It has been my experience that most people suck at their jobs. We’ve all worked with, and have been serviced by, employees who should have been fired a long time ago. Yet, we are mostly in denial about it and we are usually surprised by it. From the lowest level worker to the highest paid professional, all the way up to the White House (even if you approve of Trump’s policies and posturing, you have to admit that he isn’t exactly running a smooth operation there). Let’s face it, the level of incompetence in America has reached epidemic proportions.
Let’s start with the service industries. Have you ever had the experience of a parking attendant losing your car key? This has happened to me so often that I now carry an extra set wherever I go. Once, I waited over 20 minutes for them to get my car and when the attendant finally came back he told me they couldn’t find it. Not my key, but my car. And he was only telling me this because they had given up looking. As if I was just going to hop in a cab and leave it at that. I had to insist that they go back look again and I had to accompany them on their search. Eventually, they found it. But the part that made me the most angry was that I still tipped him.
I am sick and tired of grocery baggers who can’t stack their way out of a paper bag. Usually, I just want to push them out of the way and do it myself, like when a lazy woman would give me a lousy handjob. I understand that this job doesn’t exactly attract the best and the brightest but, come on, it doesn’t take a genius. Sometimes, I even start to feel sorry for them. Until I get home and find that my eggs are broken, my bread is smushed and my Fruit Loops are still sitting at the check-out stand.
I don’t know about you but half the time I eat in a restaurant I get bad service. Now, to be fair, I am Jewish. This means I tend to be more particular than other customers. Most tables are either too drafty or too close to the kitchen, I require many substitutions, I insist on having my salad dressing on the side and I’m always watching for other customers who sat down after me and got served before me. But still, I expect my server to slap a smile on their underpaid face and act like it’s a pleasure to fetch my food.
Why do we always trust our doctors, brokers, lawyers and other highly paid professionals? Is it because they charge so much or is it just wishful thinking? We put our welfare, and sometimes our lives, into their hands because we assume they’re smart and know what they’re doing. But not everybody with a higher education finished at the top of their class. Some of them had to be the worst students who just barely managed to graduate. Some of them had to be the ones that all their classmates looked down on and made fun of and called “Stinky” behind their backs. How do we know that our doctor or lawyer wasn’t “Stinky”?
Most doctors and medical facilities will make you sign a waiver before they treat you. Why? Because they know there’s a good chance they will screw-up and cause you bodily harm or possibly death and they want to make sure you can’t ruin their lives after they ruin yours. And yet, we all accept and sign these forms because we really don’t have a choice. I don’t know anyone over fifty who doesn’t know someone who was made sicker or even killed by being treated in a hospital. “They just went in for a hip replacement and wound up dying of pneumonia” is practically a cliché to my generation.
My experience with lawyers has taught me, the hard way, that the only people who win lawsuits – are the lawyers. Their fees are outrageous, yet they always seem to be juggling more cases than they can keep up with. This seems to be the ironic common thread between all of these highly paid professionals. If they are making that kind of money, why do they need to take on more work than they can handle? Do us all a favor - work a little less hard, make a little less money and do a better job!
This is perhaps most true with contractors. It’s as if they intentionally suck at their jobs. The contractor who never shows up when he says he will, takes three times as long then he said he would and winds up charging twice as much as he estimated has become an almost comical stereotype. Plus, they always seem to hire untrained immigrants, who don’t speak much English, which means they don’t understand me when I’m yelling at them about the crappy job they’re doing. How is it even possible for someone to make repairs that actually wind up doing more damage than I had in the first place? I’ve had to hire many contractors over the years and I could tell you horror stories that make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a Muppet movie.
I think it all starts with bad work habits. Like, not replying to emails. When did that become acceptable? I always thought it was just a common courtesy. I understand that young people today prefer to text than talk, and I get that nobody responds to voice messages anymore. The only time my home phone rings now is when it’s a robocall. (And yet, I am annoyed when people make fun of me for still having a landline.) If you are one of those professionals who doesn’t reply to emails or return phone calls then, I hate to be the one to tell you this but - you are part of the problem.
We’ve become so inept as a nation that we have coined phrases like “The Peter Principle”, meaning someone keeps getting promoted until they reach their own level of incompetence. And “Failing Up”, meaning that in spite of continually doing a bad job a person keeps rising up the ranks. And “Pulling a Kardashian”, meaning you found great success despite the fact that you have absolutely no skill or talent. (OK, I made that last one up.)
And it doesn’t look like things are going to get better anytime soon. Higher education has recently become an object of disdain and the poorly educated are now celebrated in parts of our country. In many places having experience seems to have become a hindrance. Not only did we elect a president without any political background but most of his advisors and cabinet members also lack any governmental training. Some might argue this is a good thing, but it reminds me of when they brought in our high school coach to teach us sex education. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned a Vulva wasn’t a foreign car.
At least, there is an upside to living in a world filled with incompetent idiots. I figured out a long time ago that the reason I succeeded in my career was not because I was so great at my job. It was because most of the people around me sucked so badly at theirs. When the bar is set so low, the sky is the limit.
Every once in a while I have an experience with someone that is really good at their job. This has become so rare and I am so grateful that I find myself gushing over them. I thank them profusely, pay them generously and then I erect a statue in their honor as a shining example for the rest of mankind to follow.
I think that everybody is good and smart at some things and everybody is bad and stupid at some things. Nobody is great at everything. If somebody tells you they are, then you’re probably talking to Kanye West. It’s just a matter of finding out what you’re good at and then working at getting even better at it. If you haven’t found what that is yet, then stop doing what you’re doing and try something else.