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Essentially, we’re essential
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier, his favorite papers. - photo by File photo

I’ve for years believed we have this compensation thing all screwed up.

That’s why if yours truly ran the world we’d pay the most to people who do the jobs nobody else wants. At top of the list for me would be nursing assistants. 

After all, anybody who can go around cleaning up another grownup’s rear end should be on the fast track to millionaire-hood, not making 9 bucks an hour.

So, I’d compensate folks based on how important their contribution is to society, up or down a scale invented by someone smarter than me. It would mean, for example, garbage men or guys who clean wastewater treatment plant filters with a hosepipe and wire brush would make X-thousand-times more than international jet set tycoons and heiresses and movie stars and pro athletes and so on. They already make more than editors, by the way. 

I do not know what start ed me on this line of thinking except a public servant I know sent me a text the other day lamenting the fact he was getting cussed at by business owners. 

Getting cussed out is not an altogether new phenomena for public servants, but in this case it happened because he didn’t list a business as essential and therefore it was subject to closing up shop as we all deal with COVID-19. 

That’s when I decided that being the one who decides in times such as these who is essential (like nursing assistants or Clemson graduate pizza delivery guy you pay to get off your porch after he leaves the pizza) and who isn’t (like editors) is probably one of those jobs everybody wants and is more than qualified to do if they only had the time.  

They don’t because they’re all busy running things on social media, which is where all the adult whackadoodles meet to run the (fill in the blank with city/county/state/country,) but now I’m digressing. 

Truth is, there are jobs nobody wants to do and then there are jobs everybody knows how to do, like coach a football team or run a school system. And they’d be happy to do them if they weren’t already busy with their own interesting lives. In the meantime, their advice is free. Oh boy. 

I am of the opinion those who can not only do their own jobs but everybody else’s should be in a category all their own. Instead of being compensated for their work, they should be forced to pay us for making everybody else miserable. 

I blame three things for the proliferation of such folks.

1. The self-esteem movement. 

2. The customer is always right philosophy.

3. The “50 is the new 30” movement of some years back. 

Not only have we created a country where everybody is special and the center of the universe, for decades we’ve been telling these same folks they’re never wrong, over and over and over again, and what’s more, instead of growing up, they’r’e reverting to childhood. 

By the way, should you doubt No. 3, consider that if 50 is the new 30, then 40 is the new 20 and 30 is the new 10, which explains the popularity of a lot of things, especially “Bro Country.” 

Anyhow, us pre-self-esteem movement humans understand we are being sold to, or we do if we have the IQ of a lemur. That’s largely because when we were kids if we stepped out of line we were put back in line, and quick. 

Raise your hand if your mother or daddy made you go cut the switch you were going to get beat with, and would send you back outside to get a bigger switch if you showed up with a twig. 

I probably denuded so many trees in my misspent youth in search of switches that were acceptable to all parties I’m at least partially to blame for the deforestation of my home state of South Carolina, and even to this day if I’m not wrong at least twice a day my wife checks my temperature to make sure I’m not running a fever. 

Ah well. I’m not going to solve anything in this column, so I’ll end with this. 

One of the greatest lessons I was ever taught came, like many others, courtesy of my father. It happened in Columbia, S.C., when my adolescent self knocked a bowl of ice cream off a table in a Shoney’s restaurant, then sat there like a boy king while a waitress reached around under the table to clean things up.

“Boy,” my father said. “You better get down there and help her clean up your mess.”

I got down there. 

As for who’s essential – well, aren’t we all in our own ways and to those who love us? 

It’s just that those who really are essential to society, who we can’t do without, too often are unsung and underpaid. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for us to see that. 

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