“What you do?”
The most generic small-talk question of all time. At my timeshare job, I ask it because I want to make sure you can afford timeshares. “I work the drive-through at Taco Bell.” Okay, next customer. I can say that because, half my life ago, I worked the Taco Bell drive through. And I couldn’t afford a timeshare.
In the olden days I feared the question. Small talk with strangers is always painful for me. I don’t have much time for small talk. Talk is for discovering things or clarifying. Not for passing the time, and not just for the sake of breaking silence. Silence is golden, dammit!
“So what do you do?” It’s a dumb question anyway. Because I do a lot of stuff! I read, I sing, I take care of my kiddo, I hang out with my wife, I watch sitcoms, I go to school, I cook, eat, run, tell jokes. When did it ever suffice to simply say that my job is “What I do.” A job is one thing I do. And it’s the thing I try to do the least.
But maybe not any more.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a student.”
That worked for a while. But I’m thirty freakin’ three. That’s no longer a response to be proud of. Not with a wife, mortgage and a six-month old. The shelf life of “I’m a student” has long passed.
“I work for a timeshare company.” That was pretty to-the-point. Honesty is the best policy after all. Except that the vast majority of financially-stable adults have suffered through a timeshare presentation at some point in their lives. So yeah. That response is always loaded. And I always had to say it in the spirit of, “yeah, I’ll take your money, sucker!” Because that was how they perceived my job. And it’s not too far from the mark, either. Timeshare employees don’t do it because they’re passionate about timeshares. We do it because we can make “dinero culero.” (In English, a buttload of money.) So yeah.
“What do you do?”
“Lots of stuff. But to make money, I’m a writer.”
Ah. That feels good.
“I’m a writer. I write stuff for American Airlines’ marketing department. It’s really good money.”
Technically I’m just doing some contract work for them, but same difference. If they extend my contract a few months, it’s still a job I will have done. And done well. And for decent pay.
But the bigger thing is that I’m doing something I can be proud of. I don’t have to cringe at the inevitable question of what it is I “do”. I do what I always thought I should do, but never really believed it was possible.
And you know what else? The old chestnut: “What’s your major?” has a whole new spin. Get this. Classically:
“What’s your degree in?”
“Oh! … oh. What do you plan to do with that?”
I have always been a little defensive about my choice of major. My stock response to “What will you do with history?” has always been:
“Whatever I want. It’s college, not career training.”
The stigma against history majors is that we are doomed to flip burgers. We will not be engineers. We won’t be doctors or even nurses. We won’t program computers or balance accounts. We can’t acquire businesses or trade stocks. So what will you do with history?
Apparently, I will write and research as I always assumed I would. And the real beauty of it is that I
- Don’t need calculus or advanced math
- Don’t have to cut, catheterize, or clean up doodoo
- Don’t need a doctorate
- I don’t have to work with engineers
- I don’t have to wear a tie! Ha!
- Have the same starting salary as an engineer.
- Have a skill that is very in-demand with little competition
- In your face!
Anyway, what are you going to do with your boring-ass business major? Actually, most everyone I ask that question to has some extremely specific response. Even high-school kids think they know exactly what they’ll be for the rest of their lives. I’m glad I’ve got some perspective now.
I feel good about this. It’s the start of something great.
This is me.
The Nerdy Daddy