Should I write a note to the cashier at a supermarket to tell her that she’s kind and sweet and that I hope to get a chance to get to know her?

Answered Jan 3, 2019

I’ve worked at jobs dealing with the public, and experienced various inappropriate behaviours and attitudes from people who ranged from stupid to dangerous.

And your idea would definitely fall under “inappropriate”. Or to be more direct, creepy.

I was nice and sometimes quite friendly, but my motivation for being there was to exchange labour for money, not to socialise.

I encountered:

  • People who expected me to stop doing the job in order to hang out and socialise with them, just because they were bored. This included situations where I was paid strictly on how much I got done, without any hourly wage. So hanging out with them would have reduced my earnings.
  • People wanting “free” products or services, and failing to understand why that was unrealistic, and that I wasn’t there to owe them personal favours.
  • People who failed to comprehend that, while they were having leisure time, I was there to work.
  • A random guy (a customer I only met once) who directly asked if I would call him if he gave me his phone number.
  • Creepy vibes and harassment from men (and the occasional woman) up to the level of direct sexual propositions. My favourite was the charmingly intoxicated gentleman who said, “Ah pay you wa lick mah bitch’s pussah”. (I declined that offer).
  • Highly threatening attitudes in situations where it was just me, the customer, and nobody else.

When very young, I actually did allow a few people into my personal life, after meeting them at work. It was always terrible idea. They ranged from time-wasters up to dangerous.

I did have a couple of friends whom I met as coworkers. But a lot of coworkers are just completely annoying, so I prefer clear separation.

If I received a note like you suggest, I wouldn’t contact the person. And would try to avoid them in the future.

Dealing with the public (or with business-to-business customers) is constant stress from their constant bad attitudes and behaviour. Including mass refusal to respect basic personal boundaries.

Being kind, sweet, friendly, attractive, smiling, etc is not an invitation. You might think she is nice, but she has no reason to trust you or feel comfortable getting personal with you. She doesn’t know if you’re a stalker or rapist, but she will very possibly perceive that you don’t respect the boundaries of the situation (which is a red flag).

If object of your attention is physically attractive, she might be extremely tired of getting this kind of approach from random guys, when she is just trying to earn a living. Customer-on-cashier sexual harassment has even resulted in an expensive court case and organised labour action:

Are Businesses Liable for Sexual Harassment by Customers?

FOR CLERKS, SMILES CAN GO TOO FAR

Hastings Women’s Law Journal 2000

Black market jobs (i.e.: dealing drugs, selling guns, etc.) are often referred to as ‘easy money.’ How easy are they, really?

Updated Oct 27

Read the original “Freakonomics” book. The authors encountered a street gang which had kept detailed records of money earned by each member. The last-step, standing-on-the-corner type drug dealers were earning very little, and some even had other jobs, such as fast food.

Selling drugs requires having a wholesale connection, who may be rather aggressive. It also often involves gang association. So you cannot just set up your own independent operation.

That level also has a high risk of violence from rivals (including in their own gang), and from desperate addicts, along with a high risk of arrest.

Have you ever interacted with someone who was desperate for heroin or cocaine, and who didn’t have any money? It isn’t fun.

Illegally selling guns means that you need to obtain them from an illegal source, such as burglaries. And your customers will be the types of people who illegally buy and use guns.

At whatever level and type of crime, you will be surrounded by other criminals, possibly including those with zero hesitation to initiate violence. Sometimes just because they are in a bad mood today. They may be rather agitated with their own fear of arrest. And drug use leads to all kinds of irrationality. You cannot exactly call the police to report that someone robbed you or attacked you while you were doing something illegal.

A lot of crime requires openly or semi-openly doing illegal things in public spaces, or in private spaces that aren’t yours, interacting with strangers or very superficial acquaintances.

If you are robbing convenience stores, the owner may have a gun behind the counter.

Armed robbery of banks is glamourised in media, but has a very poor risk/reward ratio, in terms of physical danger and prison time vs the amount of cash in a teller’s drawer.

A lot of crime (especially with close proximity to violence and drugs) is actually a really bad deal for most of the participants.

Is Uber really safe? Has anyone had a life-threatening experience with Uber, especially female passengers?

Updated Oct 27

The largest danger involves female drivers facing male passengers.

This isn’t socially recognised, due to denial and stigma and stereotypes regarding women working at jobs in male-dominated fields.

Many years ago, I spent a year in the taxicab industry, in a large American city.

I had to pass government screening for competence, and driving record, and criminal record, that would have rejected many people. Long before “Uber” and it’s ilk hired anyone and everyone, raking in signup fees.

And can confirm that, it is dangerous, and no “decent” person, either male or female, has any empathy towards the working poor people who resort to this.

That said, the Uber corporation has severe issues with lack of screening for drivers, including employing people with serious criminal records. Regular taxicab companies exploit the drivers, but Uber is even worse. They are a scam and a danger. They will take your money, and then look the other way, when there is an accident, or a crime against either the driver or the passenger. Nobody cares about the violent crimes against the working-poor drivers.

Uber and it’s ilk totally fail to screen their drivers, fail to have legitimate insurance arrangements, and scam everyone involved, as a sharemarket rort.

Some interpretations are that, Uber is apparently NOT really even in the transportation business. It’s real product is the phone app for dispatching, the media hype, and the sucking in of hundreds of millions of dollars of investor cash.

Uber has previously had a major issue, where they were claiming to do criminal records checks of applicants (and charging money from them), while those checks were never conducted. Leading to employment of drivers with serious criminal histories.

Uber has a corporate culture of sexual harassment and misconduct by and towards employees, including being encouraged by their founder and former CEO.

Uber openly violates city/county/state regulations, including safety regulations. This includes their unlicensed testing of driverless vehicles, which got that programmed kicked out of California, because they were evading requirements to register and to report accidents and near-misses.

Uber unfairly competes with, and threatens the livelihood of, properly screened and licensed taxicab workers.

On the other hand…

Passengers in legal, licenced city taxicabs love to feel offended by dollar amount of the fares. And love to blame the legal, licenced, screened, working-poor drivers. While being oblivious to the high overhead costs and danger level to those individuals.

It is a tragedy when a random off-the-street, middle-class, coddled passenger feels “uncomfortable” with a cautious or even paranoid driver, but nobody cares when a properly licensed and screened female city taxicab driver has a male passenger holding a knife to her neck.

The legitimate, city-county-licenced industry is bad enough, but Uber and it’s ilk is even worse.

What was your scariest experience when you did a night shift?

Updated Aug 25

I was 21 years old.

The job was taxicab driver. A job with a high robbery/assault/homicide rate, taken on by working poor people. I spent a lot of time in rough neighbourhoods, dealing with aggressive people.

The incident occured in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, about 11:30 at night.

A young gentleman, much larger and stronger than me, grabbed me from behind. Holding something just above my left shoulder, or under my left jaw.

“Give me all your money, or I’m gonna run this right through your neck”.

I discovered the exact dollar value of my life. It wasn’t much.

I later heard that he was a repeat offender, at the same location.

Within myself, I think I have since forgiven him (at least to some extent), and wondered what drove him to that moment.

That job wasn’t so much fun after that incident.

To this day, I have wondered whatever happened to him. Dead? In prison? Cleaned up and regretful?

It will never happen, but I would have liked to have a conversation with him now, to better understand. He helped me to become a stronger (albeit more paranoid) person.

What is the weirdest thing an elderly person has told you?

Updated Aug 10

I had some fairly weird encounters years ago, when I worked at a facility that I call DementiaLand Last Stop Rest Home, Bar And Grill. It was kind of like an Alzheimer’s themed amusement park, with a cast of wacky and adorable characters. And additional heavy physical disabilities, plus a bit of terminal cancer included for extra cheerfulness.

One that comes to mind was a woman who was 84, had heavy dementia, and also may have been drugged-up due to a hip fracture. Some other people were loud and obnoxious, but she was the type to be quietly lost in the fog.

I was helping her to eat lunch one day. And she started staring at me longingly, reached out and gently put her hand on the side of my face. And said, “I love you”.

And it wasn’t with the kind of tone that you might say to a child or a sibling or a parent.

This was a very sincere, very romantic sounding, breathy and passionate “I love you”.

I have no idea who she thought I was.

That job was really depressing sometimes.

Is a GED truly equivalent to a diploma?

Answered Jul 1

No, and I’ll explain why.

There are several technical issues, and one perceptual issue (which becomes a major practical issue).

First, some states don’t allow you to take the GED exam until you are 18 years old. The reason is financial. US public school systems receive money from the federal government, partly based on the number of enrolled students. Their district performance is also partly based on the graduation rate.

The best-performing students may view school as a waste of time. They have already learned the skills and material. And now they sit there, bored, with everything being repeated yet again, slowly, for the benefit of their classmates. Students who are mature, well-behaved, and hard-working may also want to get out of the social environment of their so-called “peers”.

These students may want to test-out of the system early (via a GED), and move on with their lives (either work or university).

The school system doesn’t want that, because it would lower the funding, and lower the graduation percentage rate for “legitimate” diplomas. So the law may specify that you stay in school for the full 12 year sentence, without any chance of early parole.

Second (as in second-chance, second-prize, second-rate) the governmental view of GED test takers is that, it is a “something is better than nothing” type of deal. Therefore, standards will be pressured downward.

Third, speaking of standards. Have you ever heard of social promotion? Or NCLB? Or “no-fail” policies?

There are plenty of barely literate, barely numerate, willfully ignorant, instruction-following-impaired, reasoning-impaired, unreliable, behaviourally disordered individuals who somehow graduated with a “legitimate” high school diploma.

A GED officially certifies that you are “equivalent” to them.

Fourth, also on standards. There is a seemingly subtle (but actually major) problem with the difficulty calibration of the GED exam.

The GED Testing Service conducts a thing called the “Standardization and Norming Study”. They give the GED exam to a pool of, “graduating high school seniors”, to see how well they do.

Then, the people who take the exam for real (i.e. the dropouts for whom the exam is intended) are then compared to the above-described control group. The passing cutoff point is that, you need to do at least as well as 85% of the control group. This how the GED is allegedly “equivalent” to graduating high school.

Now here is the subtle bias.

The control group for the “Standardization and Norming Study” is described as, graduating high school seniors”. Meaning that, they have already completed high school, and already have their “legitimate” diploma in hand. They have probably zero personal incentive to do well in the “Standardization and Norming Study”. This biases the scale downward.

A real exam-taker has been told that, their entire future rests upon passing. They are told that, it is the difference between a decent job, social status, and self-esteem, vs being an unemployable bum failure.

Now, regardless of intellect, or any other factors, which group do you think is going to work harder to do well on the exam? Standards are set based on people who don’t care, and then used to measure people who care a great deal.

Fifth, the perceptual issue. No matter how intelligent, skilled, hard-working, etc. you are, a GED is highly stigmatised.

A prospective employer may directly ask, “Why did you drop out of school?” And they may already be thinking of exactly three possibilities. Stupid? Lazy/unreliable? A thug? All three?

Even before asking the question, they may already have decided that, you were too intellectually and behaviourally defective to even handle a low-standards, coddling high school. There is also a more general, “Can’t/won’t follow the rules of respectable society-members” idea.

Even if you legitimately state that, you were bored, unchallenged, head-and-shoulders above your “peers”, it will be interpreted as, you are an anti-social, arrogant snothead with an overactive ego.

Finally, I won’t tell you what to do in your specific personal situation. I’ll just note that, after all the incessant mass-brainwashing about the alleged critical importance of passing exams and getting pieces of paper…

These particular pieces of paper may still have you facing low-level employers, who just need some burgers flipped, and some of whom aren’t very bright themselves. Including low-level employers who “require” the piece of paper, but may “verify” it by merely seeing the words that you wrote in the little boxes on their application form.

The whole thing is sort of an idealised story of a system much more rational and rigorous than it really is.

Is the value of a college degree going up or down?

Updated Jul 2

There are different kinds of inflation and deflation involved.

Schools may engage in grade inflation to increase the number of people receiving high school qualifications.

This, in turn, deflates the value of those high school qualifications.

You could have a very intelligent, hard-working, highly literate high school student. But their classmate can barely read, can’t follow instructions, and has attitude/behavioural problems. And they both receive the same piece of paper, making it impossible to distinguish them.

So employers inflate credential requirements.

To show that you are that first person, you need to go further, and pursue higher education, and get a fancier piece of paper.

This also inflates the dollar cost that you must pay in order to signal even basic competence.

This incentivises going to university, so numbers of university graduates have also inflated over time.

More degrees in the system deflates the value of each individual degree. You have more competitors when applying for jobs.

There can be further inflation, when an employer has a stack of applications from people with bachelor’s degrees. So now they raise the bar and want a master’s.

More inflation ensues, with the education time and dollar cost for you to get that even fancier piece of paper.

Also, degrees aren’t all equal. A job listing may be very specific about the field that the degree needs to be in. Some might list a range of possibilities, and some might just say, “a science degree”.

A few job listings might just require, “a degree” and be open about the field. This is back to the issue of distinguishing yourself from the barely literate, poorly-behaved high school graduates. However, this openness will inflate the number of competing applicants. Thereby deflating the value of an individual degree in a random field.

I would expect that some arts, literature, history, women’s studies, etc degrees have relatively poor economic prospects.

Some fields may be cyclic in terms of supply and demand. Maybe you tell people that there is a shortage of certain degrees and workers (“If you want to be in demand, here is what to study”). Then, a large number of people take that advice, resulting in an oversupply a few years later, deflating the value of those degrees back down.

Lastly, the value isn’t just about average incomes.

One point is binary. If an employer requires a degree, then people lacking one don’t even get into the competition pool. Their CV will be filtered out by a computer. So it isn’t only the size of your paycheque, but maybe whether you are employed at all.

Plus, it includes working conditions, both physical and interpersonal.

A degree can get you into nice, calm, air-conditioned office, with other people who had the basic competence and self-control to get through the university filter.

Lacking a degree can religate you to much worse physical environments, surrounded by almost feral people (coworkers, the general public, etc).

What’s the farthest you’ve ever had to commute for a job?

Answered Jun 29

About 50 kilometres (31 miles). I actually had four different situations like this, at different time periods.

The first involved crossing a river, so there was a always a major bottleneck at the bridge. This got worse during the course of each weekday morning. If I left at just before 7 AM, I could arrive at just before my starting time of 8 AM. This was a minimum wage job, and I was 18 and sleeping on my father’s floor at the time.

The second involved very long hours, to the point of practically living at work. My apartment was in a semi-OK neighbourhood (by my low standards), but I hardly ever saw it during that period. The good thing about working nights is that, you are driving to and from work in the opposite direction of the traffic jam on the motorway. So you are going full-speed, instead of start-and-stop.

The third involved public transport, and was even more miserable. This included 12-hour work shifts, and falling asleep on the train going home. I moved back to a bad neighbourhood much closer to work because of this.

The fourth was another low-paid 8 AM arrival in a city with notoriously bad traffic. My advantage was having a good geographic grasp of that city, getting off the motorway, and taking surface streets most of the way.

If I could replay my early-20s again, a big issue would be to NOT move so far away from work (which was inspired by bad advice from a dysfunctional person). Plenty of people do commutes more brutal than my aforementioned, but it gets real old after six months, and a year will grind you down. An aggravating factor is if you drive during the course of your workday.

Is home schooling an advantage?

Updated Jul 1

Do you mean in the market for basic jobs?

No, it isn’t.

When they see something like, “High School Equivalency Certificate”, the first assumption is that you were in school but dropped out. They will automatically conjure up a stereotype of someone whose intellectual or behavioural deficiencies meant that s/he couldn’t handle formal, “legitimate” school.

That will extend to viewing you as a bad, unreliable potential employee.

They may ask, “Why did you drop out of school?” And then get an even more negative attitude when you tell them that you were never in school at all.

For a teenager, it can be worse, if you are in an area where there is a minimum age for taking an equivalency exam, and you are under that age. No formal schooling and no second-prize certificate will result in being insulted, dismissed, and shown the door by potential employers.

Your actual knowledge, skill level, reliability, and attitude are irrelevant, in terms of these responses.

If you are applying for a job in some low-level position, like fast food, I suggest simply lying, and pretending to have graduated from the nearest high school. When I was much younger, employers might have “required” a high school diploma or equivalent, but they never asked to see any documentation.

Personally, my CV (resume) “education” section only mentions true, verifiable information about university, and says nothing about levels below that.

Another side of this is that, if you have significantly more formal education than expected for the job, you may be dismissed as “overqualified”. Then, your interest would be served by deleting any mention of that degree, and, again, just claiming to be a high school graduate. Although that is kind of a different subject.

Socially, having been home-schooled will attract open contempt from acquaintances. Many people think that, the only context for learning anything is in a formal school classroom. I have been directly accused of being illiterate. Or alternately, accused of lying (i.e. ability to read, plus knowledge of history, science, etc, is viewed as prima facie evidence of having attended formal, “legitimate” school as a child).

Another social point is the “socialisation” argument, that claims such children/teenagers will grow up to be awkward outsiders. From my point of view, the “socialisation” of formal schooling is a mechanism to teach conformity and obedience to social pressure. Schooling for “the masses” (i.e. everybody except the elite wealthy) tries to squash everybody into a lowest-common-denominator position of worker and consumerist society-member. Barely literate, but highly conformist. Dumbed down. “No child left behind” also means “No child allowed ahead”. And that’s how society likes it.

How do you instill confidence in girls as they grow up?

Updated Jun 30

Some of this applies to both girls and boys, but a lot is female-oriented.

  1. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, a huge issue for girls and women is financial responsibility. There is a very common message (even in the 21st century) that, being female means that working and supporting one’s self is optional. When that girl becomes a young adult, she may be totally unprepared to do that. She may get into, and stay in, a bad relationship, just for the financial support. Or she may have “failure to launch” and remain dependent on her parents. Or she may become confused, frightened, and angry in a situation where she only has the money/resources that she can personally generate by working. One reason why men seem more confident about this is not because they are told they “can” do it, but rather that they must. Working and fully supporting themselves is presented as a normal, basic part of adulthood. Girls would benefit from being taught this, as well.
  2. There is mass insecurity over physical appearance and attractiveness. This also relates to mass competition, incessant, immediate comparisons to other females, etc. It can manifest as feeling depressed, but I have also seen it come out as criticism and even hostility towards other females. There is an effort to distract from insecurities by lashing out. Girls would benefit from direct conversations about the social focus on appearance, and the dysfunctional behaviours that result.
  3. Western media and popular culture are hypersexualised. There has been an explosion of pornography, being viewed by both boys and girls, from a young age. And it is mostly females being degraded for male consumption. Girls would benefit from being reassured that they don’t have any obligation to buy into all of this. And they don’t have to tolerate bad behaviour and attitudes from porn-programmed young men, although it is important to know that they will be facing those behaviours and attitudes.
  4. Teach them not to worry about being viewed as a prude if they are modest, or as a loser if they are single.
  5. Teach them about alcohol, and its dangers.
  6. At the youngest age possible, teach girls (and boys) basic daily household activities. Put out the rubbish and recycling. Do the laundry. Clean the bathroom. Prepare a simple meal. I have encountered university students who had difficulty with these things.
  7. Teach them how to navigate themselves with a street map, to get to someplace that they have never previously been. I have encountered allegedly adult women who didn’t grasp that this skill (and psychological aptitude) even existed.
  8. Teach them to use the telephone in an adult manner. Start with simple things like calling a business to ask their opening hours.
  9. Teach them to use public transportation (e.g. finding the needed routes).
  10. Teach them about cars. Basic things like checking the oil and coolant, changing a tyre, etc. Also warn them some dishonest mechanics may assume that women know nothing about cars, and so are targets for fraudulent repair diagnoses.
  11. Teach them about finding information. Locations of things, suppliers and prices, laws/regulations, etc. Make sure they have a library card, and understand that the internet isn’t just for playing with FaceBook.
  12. Teach them about money. It doesn’t just magically appear, and the supply is limited. Distinguish need-spending and want-spending. Prepare them for the real possibility of having a standard of living downgrade when they get their first apartment. Open a bank account, and practice the habit of putting a few dollars into savings every week, and leaving it there. Cultivate self-control with money.
  13. Teach them that they don’t have to be limited to pink collar jobs.
  14. Warn them that, as a working adult, they will likely experience some level of sexual harassment. They may need to be careful in handling it, but don’t necessarily have to feel overly intimidated.
  15. Teach them about the realities of crime. Also emphasise the fact that, a lot of violent crime is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, so they can reduce their risk by being careful about who they let into their lives.
  16. Teach them that marriage and children are optional, not required. Warn them that, many adult women fail to understand or respect this.
  17. Teach them that, other people won’t always want to be friends with them, and that is OK. Also teach them that, other people won’t always want to be romantic partners with them, and that is OK. Rejection is a normal part of life.
  18. Teach them to have a good attention span. Not just in the short term (put the phone away and listen to the school lecture), but also in the longer term (worthwhile life goals cannot be accomplished if the longest time frame you can imagine is two weeks).
  19. Teach them that there will always be some other girl or woman who seems to have a better situation (appearance, money, whatever). It may feel bad, but it is a normal part of life.
  20. Teach them to avoid whining, and to focus on problem-solving.