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The Real World

Perhaps a year or so ago, I was standing in line at a local Subway restaurant, and the lady ahead of me was chatting with the guy behind the counter. It seemed to be one of those customer/server relationships that had developed over time -- not too close, yet friendly enough. The employee excitedly told the woman about a new job he was starting in the near future, to which the woman cheerily responded, "It'll be nice for you to have a real job!"

It's not an exaggeration to say that there was a palpable pause after the woman made her remark. The guy behind the counter blinked a couple times, his face went slack, and then he responded with a meek, "Yeah, it will." I, myself, had done a sharp intake of breath. The customer seemed oblivious to any of this, and went on about the business of completing her order, even going on to wish the employee "Good luck!" in his new venture.

The Subway Incident, as I've jokingly dubbed it, was notable for a couple of reasons. One, it opened my eyes to the apparent fact that anyone who works there has an imaginary job. All these years, I've been making my own sandwiches. The folks I thought were working behind the counter were figments of imagination. Second, it's okay to openly pass judgment on a fast food worker's job status, however well-intended. To the latter point, I see this occur on at least a weekly basis.

In the debate over fast food worker pay (the most notable of which has been the demand to increase it to $15 an hour), there has been no shortage of folks willing to comment that such work is really only meant for teenagers, and that if you're an adult performing such duties then, congratulations, you've failed at life (yes, people actually say this). Regardless of whether or not fast food workers get paid too much or too little, I think we can all agree -- or should agree -- that it's damn hard work. As far as jobs go, it's pretty "real."

Look, it's a tough world out there. Life (as they say) happens. You may think you've got it all, done all the right things, have it made, and that folks who hold certain jobs just haven't got their act together. There but for the grace of God go you or I. Just ask the IT folks at Disney World, who likely did everything they were supposed to: go to college, work hard, enjoy the perks of a good-paying job done well, only to have their jobs replaced by cheaper labor from another country. So it goes.

There's no point sniping at one another over who has what job and what that says about them. To be clear: a person's job -- or lack thereof -- does not necessarily speak to who they are as a human being. If anything, those who judge others' employment are more likely the ones who have "failed at life." Time to cast-out the shallowness, and focus on our humanity. Let's show some respect toward one another. We're all in this together,


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