Saturday, September 25, 2004


I was doing some manual labor today for some extra bucks at an office in Minnetonka (?) or someplace as equally unlikely for me to be found. Talk about culture shock. If ever the presence of the white upper class is to be felt, it's in this environment...thin, platinum blond, blue-eyed devils all over the place, accompanied by their thin, platinum blond, blue-eyed mini-devils-in-training. All told, something like 100 IKEA bookcases and tables and couches were assembled. Not because there was anything wrong with the old setup, just because one of the CEO's was tired of looking at it. Or was so enthralled by Minnesota's newly acquired IKEA that she couldn't resist. At any rate, it meant $15 per hour and free lunch for Christine and I, and perpetual poverty lends itself to all manners of self-exploitation.

Aside from the obvious class-separation in the office, there were fairly loud and obvious political differences as well.

I work in a nonprofit. I live and work in the city. I'm surrounded by people who forever take it for granted that they're surrounded by other liberals (or, at least, Democrats, if that's the same thing). Perhaps this is why I found it so disturbing to hear things like, "I'm a Republican, I don't have to recycle," (really!!!) and, "When you get old enough to get a girlfriend or get married, you make HER do the laundry." Mothers piled tools, including staple guns, on the floor of the office and Christine could routinely be heard asking one of their children not to play with some sharp and possibly projectile-shooting object. This didn't stop these same mothers from coming out and yelling at people assembling furniture when she found her children cutting apples with an office paper cutter, as though we were supposed to be watching over her children.

Over the course of the day I realized that I've (unfairly?) stereotyped these people in my mind to represent the conservative Republican populace of Minnesota. Their children run around unsupervised and play with dangerous objects when under 10, and when over 10 they're spoiled rotten and refuse to work for their exhorbitant allowance (which they of course receive anyway). They spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary things that they have to pay people to assemble whilst they walk about and supervise. They want to keep their wives at home. They don't feel they have any responsibility to the planet or to other people. They want to be able to enjoy their wealth and excess in peace. They're good capitalists.

I'm sure it would make these same people cringe to hear me talk. My grandfather routinely catches me in some borderline-socialist rant that makes him cringe, and has to excuse himself for saying something he knows I'll find particularly offensive (though he also forwards me lists of reasons why Bush is doing God's work and Kerry is the anti-Christ, so I guess we're not too respectful of each other's socio-political beliefs). I strongly dislike categories, and challenge them when I can, but I stand convicted of stereotyping people that aren't like myself, and admittedly believe that I (and the people closest to me) are more enlightened about how things "really" are than our conservative counterparts are, but the fact of the matter is that they exist in a reality that I've never known. So I judge it. And I wonder what they'd think if they read this, or if they spent a day in my office.

This is your brain on 6 hours of hard labor:

Xtine: "My brain is gone."
Me: "Your ring is gone? What?"
Xtine: "No, my BRAIN is gone."
Me: "WHAT?!"
Xtine (on paper): "My BRIAN is gone"
Me: "Your BRIAN is gone?"
Xtine: "BRAIN"

1 comment:

Xtine said...

and the giggles ensue... i've had more caffeine today than i usually have in a month. the hard work coupled with bruises, culture shock, the promise of a check, and the newly aquired nausea at the mere mention of the word ikea, and the evident loss of my spelling capabilities was hopefully well worth it. ahhhh this is the freaking life.