A few days ago, I was listening to some TV news program (yes, listening, while I was doing something else at the time) and they ran an old clip of Mitt Romney giving a speech. One phrase caught my attention: “the dignity of work.”
In my long experience of almost a dozen types of jobs, I can say there is a nugget of truth about a dignity in work. On the other hand, what is more memorable are the indignities of work. These are the things that Governor Romney probably does not know or care about (see Seamus about his notorious indifference). These are the things working class folk have to put up with for a paycheck.
Romney’s “dignity of work” quote/gaffe has inspired me to try and recall some of the striking examples of the indignity of work that I have experienced. (Please share some of your indignity stories in the comments section below.) Today’s example is the rigid adherence to an ID for alcohol policy.
For two summers in my youth, I worked as a cashier in the concession stand at a minor league baseball stadium. We had a rule that for any beer sale we had to check the ID of the customer — and they meant every customer. Some fellow employees actually had to ask for ID from their own parents.
If Betty White herself walked up to you, she gets carded. As her wrinkled, arthritic claws go digging through her giant cluttered purse on the epic quest for that tiny plastic rectangle, the line grows longer and longer with everyone becoming a little more agitated subconsciously knowing that our lives will never get back these precious wasted minutes. Many of said people in line will be stupid jerks who will be mad at you because they think you were holding up the line just goofing off, trying to flirt with someone’s grandma.
The effect of this policy is that employees are required to pretend to be complete idiots. These types of policies hit at the heart of human dignity and remind us of the concept of wage slavery. If you are trapped in this situation I suggest this approach:
“I’m sorry, I know you are older than 21. However, in return for my pitiful hourly wage, I am required to pretend I am an idiot and ask you for identification proving you are over 21. I must choose between my dignity and my job. It is company policy to force us both to waste our precious time for this charade.”
So if you are a customer clearly over 21 and someone asks you for your ID, don’t think they are trying to be nice, cute, or funny. Don’t ever respond “I’m flattered that you think I’m young. Thanks for asking.” Tell them, “I’m sorry they make you do this. It is wrong to force you to pretend to be stupid.” Then be sure to leave a good tip (where appropriate).
Feel free to share some of your “indignity of work” stories in the comments section below. I promise I won’t card you.