Friday, September 6, 2013

Theory 16: People erroneously think they can do other people’s jobs.

He never failed. I bumped down interstates for four seasons of SEC football with The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band. Every time we passed a pasture of grazing cows (which are numerous in the SEC), this goofy brass player would say, “Why, those cows are outstanding in their field.”  Animals don’t trip. Animals know their roles. People, we hope, are working in professions they enjoy. All jobs require training. There is a certain process that ensures more efficient ditch-digging, just as collegiate and graduate coursework, clinicals, and residencies prepare surgeons. But, for some odd reason, many people think they can do other people’s jobs.

Perhaps this is an American phenomenon. We pride ourselves on independence and individual success. We are critical of procedural accuracy (especially we teachers). Americans love accomplishment and value improvement.

Many folks, all having been students, think they understand the education industry. They think they can teach. I won’t elaborate too much, but teachers are scrutinized these days and commit to hundreds of hours of college, graduate, professional development, and in-service coursework. We spend a semester to a year as un-paid apprentices before we even start our careers. Please trust our expertise. We spend HOURS planning 30-minute lessons to maximize our students’ success. Tall Child, annoyed at my extensive time on our computer one day (he needed it for fantasy football), remarked, “Why do you spend so much time on lesson plans? You just do the chapter, do the questions at the end, and get on with it.” Not so, my dear.

My Uncle Trout, who played basketball and baseball for Auburn University and later coached high school basketball and baseball once noted, “You know, when I look up into the stands at a ballgame and see parents who are doctors and lawyers, I don’t think I can do their jobs. But, for some reason, they all think they can coach.”

During my childhood, Delicious and I frequented Food City in Pigeon Forge, TN. I loved to watch the grocery cashiers peck out numbers and decimals on the ten-key cash register with one hand while sliding my Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and Delicious’s Lay’s Vinegar and Salt potato chips down the conveyor belt. For years, I wanted to swap places with the checker and try to match her speed and skill. Finally, self-checkout lanes came about and, at my own Food City in Knoxville, I got to test my secret longing. My first time with self-scan was exhilarating. I was able to grocery shop sans conversation. I scanned, beeped, bagged, scanned, beeped, bagged, scanned, beeped, UH-OH. I heard a robot woman from the computer say “Please see attendant.” DANG! I screwed up some produce; I didn’t know what kind of lettuce it was and couldn’t find the PLU code. I choked under the pressure. Guess who had to help me. The cashier! I don’t bother anymore. The cashiers deserve respect and customers. Plus, I always feel a little paranoid, like I look like I’m shoplifting.

Delicious says she could edit The New York Times. Like all grammarians and English teachers, she notices every flaw in another’s speech. Luckily, she only corrects me in private. Oops. I mean to say “She corrects me only in private.” Sorry, mama. TV broadcasters, be warned. Delicious will call your boss. She phoned ESPN headquarters in New York City when a football commentator repeatedly mispronounced Auburn’s “Jordan-Hare Stadium.” Folks, it’s pronounced “jur-den,” not “jawr-dan.” She has called Lamar Advertising (a billboard company), The Mountain Press newspaper in Sevierville, NewsTalk 98.7, and Wal-Mart (for the love of God and all humanity, please change those signs to “20 items or fewer”).

Tall Child once thought he was a lumberjack. He said he wanted to cut a tree down (I’m guessing it was at least 100 feet tall) in our back yard. I said, “Don’t you dare try to do that. Please hire a professional tree service!” He promised he wouldn’t. A couple of weeks later, Sharky and I returned from a visit to The Crippled Beagle Farm to see a Knoxville Utilities Board truck, a Knox County fire truck, and neighbors surrounding our backyard. It seemed Tall Child had ignored his lack of experience and my threat. As he and our neighbor cut a notch into the huge Tulip Poplar on the wrong side, it leaned precariously toward the road and the beautiful white house full of people across the road! They panicked (thankfully) and called 911 and KUB. The KUB trained tree experts saved the road, the power lines, the house across the street, and Tall Child’s rear end. Did I mention this all happened the Saturday morning of the UT at Florida Gators football game and that, had the tree fallen, 55 houses would have lost power?

Lowe’s, Home Depot, and the internet are an awesome combo. No offense, but those stores have helped women feel less helpless and more confident that we can take care of business. No more nagging and waiting, ladies. Just Google it, buy it, and follow the instructions. You’ll show him! I’ve accomplished light electrical work, minor plumbing, and lots of painting. I can “cut in” like a stud. But, I’ve learned the hard way when to call in professionals. I’ve avoided fires but entertained several floods. My biggest project was painting the basement ceiling. Tall Child’s head hit the ugly, commercial drop tiles in our 700 sq. foot basement den. So, I ripped out all the tiles, fluorescent lights, and metalwork to “raise the roof.” Bad move. I figured I’d just sweep out the dust and enjoy rustic, wood-clad headspace. Wrong. I forgot about plumbing and wires and exposed a big mess. My solution? Paint it all. I Googled, calculated, and took off to Lowe’s to rent a paint sprayer. The only woman in the check-out line, I felt a bit judged. A flannelled man caked in nicotine and gasoline asked me, “Honey, you sure you can handle that thing?” I nervously admitted, using one of Trout’s famous lines, “I may be runnin' a mule in the Kentucky Derby.” Determined, I hauled the 80 lb. sprayer and 5 gallons of white paint home. Just getting the machine in the house and down the stairs was an aerobic, cuss-fest. I’m not sure if I ran the machine or it ran me, but we gyrated all over that square den until I’d used every drop of paint. I had miscalculated. I ran out of paint. I hustled back to Lowe’s for more, looking like this:

Oh, and department stores, please ditch the “For Sale by Owner” signs. No one should sell his or her own house. It’s painful for all involved, especially the professionals forced to negotiate with amateurs. There is soooooooooo much more involved.

If someone is "outstanding in his field," let him operate free of your critique! You do your job; he’ll do his. I’ve learned my lessons. I let other people work for me. I figure we all need each other. I see it this way: a nice lady may scan my groceries on Saturday, a nice man may fix my plumbing on Monday, and I may teach their children someday. For the record, though, I’m really good at diagnosing certain medical conditions and I KNOW I could steer a plane out of the sky, if I had to, with the help of a sexy post-military air traffic controller who would meet me on the tarmac after the crisis ended, in a running leap, on camera with a grammatically proficient news reporter detailing my heroics.

Hey, we are all capable and we are all critics. Here in the South we are all wedding planners, which brings me to Theory 17: Funerals are better than weddings, for guests, especially in the South.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...