Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bored as a Stiff

One summer, when I was between semesters in college, I got a job cutting potatoes for seed. Every morning for several weeks, I and my coworkers descended into a dark potato shed, aligned ourselves at a conveyor belt and proceeded to slice the potatoes that rolled by for several hours. I fought boredom by singing, which, fortunately for my coworkers, could not be heard over the roar of the machinery.

Most college students have scrambled for menial pay in work where mental stimulation is not part of the job description. Some people, by choice or necessity, spend their entire lives in similar work. This thought was forcefully brought to mind by my recent studies.

This morning I was reading from a book called "Modern Introduction to International Law." (No, that is not the boring part.) The particular section dealt with diplomatic property. This sentence got me going: "'Bugging' of diplomatic premises, which is not mentioned in the Vienna Convention [protecting diplomatic property], is contrary to the spirit of the Convention, but is probably too widespread to be regarded as illegal."

It occurs to me that right now, it is someone's job to be listening to the bugs planted in the apartments of the foreign teachers in China (we have been warned that our apartments are probably bugged). I would think that for the most part, it would be like listening to conveyor belt machinery.

And so, as I think back to all the menial employment I suffered through to pay for my education, I am reminded that it could be worse. I could be a career "listener" in China. Maybe they sing.

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