Is It Incompetence, Laziness or Just Plain Fear?

“Really, now: If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people?” —Dexter Morgan, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay


Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to get people to do their jobs? I’m not talking about doing them well, just doing them at all.

The woman who is staying with me is in a seemingly daily battle with the person who delivers the newspaper. It’s late so often that she’s taken to standing on the front porch waiting for it. One morning recently, the carrier saw her, looked right at her and instead of bringing to paper to the porch, tossed it into the wet (remember all the rain?) grass. She called The Denver Post to complain. The next day, same thing happened.

She called to complain.

On the third day, the newspaper hit the front porch at 3 a.m.

I of all people appreciate a little sarcasm, but was that really necessary?

Now the newspaper has been on time and on the porch for the past couple of weeks, and it’s appreciated. But why was that such a battle?

The other day I was in the drive-thru at Steak and Shake getting a very late lunch for myself and a friend. My friend’s husband has a sensitivity to beef and can only eat organic or Angus beef, so I asked the woman at the pick-up window, just for future reference, if they used organic or Angus beef. She didn’t know but said she’d get the manager. No problem.

The manager stuck his head out the window, so I repeated my question. His reply: “It comes from a cow.” A simple “no” would have worked and would have meant that I’d return sometime to Steak and Shake. Now I won’t.

Since early spring, I’ve been trying to get someone to come do some minor—I think—landscaping. I’m willing to pay. I want to pay. I’ve been told, on more than one occasion by more than one person, “Sure, no problem,” to which I’ve replied, “Great, give me a bid.”

Not even a, “sorry, got busy, can’t help,” just…silence. Frustrating.

I feel like standing out on the front porch waving bills at passersby, yelling, “Hey look! I’ve got money. I want to pay someone. Here, really. Come work for me. Earn money.”

Is all this indicative of society’s don’t give a damn attitude? Does everyone just not care anymore? Are we all so afraid of success that we sabotage ourselves? Are the jobs we find ourselves doing just not worthy of our best efforts?

Don’t know. Do know that I’m not immune.

Back in another life, I wrote for corporations and other businesses and nonprofits. When I decided to retire from the old 9 to 5 (or in my case, 11 to 9), I figured I could do that again to supplement my income. I made some contacts, set up a job, and promptly blew it.

I found myself faced with a project that I really didn’t want to do. I remembered why I’d stopped corporate writing/editing in the first place: I hate it. Did I let the client know this, with a polite, sorry but you really need to find someone else? No.

I hemmed and hawed and made up excuses and ended up doing a piss poor, never quite got it done, job. Why didn’t I just decline? I didn’t want to disappoint the client. So then why didn’t I just bite the bullet and do the job? I was afraid. Afraid that I couldn’t do that kind of work anymore, that I wouldn’t be competent or do a good enough job. So I procrastinated, disappointed the client and really didn’t get the job done. And now she stopped returning my calls.

I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t return my calls either.

But I did learn something. I have to be honest with myself. I have to be forthright with my clients. And maybe the people who disappoint me have got other issues going on, too.

Maybe the Steak and Shake manager hit his dumb question of the day limit. Maybe the landscape folks have the same fear of disappointing and being unable to do the job that I did.

And maybe the newspaper guy…naw…the newspaper guy is just a jerk.


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