Do You Want Fries With That?
Unskilled labor matters more than you think
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
“May I see your vaccination status and photo ID?”
People grumble about having to deal with this. I don’t know about other places, but here in my native New York City this seems to be a standard question. One cannot go into any public place without hearing it: no restaurant, no store, no theater. And while many people regard it as an annoying question, one that is completely unnecessary, imagine if it were not asked?
This extends to all those so-called low-skill jobs. But even the term low-skill seems wrong. Annie Lowrey wrote an article in The Atlantic (April 23, 2021) which said:
“This description, like so many descriptions of “low-skill workers,” is abjectly offensive, both patronizing and demeaning. Imagine going up to a person who’s stocking shelves in a grocery store and telling him that he is low-skill and holding the economy back. Imagine seeing a group of nannies and blasting “Learn to code!” at them as life advice. The low-skill label flattens workers to a single attribute, ignoring the capacities they have and devaluing the work they do.”
We tend to take these workers for granted because things simply get done, but we never think about the people who do them. We never question the fact that our office garbage is picked up, we never even give a second thought to the shelves in the supermarkets that are filled. But imagine if the restroom cleaners didn’t clean. Imagine if the cafeteria workers didn’t cook. Imagine if the supermarket stock people didn’t stock the shelves? Imagine if the cleaners in your office didn’t empty the trash every night? Imagine if the restaurant bussers, didn’t bus the tables? What would happen to your older loved ones if they had no access to health care aides?
These jobs may seem insignificant, but just think about what it would be like if there weren’t anyone doing them. Without people asking for vaccine status, many public venues could function properly. Heck, many couldn’t open at all. Without the cleaning staff, the garbage would pile up around your desk. Without the attendants the state of the restrooms would be awful. The supermarket shelves would be empty without stockers doing their jobs.
It seems to me life would be very different, and we’d be grumbling about a lot more than just having our vaccine status checked in a theater.
Another thing to remember is that some of the unskilled laborers in our country may have been highly skilled workers in their own country. I personally know several people who hold degrees in areas like engineering and accounting but don’t have the necessary language skills, qualifications, or licenses to practice their profession here in the United States. Just because a person holds an unskilled-labor job doesn’t mean their stupid or lazy, they may simply be trying to put food on the table while bettering themselves. After all, no one aspires to clean toilets as a career.
You may have one of these jobs. If you do, this is a big thank you. You make a huge difference even if you think you don’t. Don’t ever think you are insignificant. You are most definitely an essential part of life in this city and, even though you often don’t often get the recognition you deserve, don’t get discouraged. You have an extremely important role.
The upshot is that next time you see someone doing a job that most consider ‘low-level’ or “unskilled labor” why not take the time to talk to them and thank them. You might find they have more to offer than fries with the burger.
About the author
D.D. Bartholomew was born in NY, and lived in Australia, Canada and Japan. She works at the Met Opera in NYC. She writes romance and currently has three books on Amazon. Her hobbies include iaido (samurai sword), baking and singing opera.