The Hardest Job There Is

One summer during college I was stringing together temp jobs in order to make money so that I could afford to go out with my friends at night and play “Star Trek” pinball. (I would have preferred, of course, to spend my summer developing my idea for a “group couponing” website, but as the summer in question predated widespread adoption of the Internet, the decision was out of my hands.)

These were super-boring temp jobs, involving things like data-entering anonymous “secret shopper” surveys for Jersey Subs, filing papers alphabetically, and going through medical bills with a red pen to make sure that the prices didn’t exceed prescribed rates. (The last was the worst, as their computer system ran on OS/2, which some genius decided should have chess rather than Minesweeper, which made it very difficult to blow off steam after decimating a particularly tough bill, which is why I originally took up amphetamines.)

At some point the temp work simply dried up, possibly because there were no more medical bills, possibly because no one was willing to eat at Jersey Subs anymore, possibly because of the amphetamines. And so my dad arranged it that I could work for a friend of his who owned a warehouse of surplus metal parts.

What were these metal parts? I have no idea. They were large and heavy and in bins on pallets, and it’s possible they were used to repair trains, or in air conditioning, or as weapons. They came in various shapes and sizes and weights (heavy *and* very heavy), and every day orders would pour into the warehouse that some company wanted 137 of the metal pieces from bin A17. My job, then, was to retrieve bin A17 (which involved a forklift, which was sort of cool, except that I never got the hang of rear-wheel steering and always ended up crashing into things) and get an empty pallet and then manually choose 137 of the least-rusty metal pieces from bin A17 and pile them onto the empty pallet, all the while counting (and then double-counting) to make sure that there were indeed exactly 137 of them. Then I’d put the bin back and move on to the next order of 94 metal pieces from bin C29, and so on, and so forth.

(To this day, it is tough for me to imagine a job that is a worse mismatch for my aptitudes and preferences, except possibly for building model histories of men’s shoes.)

At the end of each day I would collect my pay (which was itself in non-descript metal pieces) and go home and take painkillers and try to scrub all the fine metal grit off my skin and try to cough all the fine metal grit out of my lungs and then cry myself to sleep and have nightmares about counting metal pieces. All of which, quite obviously, left no time for “Star Trek” pinball.

And so after a week, over the vociferous objections of my parents, who insisted that the metal pieces I was earning were likely to represent the difference between success and failure in life, I quit. Accordingly, I have blamed the various subsequent failures in my life on the metal pieces that never were.

So it stood until this week, when Hilary Rosen (who, for reasons inexplicable to me, is still allowed to show her face in public after her stint running the RIAA) made some crack disparaging Mitt Romney’s wife for being a stay-at-home mom. Tactically this was moronic, as everyone knows plenty of admirable stay-at-home moms, and also everyone knows that the most fruitful line of attack on Mitt Romney’s wife is that she married Mitt Romney, and let’s see how her “the angel Moroni pointed a shotgun at us and said we had to” excuse plays in the court of public opinion.

Which means that everyone and his brother is rushing to throw Hilary Rosen under one of a variety of buses. Bill Donohue, for instance, wants to throw her under some sort of “lesbian parent” bus, which I’m pretty sure runs on biodiesel, and I would love to throw her under the “she ran the RIAA, which means that nothing she says should ever be listened to by anyone ever” bus, but most people are focusing on the old “parenting is the hardest job there is!” bus.

It turns out, though, that I’m a parent, and so I happen to know that PARENTING IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE HARDEST JOB THERE IS. Metal piece warehouse was a harder job. Burger King was a harder job. Even MATH FREAKING GRAD SCHOOL was a harder job. (As some versions of the bus insist that only mothering is the hardest job, I double-checked with Ganga, and she agrees with my analysis.)

That’s not to say that parenting isn’t work. It is, and occasionally it’s even very unpleasant work, like when it’s 3am and the baby won’t sleep and will scream if you don’t rock her, and you still haven’t prepared your slides for your 8am meeting with Hilary Rosen to present your new plan for permanently ruining the lives of music-downloading teenagers, and all you want to do is sleep and use your dreams to figure out a way to pretend like you care about “artists”. Or when she poops on you. (The baby, not Hilary Rosen, although that also sucks.) Or when you’re trying to write a blog post making fun of Hilary Rosen and the baby won’t stop screaming in your ear and banging on your keywinevsoivdkdsvl

But parenting is also a lot of fun. It’s a huge joy when you finally teach your kid how to Chicken Dance, or when she learns to swear, or the first time she asks you “please can you read me one more chapter before bed, daddy?” of Atlas Shrugged. No metal part ever even asked me about The Fountainhead!

I recognize that it’s uncharacteristic of me to stake out the middle ground like this, but I guess having a kid has been a deeply moderating influence and has taught me the value of compromise. So can’t we all just agree that parenting is nowhere near as hard as sorting and lifting and counting metal parts, that Hilary Rosen has no place in polite society, and that babies love Atlas Shrugged?

One thought on “The Hardest Job There Is

  1. PV Lundqvist

    The argument seems to turn on the definition of ‘hard’. Both rocket science and digging ditches are hard, but in different ways.

    Babies are more like ditches: lots of lifting, gunky, and made easier by singing spirituals. Protractor is never required.

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