After many years of living in cities, I am used to men offering to wash my windshield while I go inside to return a DVD (remember when people used to rent DVDs at a store?). I am not surprised when folks offer directions when I look too much like a tourist. And I’m familiar with someone holding open the door as I enter a fast food restaurant. In general, tips are expected and appreciated.
The practice makes sense to me. In general, people want the dignity of having earned their income. There are exceptions of course, but we were designed to work and most people want to work in some form or fashion.
What struck me about the man outside Wendy’s was that when I encountered him, I had recently returned from Guatemala. And there, I have experienced several fast food establishments where an employee or security guard actually stands near the door and opens it for customers. It is a job.
The time I’ve spent in other countries, I’m often intrigued by the high volume of people I interact with by simply living life.
In Argentina, for example, with no washer or dryer, we took our clothes to the laundry mat. Unlike the DIY United States' version, we handed a duffel bag through the window where a woman (who quickly grew to know us) washed, dried, and folded our clothes for us.
Public transportation in Buenos Aires is incredible. On the rare occasions that a bus or train wouldn’t meet our needs, we had our cab driver’s phone number. We would call Gabriel to come pick us up.
Guatemala City doesn’t have comparable public transit, so we do drive. However, when we stop at a gas station, someone always pumps our gas. It’s a job.
I recognize that all these services are available to the upper class in the States and that they are not affordable to all in these countries where we have experienced them. However, I am fascinated by the volume of jobs I encounter internationally. In the States, I always wash and fold my own clothes, clean my own house, drive my own car, and pump my own gas.
Our American values of total independence, mass convenience, and low prices have the unfortunate side effect of eliminating jobs. I couldn’t stop thinking about this fact after the man opened the door for me to leave Wendy’s.
Photo credit: Elvis Santana