A few years ago while hanging out with a friend on a lazy afternoon, I suggested that we go off to visit another friend who was at work at a local coffee shop. She looked at me in a somewhat horrified fashion.
“You want to bother someone at work?”
I thought this was a strange way to look at it. When I worked in a coffee shop in the beginning of college, I really enjoyed when people came to visit me. Not only did I get to give people a discount, but I had a nice distraction. In addition, I liked people seeing what I did when I wasn’t in class or whatever. I am generally proud of what I do to make a living. Over the years, I have often wished that people could visit me in my chemistry world to see what I do all day (when I’m not blogging of course). I like to show off the technology I work with and geek out about why it’s “cool”. I like guiding tours in the facility and I like demonstrating stuff. It would be fun for me to be able to do that for my friends and family, but it isn’t generally done. There’s lots of security and safety stuff that you have to consider, so it wouldn’t be a habit you want anyone to develop. In addition, I work out in the relative “boonies” so dropping in is unlikely.
The thing is that I also love watching people do their jobs. As an example, my sister has been bartending for 20 years. I think that some might find it hard to take something like that seriously as a career if only because we’re told from a young age that unless you own the restaurant, it isn’t a “real career”. This is, of course, preposterous. People don’t talk about mechanics that way. Bartending is a highly skilled trade just like that, but because you’re slinging booze and not lugnuts, it somehow gets less respect as a “whole life” kind of thing. I also might be wrong about that as a general opinion. It’s just one I have encountered. Regardless, I have sat down at the bar while she works and have been transfixed by the sight. There’s just something exciting about watching a seasoned professional work. I have so much respect for the skills she has acquired over the years. I would say that she makes it look easy, but she doesn’t actually. I know watching her that I couldn’t be as good at taking care of a room like that tomorrow or in a year.
I also just enjoy seeing people in other parts of their lives. We all have a “home self” and a “work self”. Some would say that the big difference between these two selves is simply what you have to hide, but I think the professionalism that most people have to display at work is the more entertaining and interesting part of it. I am always amused at my phone etiquette at work. I have a “phone voice” that is apparently somehow soothing, friendly and authoritative all at once. I also display a level of confidence in my professional life that is very different from my out of work personality. I feel confident about coatings because I have a lot of knowledge. I have been doing this for years and I know what I’m talking about. I bring that to every meeting, every customer visit and I’m pretty proud of it. People trust me with their chemicals and that is something that takes years to garner (and not something you learn in school, by the way). I like seeing these things in everyone while they do their jobs.
It probably has something to do with having really high caliber people around me. I don’t worry about showing up to someone’s workplace and seeing them be mediocre. No one I would visit at work is. When I walk into the candy shop, Jessie beams in her period costume and even though she knows me well, she still answers all my candy-related questions professionally and with great enthusiasm (and then she usually lets me taste stuff because she’s a really smart saleslady…and then I buy things…so many things). I got the chance to sit in Wes’ office the other day while he was being all lawyery and it was fun to see him so professional, especially since we spend so much of our time being silly and ridiculous at home. I got to see Ginny teach a class at Gymboree once and I was highly entertained to watch her explain that the kids had a choice between a big ball and a little ball and that each ball only fit in one tube. The kids were fascinated. I haven’t gotten to see Shaun at his day job, but I think I would be really amused since he regularly sends me pictures of dinosaurs with koosh balls for bodies and Star Wars figurines sitting on toy boats. Based on how he entertains and confuses our dog, I just think watching him with kids would hilarious.
In all these cases, every job seems like a potential career because anything can be a career that you are good at and passionate about. Sure, not all the people I just mentioned are ridiculously passionate about their day jobs, but seeing someone do their job well makes the job itself seem all the more legitimate and real.
This is similar to how I feel about being out and open about being poly and being an atheist. It’s easy for people to judge you poorly when they are not directly seeing you live your life. People will make assumptions based on their own limited filter on the world and then go write a diatribe against you on the internet. But when we are all out and about a lot as a group and when people find out that we are poly, they often have a lot of questions (which we welcome!). People want to know how it works and why we chose to live this way. I find that the response to people talking to us about it in person, when they can see us all functioning in our relationships just like they do, is pretty positive. Sure, we might not be converting anyone, but at this point acceptance is just as good. Much in the same way, when people see that I’m an atheist who is smiling and who has managed not to murder everyone around me due to apparent lack of a moral code, it’s harder to think of atheists in the same evil light.
It should be obvious, but it should be said that it is important to actually observe the reality of things before making vast assumptions. For instance, many atheists are pretty learned in religious texts and theory. They judge them based on not only the words but also how concepts are carried out in people’s lives and in churches. If you talk to one, you might find yourself in an interesting theological discussion and you might also find that atheist is not synonymous with depressed godless douchebag. If you talk to polyamorous people before assuming that the only defining characteristic of them is sluttiness, you might find that the whole thing seems quite logical. If you spend a day working with an old and wizened carnie, you might be impressed by the amount of knowledge being good at something like that requires.
Or you might get really creeped out. Rumor has it carnies eat the heads of chickens or something.
I think when people hear the word skeptic, they assume you are skeptical (which, well, they should). But I think that people equate being skeptical with being a naysayer who just wants ruin everyone’s fun. But all it means is that you want to see it before you believe it. It’s easy to make grand statements about how a job or lifestyle is stupid or wrong, but it’s harder to do that once you actually see it. It comes down to whatever benefit you get from remaining ignorant and I for one never feel that the benefit of ignorance is worth it.