So I’m sorry this email arrived in the night time but that’s just how things go sometimes, emails arrive at night. Not just this email either, all sorts of emails roll in during moonlight hours. While you are sleeping, the small town of Inbox keeps on churning. An army of tiny little men and women carry in every new email on their shoulders and gently place it at the top of Inbox, sitting above all of the other emails. The men and women of Inbox are building a sky scraper, every email an extra floor. Once the email has been opened, that floor of the skyscraper is built and they move on to the next one. Some people have no respect for the people of Inbox and demolish their skyscraper at every turn, I try not to associate with such monsters. This is not an email about emails though, it is only my second newsletter and such a meta concept will have to wait for another day.
This is what the email is actually about (insofar as it is about anything)
My friend was trying to tell me about what he does a few days ago. In fairness he wasn’t trying, he was doing a very good job. He was explaining, with just the right amount of detail; the basic concept of what he was studying, the specifics of his field of research and how he plans on applying those skills. A detailed and accurate breakdown of what was going on. The guy was turning on an A+ conversational display and to my credit, I was doing a fantastic job in my role as supporting conversationalist; asking the appropriate questions, making the appropriate noises, nodding at the appropriate times. In hindsight, it was a perfect conversation, the back and forth was peppered with snappy jokes and cutting anecdotes, people were looking up from their newspapers to admire the masterclass that was taking place. A lady, couldn’t have been a day under ninety, was walking her dog, she stopped in her tracks, turned her head skyward and shouted “This is what I’ve been waiting to hear my entire life!” before collapsing on the spot. We would’ve stopped to check if she was alright but the conversation was just that engrossing. The conversation continued running smoothly until it was rudely overrun by the deafening sirens of emergency services vehicles. We both yelled, in perfect unison (such was the chemistry at this point) “WE GET IT, YOU DEAL WITH EMERGENCIES BUT YOU DON’T NEED TO KEEP GOING ON ABOUT IT. SOME OF US ARE HAVING A CONVERSATION OVER HERE” but beneath the general hysteria our point was wasted.
What stuck with me most about this moment wasn’t the rudeness of the lady or the paramedics, but what a fine job my friend had done in discussing his career. Most people do not do a very good job at this, largely because a lot of us have the wrong idea that what we do is interesting.
I find it very difficult telling people I am comedian. It feels like offering a a pick-a-path to a very dreary conversation. The options being:
PERSON: What do you do?
ME: I am a comedian.
PERSON: Tell me your best joke.
PERSON: I hope you’re not going to put this conversation in one of your skits
PERSON: Well you haven’t said anything funny yet. (Don’t worry, kind reader, they are just ribbing me.)
PERSON: What’s your name? Maybe I’ve heard of you.
PERSON: Whoa buzzy! How do you make most of your money?
The alternative to this, discussing what they do, isn’t necessarily any better. They will usually start by saying something which doesn’t make a lot of sense like they are a ‘family protection consultant’ which means they sell insurance on the phone. They won’t let the fact they sell insurance on the phone stop ‘em from talking though, that’s what I don’t understand. People talk with such passion about how boring their jobs are, without realising that being passionate about how boring your job is unspeakably boring. Some people, mostly in marketing, will be bleating on and on about how they have to write an email, from scratch, and then punch in the lucky recipients address, fire that thing through, wait for the recipient to read it, pen their own email, send that back, read THAT and the whole fucking process starts all over again.
Not helping matters is my approach to these conversations. I have been burned before and because I am not a risk taker (that is an interesting fact about me, I have never taken a risk) I now treat every career based conversation with acute suspicion. This inevitably leads to me getting mentally muddled between those who can do a good job of talking about their job, and those who cannot. The whole thing becomes one jumbled, disinteresting mess and as soon as the conversation finishes, the details of what exactly the person does erode and I wind up thinking every person I know does a caricature of what a job is. I am 27 years old and have no idea what virtually any job title actually means. Are you a Doctor? Your career does not extend beyond calling people into your office. I do not know what happens once they are in there, and I do not care to find out. Are you the police? That means you turn a siren on and off and eat McDonald’s in your car. Are you a hatmaker? Well as far as I know, you make hats for a living.
Maybe we should all be ushered into small villages with people who exclusively perform the same job as us, so as not to bore the other professions. The comedians can live amongst comedians, the plumbers with the plumbers, the doctors with the doctors and so on and so forth. The only problem with that would be that everyone except the doctors would get very sick and the doctors would get sick of being around each other and become cannibals and all of society would grind to a halt. Well, I guess nothings perfect.
See you next week!