A Lesson Partially Learned

The editor of TheGloss.com writes for Slate about her experiences working at a bar with a college degree and some degree of literacy. She says, self-consciously:

I was a terrific little snob who thought she knew everything, and subsequently, I was about to learn a great deal.

It quickly became clear that I was not the first literate person to don a miniskirt. Sometime during that first week, I was hiding in the backroom reading Margaret Atwood. I was sitting on the counter next to baskets of party mix because my feet hurt, which they did for the entirety of my shot-selling career. One cocktail waitress swept in, asked what I thought of Atwood’s novel “Oryx and Crake,” did a tricky little analysis where she compared it to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” mentioned some other female dystopian writers I’d never heard of, and then went out balancing a tray of shots on one hand.

As ridiculous as it sounds, that was the first time I became aware that clever people are buried in every nook and cranny of life. It is astonishing that no one pointed this out to me sooner. The girls working at the bar — they were so bright. Another shot girl had a journal that she filled with poetry that was — that rarest of all rare things — crisp and clean and very, very good. This was never a bar where everyone knew your name, but the cocktail waitresses came to know one another’s reading lists, and pitch letters, and audition schedules extremely well.

That is, she learned to recognize there in the wilderness of people working for a living that there were other clever people.

Who are the clever people?

The ones who read books like she does, the ones who write poems and other things that have to be pitched through letters, and the ones who want to act.

Take it from me, a literate guy with a college degree who likes to read books (not just the pulp ones) who spent years after college working in a variety of environments, from retail to warehouse to printing plant before entering the “professional” world where kids come out of college into $60,000 jobs without having to first learn how the world works.

Take it from me: There are more types of cleverness in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Cleverness is not just reading and writing. Cleverness can be doing a job well, with sprezzatura, because the person has learned it so well to have innovated tricks into it. Cleverness can be looking at something mechanical and immediately having a 3-d exploded view of it so one can take it apart, repair it, and put it together again without extra pieces. Clever can be so many things.

(Link via Instapundit.)

2 thoughts on “A Lesson Partially Learned

  1. Not to say this young lady is making big bucks being an Internet writer, but, yeah, I’ve found young people I’ve worked with who stepped into a job with a computer science degree, especially those who came from solid middle-class backgrounds, have an artificially high sense of the floor of human existence and think, somehow, some government magic can bring everyone up to it without bringing everyone else down through it.

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