Years ago there was a popular comedian named Bill Dana, stage name Jose Jimenez. He claimed Bolivia as his birthplace and emphasized the native pronunciation of both Js in his name as Hs.
Anyway, Jose was a really funny guy, but by today's rapidly rising standards of political correctness, his shtick was fairly insulting to Spanish speaking people. During his routines he spoke with a heavy accent and portrayed Latinos as lazy and stupid. He always said, with a dull look at the TV camera, "My name Hoe-ZAY Hee-MENN-ez."
But Jose's favorite phrase, his trademark, which he managed to work frequently into every performance, was "Ees no my chobe." Translation; "It's not my job."
Using that phrase, Mr. J. would eschew all tasks reasonably expected of him. Spoken in his thick, phony Spanish inflection, the phrase caused his audience to laugh merrily.
I don't know where Senor Dana is now, but wherever, the guy and that saying made a huge impact on the American populace and lexicon, and I am reminded of him and his joking words about his “job” nearly every day. Here's why;
Have you ever been standing in a supermarket check-out line in a long queue of exhausted shoppers at the end of a hard workday, and there stands that grand customer, (no sexism here; most shoppers are women,) her eyes fixed blankly at a point above the madding crowd, ignoring the huge pile of food purchases in front of her. There's the poor cashier trying to ring up the purchases, take the woman's money, count her coupons, cash her check, wait while she balances her checkbook and pack her dozens of bags, alone. Heaven forfend Lady La De Da should pick up a bag and help to pack maybe just a couple of her own foodstuffs. Oh my no. She stands there idly, an omnipotent queen, because, you see, it's not her job.
I recently watched a patron pour himself some coffee in one of our local coffee shops. It missed his cup and splashed onto the floor where it spread like oil on water. He looked down, poured a fresh cup, stepped widely over the mess and sailed to his table. Did he lean down with some napkins to staunch the lake? No. Did he contact any of the staff to tell them of the problem? No. Did he care that someone might slip or step in that coffee puddle? No. You see, it was not his job.
Weeks later I watched a woman diner knock over her tall glass of iced tea, thoughtfully watch it pour over the table's sides, pick up her meal, move to another table and ignore the mess for others to clean up. Because, you see, cleaning it up or advising the staff of the situation, was not her job.
Once at a giant hardware store I saw a guy ram his basket into a huge display of wooden things, knock them to rolling everywhere, step around it all and blithely move on, because, you see, picking up those things was not his job.
And then there was the man in his big black car who hit and killed a little girl’s unleashed dog that ran from its yard into the roadway, who then quickly checked his rear view mirror before he accelerated away from the weeping child. He did not stop to help because yes, you see, it was not his job.
How come we behave this way? I guess too many of us have copied Mr. J. How could this comedian have so ingrained the "It's not my job" philosophy into our daily attitudes?
Or has he? Maybe we're born this way. Or sadly, maybe we were taught this caste-arrogance my-gentry-is-better-than-your-gentry as kids. Who knows?
I know! Next time I accidentally bash my head against a tray of filled soup bowls a waiter's carrying, and everything splashes horribly all over the floor, his legs, and some customers, I'll look down at the gross splattage and will consider strolling away, thinking oh now really, helping to clean that up is just not my job.
OK, no. I swear I won't do that. No way, Jose.
©2016 LC Van Savage