Skilled Laborer: Part 1

It’s always seemed to me that upstanding gentlemen have always had at least one good skill under their belt. Something that’s useful, but not too useful–that’s just on the border of being too specific. Some examples:

  1. Making the perfect martini
  2. Navigation using the stars
  3. Changing the oil on a car
  4. Bull fighting
  5. The Korean War
  6. Doing your own taxes
  7. First aid
  8. Being Teddy Roosevelt
  9. Speed reading
  10. Bears
  11. Gripping it and ripping it
  12. Or get your degree

I have none of these (except for the degree one). The problem was that I grew up with two older brothers. That in and of itself wouldn’t be an impediment to developing some genteel skills. After all, having older brothers to make you feel incredibly inadequate and that you’re never quite measuring up is great impetus to continuous quality improvement. Judging from the results, the guy who developed Six Sigma must have had about seventeen older brothers.

The problem with my older brothers was that the skills they guilted me into developing were all the wrong ones; not one was on the list above or any similar lists. The skills my brothers made fun of me for not having until I had them mastered were:

  1. Being real real good at Final Fantasy and other Japanese RPGs available for the Playstation gaming console, and
  2. Knowing the intricacies of the Windows operating system for early 2000s PCs

These skills are not tremendously transferable. If I go to a party and casually bring up the fact that I won the Blitzball match in Final Fantasy X that’s supposed to be unwinnable (the first one you ever play, against the Luca Goers, when all you have are the original Aurochs with terrible stats), people’s natural reaction is never “what a witty and urbane gentleman this is. Let me inquire further as to his past achievements and present interests.”

And let me tell you, it was very startling to me to find that upon entering high school, no one else had these skills. Or had even heard of these skills. Here I thought video games and computer skills were going to prepare me for the wider world, and everyone else had spent their time developing the skill of not looking like a complete weirdo–which turned out to be way more useful. It was like I was Moses coming down from the mountain with a couple of stone tablets, and everyone else was like, “Stone tablets? We’re onto golden calves, buddy. Nobody cares about that stone tablet garbage!”

Hence my quandary. I’ve got skills. And they’re the skills that America should want. After all, Windows is a great operating system and knowing that running cmd.exe and typing “SHUTDOWN -s -t60” will automatically shut down your computer in sixty seconds is a great thing to know. They’re the skills America deserves, but not the ones it needs right now. And so I’ll hunt new skills. Because I can take it. Because I’m not a hero.





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