Yeah – this is a post along the lines of don’t judge a book by its cover. My mom and I were talking earlier this week about how some people tend to judge others by their career. This was after her surgeon made some pretty low-cutting comments about my mom’s profession. “Now I can say I know people in low places,” was his exact comment evidently.
See, my family owns and runs two towing companies. Pretty good sized, reputable companies at that. In fact my father is nationally known in the industry and both he and my brother regularly work with local and government agencies to help legislate and clean up the industry (for protection of both the consumers and businesses). My mother (along with being co-owner) is the office manager and accountant (her degree is in accounting). My brother (who has a degree in graphic design) and my sister (whose college education is in criminal justice) are operations managers. My sister-in-law, whose college education is in accounting also, works alongside my mom in accounting and also supervises our impound division. Admittedly I do help out at the family business, too. I’m the accounting supervisor, hr/payroll and general office jockey even though my own college degree is in English. No, I don’t need the job since I make more than enough writing, but I like the work and it gets me out of the house.
Because of the nature of our business (we work with police departments), we are often at the forefront of being blamed by the customer when they have a run-in with the law (i.e. when their car is impounded by the police). For this reason and this reason alone I have stopped telling people what my family does. It almost always ends badly. Like the last time someone found out I worked at the family business I ended getting my hair ripped out and being overcharged for a perm by a stylist who had a run in with the local police, and was still bitter about having her car impounded. Other people have made immediate assumptions about my education and intelligence, and the class of person I must be based on my family’s business. I’m also met with a great deal of disdain and disrespect (as are all the other members of my immediate family). I guess some folks (those who make more than wrecker operators and accountants) think all people who work in towing are dishonest, have a twangy accent, missing teeth, no education, that we’re all white trash whose main ambition in life is to screw everyone. Alas – not true!
On the flip side of that – I’ve also had people (usually acquaintances, co-workers and/or friends who work in similar fields in the industry) treat me like absolute crap because they make the assumption at A. My family is rich. B. I’ve lived a privileged life and have never had to work a day of it. C. That I can’t get a job on my own merit.
All of which are also outright misconceptions.
However – when people have no knowledge of my family’s business and discover I’m a published author I’m always treated with a great deal of respect. People assume immediately that the writer-me is honest, hard-working, intelligent and well-educated.
It’s an interesting contrast. (Translation: WTF?) After all – in most other industries accounting and human resources are generally respectable professions. Let’s just say that if I worked in the accounting or hr office of any other type of company I’m sure I wouldn’t be treated the same way.
There are even people in my own extended family who think they’re too good for our branch of the family based on the industry we work in.
Case in point: I went clothes shopping with a cousin a few years back and bought a suit, to which she made the thinly veiled comment, “What could you possibly need a suit for?” After all, she figured she was the professional despite the fact that at the family business I do the same things she does (HR), make the same money, and have the same level of education (minus a few of those HR seminars).
I know this is kind of a bitch thing for me to say on my blog, but that suit was damn handy when I had to go to writing conferences and meet with editors and agents. So yeah, cousin, I did need the suit. Just because I can (and prefer to) run around in jeans and t-shirts most days and because I work for the family business (in an industry a lot of people are prejudiced against), doesn’t mean I’m less of a person or that I never have need for nice clothing. Or that I’m anything less than educated, well-mannered and professional. Yeah – I sometimes cuss like a truck driver and I don’t study the bible and I may not have the style and social graces of the world’s wealthy elite, but at least I’m genuine and I don’t judge people poorly based on how they make an honest living. (Or I try not to – I have been kind of hard on politicians lately, but then I sometimes wonder if that’s an honest living or a criminal racket.)