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The young men and women
April 22, 2001 11:15 AM   Subscribe

The young men and women of America's future elite work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural order of life. What's your experince?
posted by semmi (44 comments total)

 
i'm not an american. but this is almost perfectly true of upper middle class indians. the age of nobility as this article states is truly dying. its sad but who knows exactly what is going to replace it. maybe the laptop wielders will not bring about the change that will create a nobler human / civilization, maybe it will come from their kids. who knows maybe the laptops themselves will form a self organising network that will be kind to humanity out of pity for it.
posted by ethervoice at 11:25 AM on April 22, 2001


I hate young people. Don't have much use for old people either.
posted by Postroad at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2001


Studying in your sleep? Scheduling appointments with your friends because you spend almost every hour of the day working or studying?

There is such a thing as too much.
posted by tomorama at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2001


They're a product of their environment. Since they learned from older people who have exactly the same characteristics... what did you expect?
posted by muppetboy at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2001


This all reminds me of an old anecdote I once heard.

An American boy is brought up and goes to a top private school. He progresses in his late teens to an Ivy League school. After finishing university with honors in Finance, he gets a seat at the stock market. He's so successful that he ends up working 12 hours a day raking in the bucks. When he hits 40, he has at least a million in the bank so he decides to buy a house in Jamaica, and spends the rest of his life fishing, having fun with the locals and writing poetry. 30 years of happiness.

At exactly the same time, a Jamaican boy is brought up, learns how to read and write out in the sun, gets to know his father very well, reads and appreciates Shakespeare, doesn't go to college but instead works with his father out on the boats. He spends the rest of his life with a woman he loves, runs his father's boating business, goes fishing a lot, has fun with his friends, and writes poetry. 70 years of happiness.

Which is really the better life? (Not that I'm making a point, but raising a question. Is the American/business way of life really that great?)
posted by wackybrit at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2001


The biggest problem that I see is the calm acceptance of modern students... basically, most of the people in my generation. (I'm 21, and I effectively straddle generations X and Y... I have properties of both of them.)

Basically, the goal for these people is more important than the way that they get there. There's no elegance to the way they do things - just a brutal push to get the job done so that they can go on to the next job.

Before I go any further, I have to admit that I'm a steady B community college student at the moment, after leaving a major university a few months ago. I work full time and take a full load (12 credits) of classes. I maintain my 3.0 and live at home. I get up at 5 to be at work by 7 (1/2 hr to 45 min commute...) and work up to a 10 hour day before either going home or going to a 4 hour night class. Then I've got homework and study after that.

But there's two things that distance me from the... drones... that I knew on campus. I'm driven, but not to an insane point. I still find time to surf the internet, engage my muse by scribbling fanciful website designs from time to time, and read a science fiction book on the weekends. I'm driven, but not consumed. Why? I question the way things are. I don't accept the status quo or the way things are. My boss hates me because I question things and put my foot down... I threatened to quit the other day rather than make something blink on a website I'm developing.

I guess the moral of the story is that never just accept anything. That's what turns you into a drone. The old 60's/70's motto, "Question Authority" is definitely valid. And that's what I see missing in most of these potential burn-out cases that are coming down the pipes of our universities.
posted by SpecialK at 1:25 PM on April 22, 2001


Dear Whackybrit: ever been to Jamaica? Try it and then see if you still like the anecdote.
posted by Postroad at 1:40 PM on April 22, 2001


The problem with that anecdote, Whackybrit, is that it assumes that studying at elite schools and working 12 hours a day isn't fun. For a lot of people, people who thrive on challenge, it is. No overachieving twenty-year-old works like a dog in the hope that they can achieve happiness in twenty years. They need to achieve some measure of happiness in the here and now. This idea that fun only begins when you don't have anything to do is a common one, but as far as I can tell is a complete misconception.
posted by kindall at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2001


Postroad: The original anecdote used 'Mexico' but I felt that was a bad example. 'Greece' is far more accurate, but most Americans wouldn't know about it.

kindall: Great point. Sure, work can actually be fun. I guess working on the stock exchange can be fun for a while too. The only problem is that you need to do unpleasant things to achieve that happiness.

You have to pay for college nowadays (in the UK they only just started charging).. and for many college goers that means getting a job at McDonald's which they end up hating.

What I took out of the original anecdote was the message that everyone can achieve true and complete happiness, and that money or social status need never be a factor. However, to the people in the article, it seems that money and social status are everything and I'm not so sure that's the way to be headed for true happiness..
posted by wackybrit at 2:15 PM on April 22, 2001


Postroad: curious what your Jamaica slam is all about.
posted by owillis at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2001


I once wrote elsewhere (as dialogue in a draft for a TV script I only just about recall), that life is filled with regrets and that the trick is to have lots of small regrets which you can tuck in the edges of your mind, rather than one huge regret which rules your whole life. Luckily, I've been able to work the former.

Like these kids, my university years are repleat with tragic stories. The moments when I should have asked that girl out, or noticed that she liked me. The times when I should have gone on nights out instead of staying in with a good book or movie. Having fun instead of studying during one of lifes most important times.

The pay-off for them, as it was for me, is the realisation a few years later, that they did waste a large part of my time at college. That they should have tried everything. But the great thing about that, is there is no burn out. Because they haven't tried everything in those three or four years, they can take their time and savour those experiences instead, the pay-off being they have decent qualifications, so thay have a decent job, so they have the ability to enjoy those experiences even more.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:30 PM on April 22, 2001


Given that the media spend so much time airing complaints about the youth of America being ill-educated, violent, sexually-rapacious psychopaths, you'd think there would be very little to find fault with young people who work hard, do what they're told, and prepare to be the next generation of leaders.

Frankly, I didn't find this article as "earth-shattering" as I'd been led to expect from some of its hype in some media outlets. The author makes a lot of generalizations based on observations of students at one or two Ivies.

The only thing I found worth thinking about was that the elite children are just as in thrall to the corporate masters as the lower classes -- they see nothing wrong with the crass commercialism of our time. The difference is, of course, that in about 8-10 years the elite kiddies will be working for and running the corporations
posted by briank at 2:30 PM on April 22, 2001


moby slweepy
posted by corpse at 2:38 PM on April 22, 2001


The only thing I found worth thinking about was that the elite children are just as in thrall to the corporate masters as the lower classes

You know what else is interesting? How so many of the people I meet are a very special kind of individual kind of person.
The kind of person who isn't a slave to the corporate masters.
Also, it's very interesting how they can really cut to the quick of our modern dilemma, that commercialism is taking precedence over humanity.

Isn't it nice to not be one of "them?" Y'know. The drones.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:50 PM on April 22, 2001


My dad recently sent me this very same article because he knew it applied to me so well. I'm a student at the University of Michigan, but before I came to college I went to a magnet school in Bergen county, New Jersey. It was essentially the Ivy League of high schools, and I have seen this exact quality arising in hard-working students today.

When I came home from college and hung out with a few of my Ivy friends, we saw the "Doritos recount" commercial, and as I chuckled to the joke about their own Chad problem, my friends gave me a confused stare. They didn't know what a chad was. It seems that they have no idea what the world's been up to for the last eight months, because they don't have time to read the paper or turn on the news. Many of them don't have time to make friends.

This article is on the money, and it says to me how fortunate I am not going to an Ivy league school. At UMich, everyone reads the Daily, and there's never any shortage of protesting or information-peddling on the "diag", the center of our campus. Even when I tire of the endless stream of flyers and chalkmark campaigns on the sidewalks, I'm gratified that at least it's there. Yalies don't know what they're missing.
posted by MarkO at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2001


Just to add a bit to what MarkO said: since I'm in a similar situation (currently at UC Berkeley and grew up in an affluent suburb), I've come across dozens of classmates who have this single-minded drive to achieve for achievement's sake. I don't know if I could say they genuinely enjoy the complete absence of leisure in their days--it's just that they're wholly absorbed in what they do, that's all. Or absorbed by it, perhaps. Perhaps they define themselves only by what they do, and where they've been. They are far from the norm (and I don't believe that even Ivy League schools are completely composed of these types), but from a student's perspective, it's odd to see such a long article on this subject since these students are so common as to have long since ceased to be curiosities at all, for me anyways. I have a few quibbles with the article, but the "professional student" description is right on--it's a bit nuts how job-like many students treat sports and other extracurriculars these days. For me, the advantage to attending a public school (and having transfered from a community college) lies in having enough of a perspective to not take the "achieve achieve achieve" attitude as the norm. I don't know if it really is the norm at schools like Princeton, but the article is completely accurate in its description of a certain (thankfully small) stratum of students today.

I'll add one more thing: it can be pretty tough to be completely oblivious to politics at a school like Berkeley. Having a life so "full" as to completely crowd out the rest of the world? No thanks.
posted by DaShiv at 4:45 PM on April 22, 2001


Seeing myself and my sisters reflected in this article was a rather depressing experience...my life isn't as crammed as some of the ones described (full-time student at a good university, part-time job), but it's busy all the same. My regular classes ended a week and a half ago, and a few days later I found myself sitting and crying in my apartment because I had just spent an entire semester doing things as means to an end and had barely done a single thing just for the experience of doing it.
posted by Jeanne at 4:48 PM on April 22, 2001


DaShiv is on the money, but.. Having a life full enough to crowd out politics? Ideal.
posted by wackybrit at 4:50 PM on April 22, 2001


Boy do I feel like a slacker after reading this article. I'm in supposedly one of the top computer engineering departments in the country but my day mostly consists of going to my 2 or 3 classes and spending the rest of the day sleeping, watching tv, and surfing the web. I envy those individuals who have their lives so in order because I want even a little part of the discipline that they have. I just received the alumni newsletter from my high school and the alumni featured are full of overachievers just like the article.
posted by gyc at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2001


A teacher at my school cancelled a normal class and had us discuss this article (ironic because I go to what could be termed "an elite private school" that feeds about 20 kids into Ivy schools each year). The problem with the people in the article is that an average person really can't compete in terms of employment. You may have a happier life, but if you're trying to get a job and the other applicant is one of these drones, what can you do? Almost anybody can "get ahead" in life if they're willing to sacrifice all outside interests. As wackybrit pointed out, working and being rich isn't necessarily being happy. If the kids in the article are happy, more power to them, but I suspect that most will be miserable burnouts by the time they hit 40.
posted by jed at 5:07 PM on April 22, 2001


Isn't it nice to not be one of "them?" Y'know. The drones.

If you're not one of "us", sonofsamiam, you must be one of them.
posted by briank at 5:59 PM on April 22, 2001


We are not our jobs.

I refuse to devote the best years of my life to some corporation that doesn't care if I leave tomorrow, and have that be the ONLY THING in my life.

That is not to say that I do not want to work. I like my job, and want to be good at it, and do good by the company.

But work isn't, and shouldn't be someone's whole life.

There is so much to learn, to do, to see and to think about in this world. We can not turn our lives into sleep, work, food, tv, web, sleep.

There is just so much more than that.

As a result, I will never have that high powered, high paying job.

And I don't care.
posted by melissa at 6:14 PM on April 22, 2001


I attend a private college of good repute, and I have several friends who go to Ivys, including P-ton. Judging from my experience and talking to friends, the type of students that the article describes exist, but they aren't the only type of student. There are lots of students who are more laid back and have plenty of free time each day.

SpecialK, I think you're over-generalizing in saying that people care too much about the ends rather than the means. That's synecdoche. Further, I second Kindall's point that hard work can be fun (and build character), whether it's at an Ivy League school or its on a fishing dock in Jamaica.
posted by ktheory at 6:16 PM on April 22, 2001


While I don't go to Princeton, I did visit there last month. The people there looked happier than any group of college students I've ever seen. Maybe they are driven to be hard workers, but they are definitely not driven to throw their life away. No one is forcing these people to spend the amount of time they are on the things they are doing: the people in this article believe that getting the job they want is more important than spending a few more hours lounging around the dorm. And there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by Kevs at 6:40 PM on April 22, 2001


I think the article describes the inevitable outcome of the modern secondary school experience; since many people have become convinced that the end result of a successful childhood is acceptance to an Ivy League university, a certain sort of parent encourages his or her children to do this sort of thing in high school. Lord knows I remember how many people at my (relatively academically successful) high school in suburban Maryland were doing things to pad their transcripts. Heck, I was doing things to pad my transcript. Then those students get to college and many don't know how to go about their lives in any other way.
posted by snarkout at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2001


My son who is 20, and at UC Berkeley fits the article's description pretty well. He knows why he is in school, he enjoys learning and with good results. He is an engineering student because he loves airplanes and flying. He got his pilot license and instrument rating when he was 18 years old and he flies as often as he can afford it. He is also an excellent professional musician who loves to play and is usually busy with gigs which pays for his flying. He has plenty of friends at Berkeley, and others from his High School, he keeps in touch with on the Internet and during breaks. He is politically aware, though not out on the street demonstrating. He has a friendly disposition, he is fair, and would not hurt anyone. He doesn't think of himself as "elite", and he isn't interested in corporate achievement. Is he a drone? Hardly. He knows what he wants and goes for it. He has a fun life, he does what he wants. He is not stuck with ideology and dogma, he is open to learn the ways of the world during the time of his life. He is his own man. If the world will be populated with the like of him, it will be a good place to be.
posted by semmi at 11:14 PM on April 22, 2001


> happily accept their positions at the top of the heap

If that's what makes them happy, that's good for them. But they can have the top of that heap. I'm not interested.

• Get yourself a low-stress job that pays enough to keep you and your family warm and fed.
• Use the library. It's free.
• Use public transportation. Ride a bike. Walk.
• Don't live so far from work that you look at the above suggestion and whine that it's impossible.
• When you vacation, do it on the cheap, take only the stuff you can fit in a small backpack and carry all day, and bring nothing back.
• Give away your cell phone or burn it ceremonially or make it into jewelry.
• Buy a meter for your television, so you have to put more change in it immediately or you won't see the end of that idiotic show you're wasting a piece of your life on. Devote the collected change strictly to something good for the world; call it your change change.
• Put a similar meter (with a similar goal) on your PC.
• Eat at home, where the food is good and the cook loves you.
posted by pracowity at 11:48 PM on April 22, 2001


I did not go to any Ivy school, which was a major disappointment for my mother, who did. I was very active in pretty much everything my first two and a half years at the public school I went to. It is true, busy people can get things done and live on 25 hour days. I had a fuller life and a better GPA when I was doing 19 things at once. Then I slacked and slacked a lot (and my GPA dropped). I returned to form in my last semester when I took 7 classes (research comparative religion [Buddhism and Islam - besides writing the thesis, I had to learn basic Sanskrit and Arabic, which I had to do on my own time, to authenticate various religious texts], applications development 2, business policy, business communications, science of polling and public opinion research, politics of NYC and managerial accounting), and also worked.

I was happy. I felt fulfilled. Life could not have been any better. I am not an elite.

Different people expect different things from life. Some people are happy doing 19 things and sleeping 4 hours. We should not impose any arbitrary standards of happiness and "living life" on these people.

I am still happy as I am. (My mother is not.)
posted by tamim at 12:07 AM on April 23, 2001


It's strange: I hope kitschbitch reads this thread, as I'm sure she'll agree with me that the piece isn't at all reminiscent of being at Oxford. Yes, there's an incredible intensity about the place; yes, it's the breeding ground for an "elite"; but because there's so little direct tuition, there's more thinking space, and less authoritarianism.

I think it helps that there's a certain amount of financial egalitarianism about the British system: it's certainly not the pure meritocracy many would like it to be. But if you're not having to treat your college years as a substantial parental (or personal) monetary investment, you can afford not to regard it as a purely vocational experience.

That said, I do think there's a difference between my generation of undergraduates (92-5) and the current bunch: attendance at JCR meetings -- the fortnightly combination of beer and student politics -- has plummeted, and there's noticeably fewer people around at morning and tea-time breaks. And I can't help wondering if it's the first manifestation of tuition fees on college life.
posted by holgate at 12:53 AM on April 23, 2001


• Use public transportation. Ride a bike. Walk.
• Don't live so far from work that you look at the above suggestion and whine that it's impossible.


Easier said than done. In fact, for me, the two almost contradict each other.

Average rent for an apartment in this area roughly equals from 75-100% of my salary after taxes. If I move to where it's affordable, I am far beyond walking/biking distance. And in this area, while technically available, public transportation is unreliable at best. The trains are reliable, but that assumes that I can get to a train station from both work and home. The nearest train station from my workplace is a couple hours' walk, with unreliable busses theoretically available.
posted by CrayDrygu at 1:01 AM on April 23, 2001


> Easier said than done.

Only because too many people are making the wrong decisions.

You wouldn't (couldn't) drive a car if there weren't enough other people driving cars to keep the system running, however poorly. There would be no gas stations, unpaved roads, no parking lots, etc.

Similarly, you will never have good public transportation as long as people shun it. Ride the bus. Encourage family, friends, and neighbors to ride it. Take the T.

> The nearest train station from my workplace is a couple
> hours' walk, with unreliable busses theoretically
> available.

Try the bus. Bring a book. While the drivers are gripping the wheel and swearing and complaining about the traffic and losing large chunks of their lives, you'll be enjoying a book and relaxing. And you'll save lots of money.

You could at least drive to (or get a ride to) where the public transportation starts, and then ride the bus in to work, couldn't you?
posted by pracowity at 2:48 AM on April 23, 2001


I would agree with what Holgate says. I'm currently at Cambridge University in the UK, arguably an equivalent of Princeton. While I'm obviously biased, I think there's a significant difference between the two places - there isn't a day that goes by without discussion of politics and world affairs, in all circles of people, not just mine. During the US election, many of us were probably more informed and up to date than the vast majority of US citizens.

I think this is due to two factors. Firstly, we aren't living in an economic powerhouse of a country in the UK; we see and acknowledge that there are problems with authority. Secondly - and this might only apply to some UK universities - we have a remarkably high percentage of foreign students. Their different outlook and background is great for stimulating conversation and debate (there's a lot of talk about the China-Taiwan-US situation, for example, since we have a fair few asians).

Certainly I don't know of anyone who regiments their life like the students described in the article, although I wonder if there was a small amount of exaggeration employed by the author. Sure, we have people who want to go to KPMG and other similar companies but generally whenever we see adverts for them there'll be some dark muttering about 'damned management consultants, scum of the universe'.
posted by adrianhon at 3:13 AM on April 23, 2001


A couple of thoughts about this article:
The students profiled in this article are hardly a representative sample -- not just of their wider demographic, but of Princeton students in general. David Brooks selected his interviewees by obtaining "the names of a few dozen articulate students" from faculty members, a selection process which will certainly skew the sample toward rah-rah, super-participatory sorts. Furthermore, if you turn your attention to the adult subjects Brooks interviews for this article, you will find that with only a single exception (a sociologist) they are administrators or politics professors. If these are the only faculty members who pointed Brooks to his student subjects, it seems to me hardly surprising that the latter are particularly, um, goal-oriented. Who would the visual art professors recommend? The physics professors? Math? Classics? Music?

The Atlantic forums on this article reveal more about the tunnel vision of Brooks' study. For example, his argument about the declining interest in ethics in this segment of the population (however he's defining that selection) is even more narrowly constrained than it might appear. Despite the protests of several Princeton students that questions of morals and ethics are frequent topics of conversation, Brooks complains that "they prefer to translate talk of morality and character into talk of legislation and public policy." From the comments on the subject it seems that while the students in question do talk about morality in conjunction with public policy, they are perfectly interested in talking about the moral questions themselves, not displacing them onto less-disturbing chitchat about legalities. And would it be terribly surprising if the kind of student who has made a substantial impression on her politics professor did tend to think in terms of public policy? On further examination, it seems that Brooks is mainly bothered by the idea that students don't frame their ethical questions in terms of sin and that he finds them insufficiently steeped in "the Bible, the classical philosophers, Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, and so on."
posted by redfoxtail at 6:50 AM on April 23, 2001


Did you even read my post, pracowity? When I keep talking about how unreliable the busses are, and you say "try the bus!" that says to me, "I am not reading what you say."

The busses come and go when they feel like it. They'll come 15 minutes early or 30 minutes late. If you're supposed to switch from bus A to bus B, there's a good chance A will come and go before B gets to the stop.

And before you ask, no. I am not exaggerating. At all.

I need to get to my job, not a friend's house, or a Scenic Vista and Rest Area. If I keep showing up late, I won't have a job to go to.

"You could at least drive to (or get a ride to) where the public transportation starts, and then ride the bus in to work, couldn't you?"

I thought I answered that the first time. But just in case: no. Not if I want to keep my job.
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:59 AM on April 23, 2001


My history professor missed the Cuban Missile Crisis because he was writing a paper. The whole damn thing. Oh, we were all going to die? Sorry, not enough time to pay attention, writing a paper. Sorry, just reminded of that.

More relevantly... I know some people like these kids from my high school. They're mostly at the University of Michigan now. I'm not; I'm at Grand Valley. Not a bad school, but not real tough to get into. Most of the people from my AP English class would sooner die than resort to going to Grand Valley, but hey, I'm enjoying myself here, even enjoying my classes.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:25 AM on April 23, 2001


> Did you even read my post

Yes. You said the buses are unreliable. I encouraged you to try them anyway, partly because I doubted you have given them much of a try (most drivers just assume public transportation is bad rather than trying it first) and partly because such systems get better as more people (to a point) use them and abandon the bad systems (i.e., cars) that compete for the same resources.

> If I keep showing up late, I won't have a job to go to

Then it sounds like you not only work in a bad location, but maybe you have a bad job (or boss). I'm sorry to have inadvertently rubbed it in.
posted by pracowity at 8:00 AM on April 23, 2001


"partly because I doubted you have given them much of a try"

That's your first mistake. I've had to use the buses before. If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, and you're taking the bus, you need to leave *very* early. I completely missed the last bus of the day once because the driver decided to show up about 15 minutes early at his stop at the mall, and apparently didn't feel like waiting. I had to waste $20 on a taxi.

"and partly because such systems get better as more people (to a point) use them"

Nobody's going to use them if they don't provide a useful service. I know what you're going to do, you're going to reply and say "So more people should use them!" Nobody's going to use them if they don't provide a useful service. They won't provide good service without funding, meaning people need to use them, which they won't do until the service is useful, which requires the money necessary to provide a good service, which means more people need to start using it, but they won't use it...

I'll stop now.

"Then it sounds like you not only work in a bad location, but maybe you have a bad job (or boss)."

Now you're just trolling. Refer me to an employer who won't take some sort of action against an employee who is habitually late, especially if they're late by, say, an hour or more.

It doesn't matter, though, because that's not the real point. It's not even tangential to the point. What works for you will not necessarily work for everyone else in the world. I've gotten into discussions like this before with someone who thinks everyone should ditch their cars and switch to bicycles. No matter how many times it's shown to him, he refuses to see that it's just not an option for many, many people.

I'm glad you think public transportation is such a godsend, and that it works for you. Unless you live in the general area of Framingham, MA, however, and have tried to use the public transportation here (most notably the bus service out of Framingham known as "The Ride") for routes which the MBTA's commuter rail would be useless or impossible for, then you can't pretend to tell me anything about how well it will work for me.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:18 AM on April 23, 2001


whargh. I got pulled away from my computer, and Cray's already responded, but I typed all this crap, so now you get to read it. Or scroll past. :-)

---begin quote---
> If I keep showing up late, I won't have a job to go to

Then it sounds like you not only work in a bad location, but maybe you have a bad job (or boss). I'm sorry to have inadvertently rubbed it in.
---end quote---

That's just being silly. There are very few jobs out there where sauntering in and out as you feel like it are acceptible behaviour. I really like my job, but if I'm regularily late I'm going to get reprimanded for it.

My job depends on other peoples' knowledge, and their jobs depend on my knowledge. Being consistantly late means that I cannot be relied upon, which means in turn that there's a weak link in our team.

That's not to say that my attendance is mandatory for the company to function, it's pretty easy for me to get time off, for instance. In fact, the two are fairly closely intertwined.

I'm a responsible person, my coworkers are responsible people, and we can cover for each other without worry because we know that we're dependable because we're always here at the same time. Knowing the people I work with are dependable means I can depend on them to cover for me, and vice versa.

Once you take that dependability out (if an employee's habitually late, for instance) the entire fabric falls to pieces, and then it no longer becomes a good job

Anyway, it's quite a leap of logic to assume that being punctual means anyone has a bad job.

And from your earlier post, since I'm typing now anyway:

• Don't live so far from work that you look at the above suggestion and whine that it's impossible.

It's nice to have that option, but sometimes it's not feasible. Like CrayDrygu, living in close proximity to where I work would easily more than double my living expenses.

Also, through my college years I moved at least once every 8 months. I've now been where I am for almost a year, and you know what? It's nice to have somewhere to call home without worrying that you're going to have to redefine the term in a couple of weeks.

In shorter words, there's no way that a few good-intended points are going to be in anyway applicable to more than a very small subset of the population. While they do make sense, they just can't be applied to all situations.
posted by cCranium at 10:03 AM on April 23, 2001


Additionally, the prevailing attitude in many cities is something like, "Public transportation? What do you think I am, poor?" People have the attitude that if they're making good money, one of the things that money should by them is the ability not to have to associate with creepy bus denizens anymore. After living for a decade in Detroit, it was a shock to move out here to Seattle and find that many people use public transportation even if they can easily afford not to. But I don't think you're ever going to see that attitude change in the Motor City -- among many other places.
posted by kindall at 11:15 AM on April 23, 2001


• Get yourself a low-stress job that pays enough to keep you and your family warm and fed.
• Use the library. It's free.
• Use public transportation. Ride a bike. Walk.
• Don't live so far from work that you look at the above suggestion and whine that it's impossible.
• When you vacation, do it on the cheap, take only the stuff you can fit in a small backpack and carry all day, and bring nothing back.
• Give away your cell phone or burn it ceremonially or make it into jewelry.
• Buy a meter for your television, so you have to put more change in it immediately or you won't see the end of that idiotic show you're wasting a piece of your life on. Devote the collected change strictly to something good for the world; call it your change change.
• Put a similar meter (with a similar goal) on your PC.
• Eat at home, where the food is good and the cook loves you.


how quaint.
posted by fuzzygeek at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2001


> There are very few jobs out there where sauntering in
> and out as you feel like it are acceptible behaviour.

There should be more. There could be more.

Most people where I work (except for the secretaries and security guards, bless their punch-clocked souls) come in between about 8 and 10, very approximately, and we would never get reprimanded for having ridden a late bus or been stuck in traffic or whatever. I don't know if I'd say I sauntered into work this morning, but I certainly wasn't in a hurry and I wasn't watching the clock. Yes, I suppose it was a saunter. Mind you, we're not watching the clock and rushing out the door, either. We spend the hours here that a good job requires. It's a very productive site, part of a giant company that -- well, most of you help to pay my salary.

More places could and should be like this. I know that a lot of people work in factories where they have to match the hours the machine keeps, or work where they have to deal with customers all day, presumably because they did something awful in a previous life. For them, the punch clock determines their day.

But places that aren't like that should lighten up their schedules or shift them so you aren't all traveling to work exactly when millions of other people are taking the same routes. There shouldn't be a rush hour.

> how quaint.

I know. Someone has to be. I help to balance out people who think always buying the latest machine must be something good.
posted by pracowity at 4:57 AM on April 24, 2001


There should be more. There could be more.

I agree completely, enthusiatically even, but there aren't.

And of course, the only way to make more is to start our own companies, which is in direct violation of:

• Get yourself a low-stress job that pays enough to keep you and your family warm and fed.

Also, be aware that you work for a "giant company" Working for a struggling company with 15 employees is a _very_ different environment.

I'm not saying that I'm right and you're wrong, and I don't even disagree with you about the way work could be. What I am saying is that your situation is unique, my situation is unique, and there's no magic formula for happiness.
posted by cCranium at 6:29 AM on April 24, 2001


are you sure the drones are telling the truth? i know i can easily describe my life so it sounds ridiculously busy and that i can just as easily - and just as truthfully - describe it to highlight the joy, the ease, the long stretches of nothingness or thoughtfulness.
posted by jill at 7:32 AM on April 24, 2001


> are you sure the drones are telling the truth?

I suspect many people who claim to be super busy are exaggerating because they think it makes them look good. I am busy enough, but much of it is by choice. I devote plenty of time to doing what I want to do.

The Guardian has this article today about the business advantages to offering flexible working hours.
posted by pracowity at 7:43 AM on April 24, 2001


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