July 20, 2006

"I see that all the time. That doesn't make me sad."

Says Kevin Smith, to the NPR interviewer who's asking about sequels to "Clerks" where the characters keep getting older. What about a 45-year old guy manning the register at a convenience store? This is in the last 2 minutes of the linked clip, where Smith goes on at length about how some folks aren't that ambitious, they just want to get by, and somebody's got to do jobs like flipping the burgers.

Smith also talks about his Christianity about midway through the audio clip, right after a bit from his new movie "Clerks II," where the characters discuss whether the Transformers are blasphemous. Smith says: "I'm a pretty spiritual cat. I'm a prayer, sir." He's praying "hardcore" for "Clerks II" and even "busted out the rosary beads."

I found that all charmingly un-Hollywood.

21 comments:

Abraham said...

Smith makes a good point. I usually imagine that those people haven't much in the way of skills or ambition, but I respect that they have enough dignity and self-worth to go to work and pay their own way.

Joe said...

Smith is a regular Jersey guy.

quietnorth said...

I have this probably unrealistic idea in my mind that in the 40's and 50's, there was more dignity in jobs like pumping gas, waitressing, etc. It was a job, people were lucky to have jobs. You weren't assumed to be a slacker. Or did I get this view from watching too many black and white movies?

Could the routinization of these jobs made them less dignified? Or do more Americans assume that they can move up the success ladder, therefore "should"?

johnstodderinexile said...

I am feeling this issue acutely right now. For 25 years, I worked non-stop, got a paycheck every two weeks, earning more and more, working in respected jobs in government, journalism, PR. Then I got into a legal mess that has made resuming my previous career in its previous form impossible. My focus now is finding freelance work while writing longer projects, along with working with my attorneys to achieve justice. But with my savings dwindling and no health insurance, every time I bring my laptop into a Starbucks to work, I find myself thinking -- maybe I should just apply here. They seem to be constantly hiring people. What stops me is my fear that someone I know might see me and come to some negative conclusion about me, and that this would somehow undermine what I'm trying to accomplish. But at quietnorth says, 50 years ago, a guy in my situation who went to work at a coffee shop after a business reverse would have been seen as plucky.

PatCA said...

John,
Just tell people you're doing research for a story!

Cat said...

I noticed this when I went back to school a couple of years ago and took a waitressing job. It was at a neighborhood place that's been around for 40 years. It used to be that they would hire someone and they would work their until retirement. They were "professional" waiters/waitresses and took their jobs seriously. Now, it's a job to pay the bills until _______. Everyone's a student, actress and if they are not, they have a substance abuse problem. Also, as an aside, waitressing became less lucrative when the govt started taxing tips.

I also thought of this as I was passing a handsome man dressed in a doorman uniform at a swank hotel. It occured to me that I wouldn't date him if I could or at least tell my friends what he did. How stupid is that? In my parents day, my dad worked in a bank during the week (rose to vp), but when cash was tight in their early years with small kids, he worked weekends USHERING in a movie theater - his uniform looked similar to the doorman's, very formal. No shame in it at all.

Interesting thread. The area where my parents moved to retire when I was in high school is nothing but service jobs. The only professional jobs are teaching and healthcare. I would love to move back, but I really hate working with the public.

Cat said...

Patca - good cover.

Another though, if we respected these jobs, might we get more professional and courteous service? In a Starbucks in Tokyo I have to say the coffee was better and so was the service because they had pride in their work vs acting as though they hated waiting on me or ignored my while they chatted with co-workers behind the counter.

One other thing, I have been put down numerous time (in Manhattan) for being an assistant. My friends also wonder why I am not doing something "better" - like it's that easy - few people see beyond your experience. Doesn't matter that I make more money than the jobs with better titles either, its that my status is low.

AJ Lynch said...

I wonder if any of us look forward to the day when we work part-time in a retail store because it offers health insurance and we are at the point in our lives where we only need to earn a few bucks each month to pay the to get by.

I am thinking about perhaps my last career and before anyone says I am nuts , there is one family-owned chain in the Philly area that does offer good benefits to part-timers. And it's a great business.

Dawn said...

Cat - I understand your situation. I got that same attitude when I was an LPN working in a clinic, from some RNs - "Why don't you get your RN and be a real nurse?" Apparently the fact that I took many similar classes that they did, and also had to pass state boards eluded them. And I will have my RN in January, when I'll have to deal with the 'new RN' tag from some of the more seasoned RNs. It's classism, basically.

And as for your being a lowly 'assistant', everybody has to start somewhere, and many times it's the assistant who knows whos who and whats what, and really runs the show. Good luck with whatever your doing - hold you head up, and don't let them bring you down. (Okay, I'm done with the mom pep talk now).

Ron said...

I wonder how much the older attitude is conditioned by the experience of the Depression. Whereas, we have come to expect jobs in certain fields, people may have been humbler about what they could get then...

Ron said...

Plus, doesn't it seem interesting that the older view implicitly rejects the assumptions of careerism? That is to say, the idea that you should always be trying to advance, and that not doing so is so kind of failing....

Freeman Hunt said...

The only regular job without dignity is the one done poorly.

Who doesn't appreciate a great waitress who's friendly and quick? Who doesn't hope to have a great trash guy who doesn't leave garbage in the road? Who doesn't respect a great janitor who makes a place especially pleasant and clean? Who doesn't love a clerk who checks everyone out with speed and a smile?

There's nothing wrong with those jobs. Look down on those jobs? "That's pride f***ing with you."

ignacio said...

It's a tremendous educational opportunity. I know it was infinitely valuable to me to learn humility by working in the medical world rather than simply being, as Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols put it, another "Bohemian Like You."

Telecomedian said...

I had a similar experience in 2002. I was a technical consultant for a telecom company, making really good money. All of a sudden, the telecom/dotcom economy crashed, and people with my job skills were a dime-a-dozen. I was out of a job, and took a series of successively lower-paying jobs, watching as these other companies either folded, or had massive lay-offs. By August of 2002, I was selling cars, and, by December of 2002, I was waiting tables at Chili's.

I had to swallow a lot of pride, and it was always painful to see people come in at lunch who were my collegues 12 scant months earlier. I think I probably earned a couple of extra dollars in pity tips. Still, pride don't pay the rent - cash does.

However, there is indeed a stigma that people who work in the service industry (excluding cooks for some strange reason) are somehow slackers and not fufilling their potential. I made more money waiting tables than I did working for a large ISP in the Midwest!

Telecomedian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cat said...

Bunker I appreciate your comments. However, I have to point out your comment, "And as for your being a lowly 'assistant', everybody has to start somewhere." Isn't the point of the thread that it should be OK that I remain an assistant? I mean, I went from receptionist, to Jr. to Ex Asst working for big wigs...is that enough? : )

My mom is an LPN and heard the same thing. When I was in nursing school (left after a semester - I am not nurse material!) people would say to me, why not become a Dr. as though becoming a nurse was not shooting high enough.

Gahrie said...

While going to college I worked for a national burger chain. I went from sweeping the lot to Asst Mgr in 18 months because I was one of the few employees that took pride in my work. Along the way I did a six month stint as the grill cook. People have no concept how hard that job is to do right, and how important it is to the functioning of the whole place. To this day I am still proud of how good I was on the grill....I was damn good at it and I know I was. People tell me I'm nuts to be proud of something like that. But my philosphy has always been, if the only job I can get is cleaning toliets, I'm going to be a toliet cleaner, and I'm going to be the best damn toliet cleaner around.

Blondie said...

I think part of this is a generational thing. People my age (20s/early 30s) feel too restrained if they stay in one job too long and seem too elitist maybe towards certain careers. Or worse, they don't understand what it means to toil in the trenches for a while before you can climb the ranks.

A good friend, just two years out of college and with absolutely zero work/professional experience, searched for jobs and never understood why she was being turned down. I said, you have no experience and you need to start out at the bottom for a while. She seemed to think it would all be handed to her with no sweat or effort.

Just my take though. I grew up in a high-tourism area of Wisconsin and service jobs are the norm. Since I was 14, I have worked as a busser, cashier, waitress, giftshop clerk, housekeeper and a bartender. They all paid well at the time, I learned a lot and still use many of the skills I picked up as a teenager every day when I deal with my clients through good customer service.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with an honest day of work. Helps you play better.

Jim H said...

Directors and producers milking tired movie franchises; I see that all the time. That makes me sad.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I know someone who interviewed and hired many new attorneys for an entry-level law job. Somewhere in the interview, she always asked if they had non-law jobs, too [non-law jobs weren't listed on resumes]. If they had to work "normal" jobs before this one, they were almost invariable good, solid to above average workers. If they never had a normal job, they almost always failed. Learning to be a good employee is a skill, too.

Gahrie says, "But my philosphy has always been, if the only job I can get is cleaning toliets, I'm going to be a toliet cleaner, and I'm going to be the best damn toliet cleaner around."

Here, here!!

sonicfrog said...

Sonicfrog - pool / spa guy, hack bass player / vocalist, future teacher, blogger...

In 93, a year after I graduated with a degree in radio, video, film production, I spent some time in H'wood doing work for the American Film Institute (volunteer work on two films) and I don't buy the K Smith version of an average guy. No offence meant, but I just don't think you escape modern H'wood without getting tainted. Hope I'm wrong.