Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is what's wrong with America

This week, I have twice had the occasion to hit a fast food restaurant for lunch. In both cases I didn't get what I ordered, and the food was anything but fast. Total time waiting in line for these two trips amounted to almost twenty five minutes. In the first case it was a completely different hamburger, and the second time I received a someone else's order entirely.

This morning, my car pool buddy related a story to me about his attempts to find mudflaps for his new pickup truck. He went to a big-box auto parts store and asked them to look up the mud flaps he needed. The items they sold him were not correct, so he took them back and had them look again. This time they ordered him a set that took two days to arrive. When he picked them up, they were identical to the set he had just returned.

Stories like this in my memory are too numerous to mention. I'm sure you have some as well.

I've done quite a bit of thinking on this recently. In my opinion, what this all amounts to is a total lack of competence by my fellow man. People these days just aren't capable of thinking on their feet, or they aren't interested in trying. There's no reach for excellence, no desire to attain a level of proficiency. Folks are just watching the clock and hoping that they won't have to deal with customers, or are just doing the bare minimum to satisfy the situation and move on. It's as if the entire service industry has ADHD.

For my own situation, I admit that I'm no top expert in my field. I'm a web developer in a large firm that moves slowly and adopts technology a lot later than some of its peers. If I stayed even with that pace, I'd be so far behind the current state of technology that I'd be no better than some of the COBOL programmers I know. To avoid that, I read voraciously, buy books and software continuously and attend classes in new technology, and I do this on my own time and with my own money. Show me the same level of initiative in an employee of any fast-food restaurant or big box department store. I dare you.

Some will argue that this is because those folks are minimum wage earners. That may be part of it, but I would counter with the notion that the minimum wage was never meant to be a life-sustaining level of income. Jobs that pay the minimum were meant to be training positions, occupations that teenagers could work as their first jobs so they could start to build a work ethic and learn the value of a dollar. Nowadays I see a lot of 25 to 40-year-olds working in menial jobs for the bare minimum, and they're no damned good at it.

To make matters worse, the minimum wage keeps going up, which forces companies to hire fewer (and perhaps older and hopefully more dedicated) people. This squeezes the teenagers out, and the work ethic isn't being instilled in them at all. It's become an old joke in America; the boy behind the counter of the burger joint with a glassy-eyed stare and slack jaw.

I've grown tired of it all, and I'm very afraid for the future of my daughter and my unborn son. The empty persons that she will encounter in her lifetime will be far more numerous than they are today. How can I fix that? What can I do to help her understand that she is the only person she can really rely on?

For my part, I am resolved to raise her with a firm but gentle hand. My children will understand that giving a 75% effort in anything is unacceptable. This will be a difficult task because I can't guarantee that their peers won't be the same sort of misfits I'll be warning them about.

But as I see it, this is all I can do.


Bluey said...

My Dad kicked my ass when I was a kid, both figuratively and literally. He never let me call off my part time job even when I was sick, and every day, I helped him deliver beer in HIS second full time job.

And on top of that he expected me to not only get all A's in school, he wanted 100%s.

That may sound absolutely insane to today's generation, but I didn't get to where I am today by being handled with kid gloves.

Your kids will be shaped by your expectations of them. If you demand nothing, unfortunately, that's what you'll get. Social class means nothing. We we're struggling to get by and last I checked, I knew plenty of rich kids who were absolutely useless even today because they were pampered.

To all, instill a work ethic in your kids or you have yourself to blame.

Highmark said...

I assure you , the children of our generation will reap the benefits of our frustrations.

Take solace in the fact that everyone you know, most likely agrees with you, and they are raising children as well.

Irish said...

I blame those damn teachers of today's American youth. ;-)

Naw, seriously though, I'm in the trenches with the malcontented youth of America. Keep in mind that we are now seeing the "Barney the dinosaur" generation coming into their own. They've been told they are special and unique all the way up since dippers.

Most of them believe they are the exception and never the rule on anything asked in terms of sacrifice, work, or maturity. We have coddled them to the point of helplessness and I fear that this generation of 20-somethings just simply isn't up to the task of working as hard as the Yuppie-Chinese or Hindu 300 Million middle class who work hard at learning & will eventually become more "qualified" (rightly so) for higher paying jobs.

Damn Teachers.

griff said...

This is part of the reason I don't have kids. I have little hope and faith in the future.

I know I was raised to have pride in myself and always do your best. Treat your fellow man as you would want to be treated. But that is no longer the case. Everyone want's to be treated special, they feel the are above it all.

Every free second I find myself fearful of what is to come next. Just look around. You have people that have the internet to keep them "safe" and think they are as strong as superman. Look at xbox live and all the trash talkers there. I lost it's not fair you must have cheated, or if they win you never hear the end of how great they are and how much you suck. I would love to see them try that in real life and get theis asses handed to them.

And yes the work force is a mess. Fast food is a joke. You have the machines tell them how much change to give back and they still cannot figure it out. Yea I got stuck working fast food. And I did my best to do my job well. I didn't make sloppy ass burgers that are sliding all over the place.
It's a downward spiral that is just going to keep on going. If any of you have seen Idiocracy that just about hits the nail on the head.

Yea I would be a great dad and would raise my kids the same way I was brought up. To have respect for themselves and others.

But this just seems to be a much bigger picture and I do not see how it will ever right itself.

Just my little two cents.