Rice
      Moosh together and put in casserole dish
      Top with 1 can Durkee's Fried Onion Rings
      Bake 1 hour at 350.

      Anyone want to amend that?

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    2. Adding a little bacon is always good.

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    3. It all sounds vile to me, but I know some people adore it, but then my niece, who is a wonderful person, always brings a Pistachio Jello, Cool Whip canned fruit thingy to Thanksgiving and I can't imagine anyone eating it. Yet, they do.

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    4. And here I thought you needed to live near a Great Lake to appreciate these menu items. Who knew they did them in other parts of the country?

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    5. Well Mom was from North Dakota, so. The Jell-O/whipped cream thing is a whole different wonderful genre. I loved Jell-O except when it had bananas in it.

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    6. Moosh. Thank you for this word. I shall use it to write out the recipes I aim to give my grownup children before I slide into dementia.

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    7. Sorry, you lost me at canned beans. Canned vegetables always taste like can to me.
      I could probably used fresh and steam them first....and maybe just use the celery soup with fresh mushrooms and bacon added.

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    8. No no no. If we lost you, stay lost. This is a genuine 1950s recipe and if you start chucking in fresh vegetables you will lose all that je ne sais quoi. What--would you put chick peas in the recipes calling for baby marshmallows?

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    9. I wouldn't eat a chick pea if you paid me.

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  21. I now work with several devices that have optical recognition and servo motors for exact placement of inking, cutting and stitching. There are a few lasers too! I decorate shirts mainly, some caps and other non-garment items involved with gifts and personilization. I rarely shave so I think that means I am ... Santa Claus

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    1. Ooo! I should have you make my Friend Of Pootie t-shirts!

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    2. So you embroider logos onto stuff. Is there an easy way to remove said logos from shirts? I'd like to remove embroidered logos from near new work shirts so I can still wear them, because they are pretty nice shirts.

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    3. Try ripping an eagle off a good postal jacket. They must be federally protected, or something.

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    4. I haven't tried removing anything yet. I got two ten needle Baby Lock (brand name) embroidery machines a few weeks ago, really enjoying them. But metallic thread is difficult. I like the opalescent metallic. Just recently finished my first cap order for a fire department, delivery tomorrow.

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    5. I think you have to have at it on the back side with a very sharp seam ripper or razor blade. And you'll be left with needle holes. Which may or may not succumb to strenuous ironing.

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  22. "Water quality specialist"= blank stares.
    "Paid to play in the water"= Cooool!!!

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  23. The way I see it, it doesn't matter if I understand what kind of work people with those indecipherable job labels are doing, as long as they keep on doing it, so my hubby and I can keep on drawing our social security checks. Heck, I wasn't even sure what secret stuff he was doing with the government before he retired, and since he hasn't been officially "read out", I don't reckon I ever will.

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  24. "But still, to this day, I do not know exactly what he did every day when the bus dumped him off in D.C. There's something about people being dead and gone that makes you suddenly way more curious about them than you were when they were around to answer questions"

    That's so very true.


    Also - I have NO IDEA what your friend Munny does for a living either!

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    1. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of five million questions I'd love to ask my folks. These days baby-boomer parents have probably already overshared everything about themselves but those Depression-era parents were pretty buttoned up.

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  25. Yeah, but there are some old-timey jobs that no one knows what they do either. Cooper? Jig and fixture machinist? Steamfitter? Ostler?

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  26. This post really hit home--my father was also a mathematician working for the gov't. never thought anything about it until I got to college and met others who actually knew what their father's jobs were.

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