How Dare You Know So Little About My Job

Nick Martens would like you to stop making assumptions about his line of work. It really makes you look stupid.

Illustration by Brad Jonas

I have a job that forces me to interact with people. While I take a great deal of pride in my work, and have thoroughly wrapped up my self-identity in it, my customers cause me enormous frustration. They seem to know none of the things that only a person who had this job would know.

This is a blog post about statements people often direct at me that make me extremely angry.

“I have a suggestion about your job.”

That’s rich. You, the recipient of my work, think you have devised a way to improve it? What insight could you possibly have about my job that someone who spends his entire life submerged in it (me) could not? Since you and the several other people who have made the same suggestion do not share my perspective, I see no reason to take anything you say seriously.

“The social conventions associated with your job have given me an opportunity to tell you this common joke.”

Oh my god, do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard that joke? Obviously you’ve never read my previous blog posts detailing the minutia of my workday. If you had, you never would have tried to frame our interaction in a humorous manner using such predictable material.

“My cousin has a similar job.”

No she doesn’t. To a layperson who does not have extensive experience in my field, the jobs may seem similar. But I can assure you that your cousin’s job is inferior to mine, and that it requires a dumber, less competent, and altogether worse person to perform it. So please, think a little harder the next time you try to establish a common ground for casual conversation with me.

“Can you perform this service, which I believe to be associated with your job?”

No. No I cannot. While my job title and area of expertise might indicate to some people that I can perform the service you requested, I only perform another, closely related service. To get what you want, you need to contact a worker who is very similar to me, but who I nevertheless claim moral superiority over for esoteric reasons you couldn’t hope to understand.

“I believe you have performed an aspect of your job poorly.”

This is an outrage. My job is very complex. Unfathomably complex. Do you realize how many different factors must align for me to perform the service I advertise? Even if I concede, which I do not, that the only aspect of my job you care about was subpar, you failed to take into account innumerable other things you don’t care about, and therefore you have no credibility.

“I don’t know anything about your job.”

Unless you’re a total moron, this can’t possibly be true. My job is somewhat common, and even if you don’t know anyone who has or had this job, surely you have some passing understanding of it. So fat chance I’ll tell you any more. In fact, I refuse to perform my job for you unless you write a list of all the things you know about it to prove that you lied to me. Right now.


Illustration by Brad Jonas

Nick Martens is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. You can email him, if you like.