Today I accepted the offer of the waitress in IHOP to design her husband's website. I told her to choose a general layout, and start writing copy. When I get back here in two weeks, I'll call her up and begin coding. I've decided to charge them five bucks an hour for my services. Sure, the going rate is eight times that. But they're poor, and the waitress works much harder than I do.
Eddie works hard back in the kitchen. At the end of his shift he scrapes down and oils the grill, filling the room with smoke and steam. He pours each grease trap into a six-gallon bucket, and when he's done the bucket is half full. After that he peels off the chef's uniform and washes himself thoroughly at the employee sink.
This is definitely not the worst job he's had, though. He once had to do metal assembly with an arc-welder, attached to an eight-ton generator, under hundred-degree heat in the middle of a construction site, in the humid atmosphere of Guam. He and his brother had to raise a mile of fence, nine feet high and made of galvanized steel, using only hand tools. He once painted the outside of a Hyatt Regency Inn, all six faces, all fifteen stories.
Backwards hat, plain shirt, short and dark and muscular. Just another homey with his loud music. And I've known people who look at a guy, looking like this, and think, "Just another pathetic, uneducated lout, probably steal my car stereo if I don't keep an eye on him. I'm glad all my friends are white-collar and civilized."
White-collar and civilized. The elite, so much more deserving of the resources at their disposal, right? I know a guy at my company who sits on his overweight ass all day, talking on the phone with editors and trade-show spokesmen. Every few hours he complains about how hard his job is, and how little the company values his skill. This loud, whiny, obnoxious turkey makes eighty thousand dollars a year. He's married but has no children, and is trying to decide if he wants to upgrade to the newer BMW, so he doesn't fall too far behind his friends.
Is he aware of all the infrastructure that's supporting his lifestyle? No. Does he give a shit? Definitely not. He makes that fact plain at least once a week in a self-aggrandizing monologue. Some people get so wrapped up in paying attention to themselves, shoring up their accomplishments, grooming a sense of pride ... that they lose all perspective with how truly large the world is. Some people will even deliberately ignore that larger picture, because of the way it threatens their ego.
What if all people, ... not just your circle of friends, or your family, or your local community, but all people -- every single person you can ever possibly interact with -- what if they are all just as intent on pursuing their personal actualization as you are? With their own tailored history, their own emotional responses, their own spiritual desires? What if they all have dreams? Which matter to them just as much as yours do to you?
Why should they listen to you? What the hell is your personal sense of superiority worth, when you alone are the bearer of it?
Why not just stop working on it? Work on something else?
In the fifth grade I wrote a computer program that would plot all the steps in long division, because it was quicker than doing the ten or so problems by hand. I'm proud of that. What the hell does that mean to Eddie? He was modifying trucks in Guam at the time. I used to go dumpster diving for removable media behind the tech companies in my home town. Eddie would have laughed at that. I grew up in the forest, and enjoyed solitary walks in the redwoods at night. Eddie grew up at the edge of a jungle, and if you went out at night, you were an idiot.
We all have preferences, chosen from our environment. We're proud of our accomplishments. We all make our mistakes, and learn from them, and think our conclusions are the right conclusions. All this, however, resides in our heads, inside our personal universe. Each human is alone with it, but every human has it.
Forget the whole God-religion argument: Show me a person that is suspicious of
strangers, and I'll show you a person who feels essentially alone in the world.
Anyway, Eddie and the waitresses and I sat around the table until four in the morning, eating fish and drinking soda. We colored in the placemats and played the kid-games on the back, and talked about camping, politics, and music. Eddie ranted to me about the Braindead Monkeys web site, and how holistically awful our band truly is. I grinned. The waitresses wrote down the URL.
Monkyey Manyeiya is Sweeping the Nyatien. >:)