The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What a great career!

I was catching up with The Oatmeal, one of my favorite online cartoon(ist)s, this evening. Mr. Oats pointed out that, as an internet-based author, he's not taken seriously--that is, if he says he's a writer, people are impressed until they learn that he works online rather than on paper, at which point they assume he's just a college kid with too much time on his hands. The idea of your job/career as a basis of your worth as a human is, I think, mostly an American concept. Europeans don't really seem to give a damn what you do; though they may ask as a conversation-starter sort of thing. If you tell a German that you shovel alligator dung for a living, he'll probably tell you about an interesting zoo he visited once. Tell an American the same thing, and you'll get "You're shitting me, right? Get it? Haha. No, seriously, what do you do?" Assuming nothing ridiculous happens in the next six days, I'm going back into the classroom. A bit earlier than I'd intended, but the time is right, and the position presented itself. When I read The Oatmeal's post, it made me think about the various careers I've had and the reactions I've gotten thereto. While I've always considered the Q&A format to be the most juvenile of journalistic methods, I'm also feeling a little juvenile, so I'll present these as hypothetical (not really) bar/party conversations I've had. Assume that each of these conversations starts shortly after introductions, when Random Person at Bar (henceforth RP) has just asked me what I do for a living. ME: ... I work at Thalhimers. (For those under 25 and/or not from Virginia, it was a big department store in downtown Richmond.) RP: That must be great! I bet you get GREAT discounts. ME: I do. RP: So which department do you work in? ME: The credit office. RP: (has lost visions of glamorous men's bathing suit model or guy who can get her makeup discounts) Oh. ME: ...I work at the Bank of Baltimore. RP: (Impressed, envisioning solid respectability)Oh! Must be great pay. Are you in the main office? ME: The pay's OK. No, I'm in the operations center. RP: (not quite so impressed) Well, still, that's a solid company. You'll really be able to build a great career path. Banking's a GREAT field. ME: Haha--sure hope so! Harsh Reality: The Bank of Baltimore was swallowed not once, but twice, and disappeared from the face of the earth, so no, it was a shitty career path. And it paid me about $21 K a year. If it had stuck around, I might have been able to build a decent career with a real salary, but it didn't. ME: ...I work at Johns Hopkins. RP: (glazed look, as if he's just met the Tsar of all the Russias) WOW! that's such a great school. You must LOVE it there! ME: It's OK. It's just temporary until I find a really good job. RP: But you must have a great job at Hopkins! ME: Haha! I'm just a clerical slave, but if I stay with the university, there are some cool positions that come up sometimes... Harsh Reality: If you grow up in Baltimore, you know that Hopkins really isn't THAT great of a school. Especially if you went to a much better school. What it IS great at doing is marketing itself--which is why the rest of the world thinks it's a great school. If you work there and you are not a doctor--and I mean the medical kind, not a mere PhD--you are considered subhuman. Oh, and it paid a whopping $24K. ME: ....I work at T. Rowe Price. RP: (look that says 'you must be crazy rich; I will totally sleep with you') Wow, that's GREAT. You must make really good money. ME: (thinking, 'wow, transparent much?)Umm, well, I'm still pretty much entry level, but I'm learning a lot. RP: (seeing illusion fade, but holding out hope)It's a great company though. And I hear their benefits are awesome. ME: (smiles and nods) Harsh Reality: Again, this job paid about $24K. Oddly, I really DO like investments; it's like playing Monopoly except that there are no little wooden hotels, and the Reading Railroad hasn't existed for fifty years. And if I'd stuck it out it would have been a good career. But: again, the pay was shite. They hire kids right out of college who are willing to work for peanuts because they want experience. Said kids think the benefits are great because they've never worked anywhere else and don't know better. Other investment companies call the place "Churn N Burn" because people burn out there after three years and go to a different firm or a different career entirely. Which is what I did... and became... ME: ...I'm a high school English teacher. RP: (warm, fuzzy look that bespeaks a missionary zeal) That's awesome. I have SO much respect for you guys! Teachers definitely do NOT get paid enough! ME: Actually, I wouldn't argue with a bigger paycheck, but Baltimore City pays pretty well. RP: Omigod, you teach in THE CITY???? Aren't you afraid? ME: (avoids telling random person that s/he is either a giant racist, a suburban asshat, or both) Why should I be? RP: But aren't the kids... ME: (cuts random person off) Teenagers like they are everywhere, yeah. I was a dick when I was a teenager; it's just sort of what teenagers do. RP: I really admire you. I've always thought it would be great to be a teacher, but... ME: You might enjoy it! Haha! (thinking 'you wouldn't last a week in my classroom, you little cocksnot.') The upshot here is that almost all of my various career paths have been something that, on the face of things, is Something of Value and Importance. Banking and finance are supposed to make a lot of money and therefore must be good careers. They're also supposed to be stable, but in reality, they're not at all. Anything to do with education is noble, although most Random Persons are more interested in Good Jobs that Make Money than they are in Noble Professions. Conversely, one of my best friends is a steamfitter. A RP at the local bar, talking to both of us, gave me the Warm Fuzzy business about being a teacher. When my friend said he was a steamfitter, RP did the head-tilt and curly-lip thing: "What's that?" He explained it to RP, who promptly dismissed him and went back to talking to me. Which was really dumb, because I might Do Something Important, but my steamfitter buddy--while he occsionally sets himself on fire at work and often has dirty hands--makes three times more than I will ever make as a classroom teacher. Because he is also a member of a very strong union, he's pretty much guaranteed to keep his job, and has actually good benefits. And while yes, education is important, so is having heat in the wintertime, plumbing and water pressure. When the hospital loses heat and your mom's in ICU, who's more important--the teacher, or the steamfitter? I was happy for the attention and all, but that chick really screwed herself out of a good deal by thinking a teacher's a better catch than a steamfitter.