Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Proper Thing to Say When Asked: What Is It that You Do?

When people meet, they often ask one another what they do for a living. What do you do for a living? one will ask. I do this or that, the other will respond. What about you? Well I do this or that. They then contemplate the various things various other people do, and sometimes, if that thing is in any way exceptional, will comment to someone else, Did you know that so and so does this or that?! I had no idea, the other person will gasp. How interesting! And it seems, for a moment, to truly be that: interesting. Upon reflection, however, what one initially found interesting will often turn into something one finds obnoxious. So what if so and so does this or that, what’s so special about that? What’s so goddamned special about doing that? Resentment will then begin to build towards the so and so who does this or that, until finally one comes to abhor the individual who, for a moment, appeared to have been doing something interesting.

This is the great risk, then, of meeting people and telling them about what you do. For a time, I tried to avoid the problem altogether by telling people that I did nothing. What do you do? Nothing. This, though, infuriated them even more than when I when I had told them I was doing something I knew they would have initially perceived as interesting. Nothing? Nothing?! They’ll stammer. You do nothing?!?! Yes, that’s right, nothing at all. I found that it took far less time to earn their abhorrence by telling them this, as I mentioned, than had I simply told them I did something interesting, because the idea of doing nothing is simply unfathomable to most people, and whatever a person finds unfathomable they must necessarily find noxious, gross, antipathetic, etc. Thus now when I am introduced, I tell people this: that I am a secretary, that it is a modest, steady job fit for a modest, steady person like myself, and that, were the office to keep me on for another hundred years (or more), I would be perfectly content continuing to do my secretarial work for another hundred years (or more). They are pleased with this response, often, and it almost never earns me any ire whatsoever. My advice, then, to those of you forced to meet other people: say, with great humility, that you are a secretary, and that that is all you ever hope to be.

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