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In praise of a job well done

I’ve always had a problem with the idea that there are “important” and “less important” jobs in human society. I, for one, consider the guy who comes and gets my garbage regularly very important.

But whether or not some jobs are seen as more important by our society as others, I think everyone should join me today in appreciation of a job well done.

Any job—I’m not ranking them by importance today.

Here’s where I started on this train of thought. Last week we hired my mother’s housekeeper to come clean our house. We are four people, one of whom would be considered “neat,” one tidy enough but not terribly particular, and two—the ones under eighteen—well, let’s just say that they are as “neat” as Donald Trump is “consistent.”

Over the years, I have tried it all: training, cajoling, bribing, threatening, modeling, yodeling.

OK, I didn’t try yodeling. Perhaps I should.

But our house pretty much never attains what I, the neat person, would call clean. I work and work and cajole, bribe, and sometimes do the job for them, but somehow, the house always feels like it’s got an impenetrable layer of scum on its surface.

Enter the wizard of housekeeping, the woman who can walk through a dirty room like the pied piper and leave it neat and incredibly, awesomely clean.

I just did my weekly deep cleaning of the kitchen and it was clean. Not that I didn’t have spills on the counter, scraps on the floor, and scum in the microwave to get rid of. But that ever-growing layer of scum was simply gone. 

How does she do it? She tells me that she knew from a young age that this was something she was good at, and that doing the job gives her satisfaction.

Back to that garbage. By the way, my older child once had a classmate whose mom was a sanitation worker. She told me she loved her job. She loved getting up early and getting things done, being home for her kids after school, and not bringing her work home with her. She felt appreciated and important.

Our own garbage man seems cut from the same cloth. He’s a man who likes a job well done. After we’d been living in the house for years, they changed the payment system and somehow our bill went amiss for a few months. Our guy came to the door and told me that he figured there was a problem, because he knew we’d always paid before. He was supposed to cut off our service, but he didn’t think that was right.

It was a job well done; I called and figured out the bookkeeping mess, and he took our garbage.

So far I’ve only mentioned jobs that are what most people would put in the “less important” category, but my point is that we can all appreciate a job well done. I love it when my kids have a great community college prof who knows what her job is and does it so well our kids are tricked into thinking the class is “easy.” I love it when I have a problem with a local store and the salesperson figures out how to fix it so that we both end up happy. I love that our retired neighbor runs our private road association like a job that he’s getting regular performance reviews for.

I totally loved it when I got The Guy Who Knows Things at AT&T and in 30 seconds he figured out the problem with our account that had bedeviled three other employees before him (who had all blamed the problem on me and my phone, thankyouverymuch).

I asked him if I could get his direct line, and he apologized that they didn’t have direct lines. Next time I call, I guess I just have to ask for That Nice Guy in Texas Who Knows Things.

As a parent, I hope I’m instilling in my children a love of a Job Well Done. We talk about how a problem got solved by someone who worked hard, or a product was made well by someone who cared, or a politician actually went out and did the thing they promised to do.

I am hoping that one day this will translate into my children actually cleaning their toilets without being cajoled, harassed, and threatened, though I’m not holding my breath.

A Job Well Done seems to be a rare thing in our society. I think we need to celebrate it. It doesn’t matter how prestigious your job is. Housekeeper? Clean that floor better than anyone else. Salesperson? Know your products and stand by them. CEO? Take the share of responsibility your paycheck implies that you have.

No matter what you do, finish up the day knowing that you did your best.

Note: Ah, how time flies. I found this draft that I wrote last year… and though I still love the sentiment, I can happily report that I no longer have two under-18s (one has graduated and is off to college!) and my 14-year-old has suddenly gained pride of place and is cleaning his own room. Crazy how much changes and you don’t even notice…

Posted in Culture, Parenting.


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