Thursday, April 30, 2009

Touching All the Bases

“WAG #10: The Professional” As we go through our days, we’re surrounded by people doing everyday jobs: the guy that reads the gas meter, cashiers, bank tellers, security guards, doctors, circus clowns… This week, your assignment is to observe someone doing a job (their profession should be one you don’t know that much about). Describe him/her and also what they’re doing, why they’re doing it (as best you can tell), and how. Feel free to use your imagination, but don’t forget the concrete observation! Special thanks to Lulu for this week’s topic idea!

The vest said it all; it was orange, didn't seem to fit, and appeared plastic. By now you know I'm either talking about the new version of "chain gangs" parading the side of the highway and down the medians or the service personnel in residential communities--well, it's the latter. There's two or three of them working the sidewalks between the wall of our residential community and the public road and they all seem to be dancing to the same song on their ipods here. Yet...they do all seem to swing their 'chinery to a common beat and walk a similar gait. There's one in particular who is arrayed in sunglasses, jeans, a long-sleeved blue and gray plaid shirt, and, of course, the requisite vest. The dangling cigarette is also a key give-away as is the few days growth of facial hair. I'm driving out the gate past them and almost seem to get a whiff of...should I just say someone hard at work? Good thing I've got the windows up.

I'm afforded a moment or two for observation before darting out into traffic and I notice that I'm particularly happy I came upon them this week; because if I had noticed them on the week we were supposed to make friends with them, then...well...'nuf said. But what was it about them that is keeping us apart, these workers and me? I don't think it's any one thing; rather, I think it's an awareness of a "vibe"'s a 60's word...but it has ought nine meaning. The vibe in question is really more of a behavioristic smoothy whipped up out of elements of personal hygiene, bodily comportment, fashion sense, and the appearance of sentience. Usually I guage the possibility of friendship with a person on a sliding scale marked off in likely things in common; starting at the bottom with the most obvious things like gender, standing upright, and having an opposable thumb. There's actually one of these fellows--I don't see him working the weed whacker today--with whom I imagine that I might, in point of fact, be able to have a conversation--and, incidentally, he does have an ipod-like device that he listens to. Hmmm, I wonder; do you think ipods are a phenotype? At any rate, they seem right at home whacking on the side of the road and raising up a lot of dust; their comfortableness with gasoline fumes and engines slung over their shoulders is somewhat disconcerting; and the jaunty angle of the cigarette consigns them immediately to the category and likeness of depression-era least, as they are often portrayed.

Have they been driven to this by turns in the economy? Are they really quite decent fellows, every one? Do they perceive the subtlety in language that makes for repartee and are they aware of the inner workings of their own consciousness? Do they have "thing" consciousness or have they grown beyond that to ideas or, further still, to ideals; dare I even mention Spirit or, at the very least, Truth, Goodness or Beauty? In the end, I suppose we all have to admit that there is something wonderful about a nation that has made a place for every stratum of growth in human development, a place where you can gain full self-actualization by starting at the bottom and touching all the bases until you get home; you see, in my summers during college I used to do the work these men are doing today.


  1. Nice post-love the ending, made me chuckle. Very descriptive. When I was in the service we had two guys who wore the orange vests whose job it was to run out in front of the marchers and stopped traffic. We called them road toads...because no one cared if they got squished. ;)

  2. Iain, I really liked this piece. You turned casual observation into a social/philosophical discussion. Your ending brought the piece full circle outcasts to brothers in arms. Your last sentence gave the piece humanity.

  3. Ha, this had some very funny parts. Great details!

  4. Neat piece! I wasn't quite getting the swinging without iPods part, but I was really engaged with the message which seemed to be "don't be a snob". :-) Really, really liked this!


  5. You did a good job with the descriptions, but I think you really pulled it off bu setting the tone and then nailing the closer. When reading this I was a bit put off - such a snob - but it was all fantastic misdirection. Great job on that.

  6. Ohh, I really enjoyed this post.. Nice job, had me smiling. I could see the orange, plastic ill fitting vest perfectly.

    Brenda M. (sort of new ot wag)

  7. I really liked this piece. You turned casual observation into a social/philosophical discussion.

    Work from home India