Maybe it's that House of Cards isn't back on until March 4 and we are all just looking for something to amuse ourselves with, but there is an excellent chance that by now, you have likely read about and taken sides over the college graduate who told the world how she can't afford to live on what her job at Yelp pays her. Just to catch you up:
In response to that, a 29-year-old named Stefanie blogged and called Talia "entitled" and suggested that Talia do what she herself had to do when she was a mere child of 25 and was out of work: She humbled herself as a restaurant hostess and eventually was promoted to bartender. And if that in itself wasn't sufficiently mortifying, Stefanie noted that she actually had to, on occasion, serve her old high school classmates -- all of whom had better jobs than she. She did qualify though that she thought they probably were lying about those jobs and besides, she thinks that a lot of them are really depressed and have coke problems.
And then yesterday came a 36-year-old named Sara who chided Stefanie for her cold-hearted indifference to Talia's suffering, her unawareness of Talia's lack of a support network, and her blindness to Talia's student debt and maxed out credit cards. Talia isn't the entitled one, wrote Sara; it's Stefanie, who likely used a family connection to get the hostessing job in the first place. Take that!
I would like to cut to the chase before some 45-year-old jumps in here with even more enlightened wisdom to share with the world.
So here goes (in the style of the aforementioned posts):
My name is Ann. I’m actually much much older than all of you. I just turned the big 6-6 a few weeks ago. Just last month, I sat on a hard bench at the Social Security office, waiting for my number to be called. Yes, numbers. Just like in the delicatessen. It was humiliating. Plus if you left your bench to go to the bathroom, you would not only lose your seat but you would have to go through the security checkpoint all over again. In order to get the money that I have paid earnestly into Social Security for lo these many decades, I had to be pat down, have a wand put between my legs (and dangerously close to my hooch), and hold my pee for more than three hours. Humiliating, I tell you, humiliating.
But here I am, fully registered and waiting for my checks to arrive. I have survived my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and half my 60s with some grace and a lot of humility -- not to mention having acquired the knowledge of how to use an apostrophe correctly. (Ladies, it is 20s, not 20's.)
However, because of our multiple-decades difference in age, it seems we are also worlds apart in the concept of work ethic. But somehow, I’m not surprised. Here is my story:
My first job was at Rubin Bros. Drugstore in the Weequahic section of Newark, N.J. I was 14-years-old and worked every Saturday and two or three evenings a week after school from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. I was assigned to Clare, the 55-year-old "girl" in charge of the cosmetics counter. I learned valuable life lessons from Clare, prime among them: "If you aren't doing what you love, stop doing it." Clare loved selling cosmetics; me, not so much.
And obviously Talia wasn't really loving her job either. In dressing down her CEO, she wrote that she took the job before realizing that she'd have to work in the customer support section for a year before being considered for a move to the media department. Now, some might ask why she didn't know that before she took the job, but I digress. A year is a much longer time when you are 25 than when you are 66.
"A whole year answering calls and talking to customers just for the hope that someday I’d be able to make memes and Twitter jokes about food," she wrote. (Her Twitter handle is Lady Murderface, in case you want to follow her. Me? I want to hear more about the handle first.)
Anyway, Talia did something that Clare would have approved of: She not only stopped doing a job she didn't love, but in the process of getting fired she got a whole lot of attention and hopefully the eye of a media outfit. Sounds like a win-win.
Another lesson I learned from Clare was how important it was to hug the customers who needed it. This was a pharmacy after all and people came in because they were sick or had a sick loved one. Clare and her department thrived because she made everyone feel good. A new lipstick and a shoulder to cry on for the recent widow. Some waterproof mascara for the young mother whose baby was sick, packaged with some baby-care tips of her own. Clare gave understanding. Clare gave hugs. Clare was everyone's support system, even those who didn't know they needed one.
Stefanie offered no hugs. She wears her bartendering humiliations as a badge of honor. She paid her dues, so kudos to her and she should feel nothing but pride about building up her career and putting in the hard labor required to get where she wants to be. But Stefanie might be a happier camper if she gave some hugs sometimes. Talia's story seemed to trigger bad memories for Stefanie and in response, she blasted the younger woman for having a lousy work ethic -- and not bearing the humiliations that she was subjected to.
Which leads us to Sara, who thought Stefanie could have shown a bit more kindness, although she does so in a voice that suggests the kindness train doesn't run in both directions.
To Sara, I share one of Clare's most lasting lessons. "If they come in for Maybelline, you won't talk them into L'Oreal." Sara, you aren't about to change Stefanie's view. She's there for the Maybelline.
I have carried all of Clare's words with me in my heart for the entire span of my work life, which is approximately Talia, Stefanie and Sara's ages combined, give or take a decade or so.
Be at peace, ladies. President Underwood will be back with us soon enough.