Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Skill Set

This afternoon, as I maneuvered my car out of a parking lot that looked like a badly played game of Tetris, I reflected on the fact that the one good thing to come out of a miserable summer working for my Dad at a car dealership is that I can get a car out of almost any tight spot. At work we have a tiny parking lot with only about half the number of spaces we need for all of our staff, and street parking is by residential parking permit only. Since the people in the neighborhood will call parking enforcement on your ass, people pack into the lot like sardines, which makes getting out of your space difficult. Somehow I can almost always do it, which is hilarious because I’m notoriously bad at backing up. My parents have actually on occasion come outside when I’m leaving their house, for the express purpose of laughing at me as I back up their (not very long) driveway and almost take out the mailbox. But somehow it works when I’m trying to get out of a tight spot.

That made me think about all the other jobs I’ve had in my life, and the extremely random skills I’ve learned from them.

Radio Shack
I worked at Radio Shack for one year in college, and I wasn’t great at it. I could sell you a TV, but if you were coming in looking for a tiny little part to fix something, you were SOL if you got me as your salesperson.


I can hook up an AV system like nobody’s business.

It all goes back to something my manager told me. He said that when he was trying to connect something, he would pretend he was the TV signal. Stay with me here.

“So I’m the signal, and I’m hanging out in the wire in the wall,” he said. “But that’s pretty boring, so I go out through the coaxial cable…”

It’s crazy, but it makes me think about it linearly so it works. So when I’m hooking up a DVD player, what I’m really doing is thinking, “So I’m a TV signal…”

Waiting Tables

Until this year of teaching, I waited tables longer than I’d ever done anything else in my life. As a job, it had its up and downs, but I definitely learned a lot. I learned to deal with complete f&$@ing idiots on a regular basis. I learned that people are happiest when they can feel superior to someone else. I learned that you really never know who can overhear you, which is a lesson the mayor of Laurel could have used as he sat at a table talking about someone I know very well.

And I learned how to carry three or more glasses at a time without a tray. This is incredibly useful when you’re out at a bar with friends. I can also carry three or four full plates at a time, which is less useful but still comes in handy sometimes.

I can calculate a tip in about four seconds.

I can mix pretty damn good drinks, even though I have to look up the more complicated ones.

Public Relations

I did PR for a bunch of different organizations, in a bunch of different venues. While I didn’t much care for the work, the lessons are invaluable.

I can put a positive spin on anything.

I can translate tech-speak into something an average person can understand.

I can write 3000 words on a concept I don’t really understand myself.

I can speak at length on just about any topic, with no preparation, whether I know anything about the subject at hand or not.

I can be diplomatic even if what I really want to do is hit a person with a shovel.

Plus, it’s uncanny how many skills translate directly from working with high-level executives to working with kindergarteners.

I feel like all I do is learn, honestly. But if there’s one thing this job has taught me, it’s that I could actually do the whole parenting thing.

Frightening, huh?

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