Work in Progress

Today I was parked at the Safeway 7th circle. They have been renovating so things are a little jammed there.

Anyways, my elder sister rushed in to purchase something while I waited parked in the loading dock in case the car had to be moved. While I waited a man in his twenties approached my sister’s car. He was wearing the safeway uniform for the people who carry shopping bags to cars, so obviously that was his line of work. I thought he was going to ask me to move the car but he didn’t. Instead he pointed to the miniature Canadian flag my sister had wrapped around the passenger seat sun visor like a bandana. He asked me if I lived there to which I replied in the affirmative. He then proceeded to inquire whether he would find work in Canada should he go there.

Of course I, knowing his complete history of education and work experience, said “yeah, probably”. He was happy upon hearing this and then asked me that terrible question: “what kind of work would I find”. So I told him it depends on what you’re looking for but “generally you can work anything from a manager to a dishwasher, depending on your experience or qualifications”.

Upon hearing this he gave me a twisted look as if his pride was hurt and said “eh, me work as a dishwasher? Are your crazy? Who do you think I am?”. I was going to explain my use of metaphors to him but decided against it and simply told him he’d probably be the manager of a multi-national company by the end of his first year. This made him happy and me sad.

In other events, I went to day3a for some shawarma. It was lunch time and no one was around but I saw some funny stuff going on there. When you order a shawarma plate there are at least 10 Egyptian workers behind the counter doing the work of roughly 2. One guy takes the receipt and screams out the order to a guy who cuts the shawarma passes it to another who wraps it in bread and puts it on the grill and then a plate before passing it to another guy who puts cucumbers around it, then to another who puts tomatoes, then to another for the pickles and peppers, then to another who puts the packaged sauce on the plate, then to another who puts it in a paper bag, then to another who staples the paper bag and hands it finally, full circle, to the man with the receipts who hands it to me. Keep in mind that this is all in the space of less than 3 meters by 3 meters, so essentially you have 10 Egyptian workers crammed in a sardine can.

The way we look at work in Jordan is very strange. We have for the first time a generation which is dominantly youthful and university graduates, with no work. I am however pleased that these conditions have forced our society to begin accepting jobs out of necessity. Our pride paradigms have been rearranged and we are better for it, because it allows another generation to come in and say “I’ll do any work that comes my way”, instead of repeating the vain circumstances in my first experience above. You go to places like Safeway and shopping malls and you have men and women working in jobs which a few years ago would have been given to Egyptian workers. On the other hand while they are obviously forced to fill a niche in the job market, they are also taking up jobs which do not pay well. Any one of these jobs would pay 10 times as much in North America, and I’m talking at minimum wage.

Then again, we are also faced with the epidemic (I do not use this word lightly) of having 10 workers do the job of 2.

But frankly, I have no complaints about the shawarma…

damn you devil food

Emad Hajjaj tends to say it all. This cartoon, published originally on Labour Day 1999, was re-published lately for Labour Day 2005. It is titled “At the begining of May…The voices of the workers are raised”. The main character, Abu-Mahjoob is saying “I don’t want to stay a brick-layer, I need connections (wasta), I need a job in the government”. To his right is an egyptian worker screaming “I want my money, I want to go to Egypt”. Right beneath him is a man saying “forget about protests and unions, please forgive me, just give me my job back!”. To his bottom right is a man saying “I’ll work for free, just find me a job!”. Finally abu-mohammad, abu-mahjoob’s sidekick to his far left, is falling and yelling out “the ladder broke! help! help! I don’t have health insurance”.

I don’t know whether re-publishing now, 6 years later, is an indication that things have remained the same or not. We are a work in progress.

Posted In: Jordan

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