Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Matter Of Class

This evening, I went to a big sushi dinner at the local sushi hotspot with my boyfriend and his closest friend and his fiance. It was a big group of us, fourteen, and one waiter waiting on us. I have to say, he did pretty good. We had excellent service and the food (Godai's) was fabulous.

One of the guys in the group apparently was not as impressed. I found his reactions very interesting. When he received his plate he complained that the sushi rolls were too large. The waiter responded saying "that's how the come bro". The young man was offended the waiter referred to him in such a casual manner. I was shocked!

The restaurant we were at was very casual and we were about the same age as the waiter, what was the big deal? What made us at the table so different than the guy waiting on us? It really got me thinking about class and how we perceive each other. Obviously, having just finished a stint waiting tables I was offended at the guy's reaction. But it bothered me more than just that.

Having been on a few interviews in the past several days, I have been doing a lot of talking about myself. One thing the interviewer always picks up on is the time I spent as a union organizer. I get mixed reactions to it but always many questions. Earlier today I found myself explaining why I had worked as a union organizer to the owner of a high-brow staffing agency here in San Antonio.

She tested me on my "pitch" as she called it and took the role of a worker deciding whether or not to be in a union. I rattled off a dozen questions about her life. Doesn't really matter. She has a thriving 20 year old business and is considered the best recruiter in the city. She has no idea what it's like to raise a family on $17,000 a year. Neither do I for that matter. But I have heard all the stories first hand. I guess the difference is that I give a shit.

Waiting tables is tough, cutting lawns is tough, making it in this world takes a lot of balls and a lot of tears. I do not see a difference between this Mercedes-driving-beougousie and the guy that brought me my sushi tonight. They both put a lot of effort and energy into their work. But we ususally don't see things that way do we?

I suppose I feel a little bitter towards those with wealth since my exodus from my hotel job. A few days before resigning, I went to a Christmas party at the owner's home. It was a lovely party filled with a very diverse crowd. Some of them were wearing fur coats that cost my yearly salary. That kind of stings. Especially because I was so grossly underpaid. I felt something come over me that was all too familiar from my union days. Disrespect.

Disrespect was the most common reason I got from workers about their jobs. I suppose I have been very lucky to have gotten so far in life without feeling this. Trying so hard to be successful at this job and not getting anything in return made me feel devalued. And what felt worse was that I was not the only one getting this treatment. Everyone was. Either the owners were out of touch with what it took to get by in this city or they simply did not care. I would lean towards the not caring.

Class warfare is something we pretend is not around. We ignore it and try to be "politcally correct". But I can't help but feel like the ones that have the most don't want the rest of us to get our hands on it. Think about the Bush tax cuts, the so called "death tax", trickle-down economics and corporate welfare. They sure make it easy on themselves, don't they?

When I worked for the union I would get retorts about my work (from rich white folk) that the people I was trying to help wanted to be in a poor situation because they were too lazy to make something out of themselves. My arguement was that these workers were a product of their environment and the poor state of our public education. The education you get on the Southside is not the same education you get at Alamo Heights. Which high school would you guess has more graduates that go on to college?

Well this sure has turned into a long rant. I guess my point is that we need to stop looking at each other as different. Work is work. Whether you're waiting tables or running a multi-million dollar company, we are a nation of workers. That goes beyond just rich people and poor people. We let all this bullshit like tea parties and Cowboys games distract us. Marx said "workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains". Maybe if we stop dividing ourselves into having or not having we'll stop assigning classes to people as if some people were actually more important than others. We are all just workers.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of a time when I worked at the JCPenney home store during Christmas. A custmer I was helping assumed I did not have a degree and I should go get one. When I told him I did have a degree he asked in what? I told him Interior Design. He then said you she get a business degree as well so I could run my own business. I responded I am not interested in running my own business. I choose not to take that stress on..........the man was an educator of all things. So education is his top priority. Yes it is important but at different levels for different people. The point I am trying to make is I was offfended he assumed I was uneducated b/c I was working retail.