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About my “night” job…

7 Dec

As you may know, being a graduate assistant places you in an unusual position within the framework of academia. You’re a student, but also a colleague. You work 80 hours a week on various duties, but you only get paid for 20 of those hours, which means you are more or less paid below minimum wage. I haven’t done the math, but let’s just say my stipend is barely enough to keep the lights on.

So, I have a second job. I’m an usher at my university’s sporting events. This is actually a pretty cool gig, because people here are NUTS for basketball. The traditions are ridiculous. People pack the 17,000 seat arena to watch their team beat up on some division 2 school that desperately needs the paycheck to take a flogging. When we play our huge rival, look out. Drunk rednecks make my job difficult. There’s singing, chanting, and generally a great atmosphere. And no, I don’t go to Duke.

It seems that this company will hire just about anyone with a pulse to be an usher. There is definitely a wide range of intellects and social functioning among the employees. For example, at the end of a shift, everyone queues up to sign their name to a sheet of paper indicating the beginning and end times of their shift. This, as you might expect, is not the best system to use when there are literally 200 people trying to go home at the same time. However, the process is complicated by the fact that many of the employees do not know how to spell their own names.

So, if you display any intelligence or social skills in the course of doing your job, you get assigned to duties that are a bit more plum than showing people the way to Section 6.

I have been fortunate enough to excel at this job, to the point that I am often asked to be door “security” for high-profile, high-traffic areas. And by that I mean “where all the donors hang out.” An essay on athletics boosting is meant for another time, but you’d be shocked at what money can buy you in the world of college sports.

It’s an interesting social experiment for me. Recently I was posted to work at the entrance to the donor-only area. A donation of $10,000 or more gets you access to all the free food and booze you want to ingest before sloshing to your seats in the arena. As serious as people are about basketball around here, boosters will drop that kind of money without batting an eye.

So what do I do at the entrance? I make eye contact, greet the donors, and hold the door open for them. That’s it. I made a few mental notes last night.

I was about 50/50 on eye contact – about half of the people I tried to engage actually looked at me. At least half paid no attention to the fact that there was a human being physically holding a door open for them. I guess they thought it had automatically swung open when it sensed that their pockets were lined with eagle feathers and hundred-dollar-bills. Of this half, none could even be bothered to look at the peon working the door, let alone thank me for holding the door for them. But of course, some people were extremely gracious and took the time to thank me for being so attentive and helpful. That makes it all good.

This is not an indictment of the wealthy, as I’m sure you’d get the same proportion of people thanking or ignoring the door-holder on the way into Walgreen’s. Some people are polite and gracious, many are not.

However, I did feel a little bit like a bellhop. And I did get some looks of contempt. It was interesting. I tried not to profile, but damn, the offenders were always middle-aged, heavily-bleached, orange-tanned, trendy-clothes-that-a-woman-over-19-has-no-business-wearing clad white women. EVERY. TIME. And their male counterparts gave me the same treatment, so I suspect whatever mentality drives these women to dress and act this way also attracts their men, like some sort of bottle-blonde mating display.

I’m definitely not complaining about my job by any means! I actually really enjoy it. I get to smile and be friendly and  I get paid for it. And since I won’t do anything unless I do it REALLY WELL, I am good at my job.

It’s just amusing how often people will rage that there’s no customer service anymore, that people are no longer polite, things were so much better when whitey ran the show, blah blah blah, that they don’t notice genuine, sincere service when they see it. Your $10,000 donation doesn’t make you better than the waitresses bringing you cheap wine: it makes you wealthier, perhaps, but certainly not better. Be nice to the people who serve you. Because for every nice person, there are about a half dozen assholes.