Back in the 1970s, we were involved for a time with a large church having an "understanding" you never asked what someone "did." Their reason was to avoid judging a person -- for good or bad -- by what he or she did and not by who and what they were.
"What do you do?" is often the first thing asked when meeting someone new. It is almost instinctive to try to "place" this person in one's mind. If I reply I work for Rose-Hulman it does not categorize me. If, though, I say I am a janitor there, or a professor, or president, now you know what box to put me in. Now you can put a "value" on me.
With all due respect, though, sometimes I wonder what it is a person actually, physically does when they tell me what they "do." When they show up on Monday morning, how is it they fill their days?
For example, without wanting to be judgmental, what exactly does an $80 million a year executive do all day? No disrespect intended, but you hear about these people getting the big money (plus bonus if their company merely goes broke or they get fired). What is it they do for that money? Do they create something? Do they somehow add to the sum total of human knowledge?
How about folks who work from home one or more days a week instead of polluting the earth by driving to an office? Doing what? If it's not important enough to go to the office, how important is it? If they can do it from home, why go in at all?
What got me started on this was a spam-mail promoting a way to have "meetings" with customers, vendors, and/or Blog readers without bothering to get dressed in the morning. All I'd need to do is to figure out how to get them to log on to some web site whenever I deign to be available. Sounds good; but not only do I not know how to meet you on the web, I can't even figure out how to stop getting spam-mail.
Me? Officially I am retired, from what no one seems to know. I show up at Computer Central most mornings with some very specific things to "do." The most vital of these is preparing coffee. If I'm not around by 10:30 Nathan goes ahead and makes coffee himself. I really don't want him to find out he makes better coffee than me, then there'd be nothing for me to "do." Half-hour after I get there everything is done I am "needed" to do. Mostly I just try to stay out of the way so as to not get thrown out; the alternative is sitting around the house all day watching Soaps.
Come by some time to meet face-to-face, I will try to avoid asking you what you "do." Also, I will be dressed and be glad to have something to do!
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.