Sunday, November 14, 2010

I’m No Bruce Willis

Have you heard of "the illusion of upward social mobility"? According to this idea, the social class that you are born into is the social class in which you will remain. In other words, the American Dream of starting from scratch and making it big is a myth.

Maybe this explains why I work in the dairy cooler at a grocery store. It may not pay much, and the hours can be unfavorable, but it’s an honest paycheck—and in a world where occupation and ascribed social status are synonymous, it may be my destiny.

The thing is, when I think of destinies, I think of self-sacrificing heroics, like jumping into a volcano to save the dinosaurs or what Bruce Willis does at the end of Armageddon, not hourly jobs. But, as a recent Pew study reports, destinies, as thought of by 72% of wireless Internet users, are as much practical as they are heroic. Bruce Willis did not just fulfill his duty as a hero. He also, quite pragmatically, saved Earth and the human race.

Now, I’m no Bruce Willis. Statistically speaking, that guy is average. I think I’m more of an outlier. Practicality seems to out power the heroics of my fortune as a dairyman by about 10,000:1. And this is fine with me. I’m a practical guy. My job’s pay and status align well with my lack of desires. I won’t want a car payment. I don’t want a dog. I don’t want to save Earth.

My not wanting of things and predisposition to working in retail became apparent when I met Dennis. Dennis and I met in front of the dairy case. I made a baba ghanoush recommendation. He made a playing card disappear. The next thing I knew I was in an unmarked business complex interviewing with his boss for an opportunity to sell Tupperware insurance.

BOSS: If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do?

ME: I’d probably run a little, read some, and keep busy by working somewhere where I had access to food.

BOSS: Sooooooo, you’d do the same thing you’re doing now?

ME: ...Yeah, I guess. (Though there would probably be a considerable more amount of time dedicated to grilling vegetables and listening to Eazy-E records, be he didn’t need to know that.)

Unimpressed with the promise of making big money and a difference in the world by way of plastic container protection plans, I decided that getting solicited for a life path by an amateur magician in front of the humus display was probably not the best way to upgrade destinies. So instead, I went one worse by checking in with family members who had no idea what type of fate I was looking for.

My grandma, who made a life out of taking jobs that nobody else wanted, told me that Best Buy was hiring. I told her that was fantastic. Then I told her that I already had a retail job.

Understanding my lack of interest in a lateral move, my mom gave me a napkin with a web address scribbled on it. “Check this out,” she said. “This guy said they are looking for good people.”

I checked it out. It was a job posting for a senior-level helicopter repair technician. I imagined myself in a baby blue jumpsuit wearing a tool belt that held really tiny hammers and saying things like “Here’s our problem. The rear hemi axel blade is low on trans capacitor fluid.” I daydreamt a little more, hoping that the helicopters I would get to work on would be of the stealth variety, but then I reminded myself that my publishing internships probably didn’t qualify me to fix flying vehicles, let alone flying vehicles that could disappear.

With family leads shot, I revisited Craigslist—and though it may be great for finding slightly-used, third-generation, 4 GB pink iPods with minor scratches, I don’t recommend putting much stock in the ‘pin the tale on the destiny magic 8 ball’ app. Mine kept coming up as Assistant Manager at Nike Outlet Store (aka no thanks, but will reconsider in 6 months).

Only after this series of events did I realize that this was just the Societal Godpeople’s way of getting me to accept my vocational decree. And with that, I'm able to strut to my aluminum-encased, 30-degree office, taking solace in the fact that the Government won'’t be calling on this guy to save the planet when the jig is up. Hopefully, they’ll call Dennis. I heard he’s good people.

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