Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Via Balloon Juice, I see that Ben Stein is doing his best Montgomery Burns imitation -- not just the sneer-at-the-peasants imperiousness, but the sheer inability to process the existence of the last several decades of life on Earth.

Here's the imperiousness, which I think would be complemented very nicely by a forced ride in a tumbrel:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say "generally" because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day's work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along -- not always easy.

And here's the obliviousness regarding life in oh, say, the past thirty years:

(This brings to mind an idea I have long had: that high schools and colleges should have a course on "how to get along" and "how to do a day's work." This would include showing up in clean clothes, smelling well, having had a good breakfast, dressed in a businesslike way, calling the other employees "sir" or "ma'am" and not talking back....)

Excuse me, gramps? "Sir" and "ma'am"? Are there any offices in America where you're supposed to address fellow employees that way? Is it even routine for bosses anymore?

I got my first real job in 1980 -- and was shocked to learn that the big boss, a vice president, was routinely addressed, even to his face, as "Mark." First names have been the rule every place I've ever worked, even though all the workplaces have been traditionally hierarchical; your mileage may vary, but surely you've never addressed a peer as "sir" or "ma'am," have you?

Stein obviously missed "business casual" altogether -- and as for eating breakfast at the office, where I work it's how you show you didn't dawdle on the way in (which would be a faux pas suggesting you actually savor moments of your non-work life).

But who the hell is Ben Stein to address these questions? What's the last full-time day job this guy had? Was it his gig for Nixon? Maybe next he can tell us the proper way to groom earlobe-length sideburns.

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