By on December 3, 2013
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Video contains offensive language — JB

“Sweetie, please don’t tell them I’m a car dealer.”

“They already know Steve. Oh, before I forget, Jeff will be asking you where to find a cheap transmission for his Dodge Caliber.”

“Hmmm… you know what? I think maybe I should change my name to Siri. I could have the guys pull my finger and the women…”

“No you won’t! And don’t go on about fixing Johnson Valves and torquing your nuts. And please, don’t brag about your John Holmes drill either.”

“Sigh!”

The truth is I never say any of these things. At least when I’m sober. I’m way too nice of a guy in real life.

However, I’m also not much for conversation at party gatherings when it comes to cars.

Movies? I love em’.

Sports? I don’t mind, but love there has come and gone.

Politics? Religion? Well, throw in sex and I may just swim through that morass of moralism.

Cars I deal with all day. I drive em’, buy em’, fix em, fix them again, detail them, and then I get the pleasure of having them sit and molderize before sending them down the road.

One interesting by-product of the variety of my work over the years, is that I can be introduced in different ways at parties. My brother Paul, who can read social signals better than anyone I have ever met, is particularly good at figuring out who can add what value to a conversation at a party. He’s what we refer to in my business as a ‘connector’. Always bringing people together, and managing it all like it’s a natural by-product of socializing.

The way he introduces yours truly at these parties is almost always a signal.

For example….

 

“That’s my brother Steve. He sells cars.” – My brother Paul, bless his ever so cunning Long Island heart, has a wonderful way of helping me avoid unwanted conversations.

Just let em’ know that I’m a used car salesman.

Used car salesmen are extreme social lepers in social gatherings where status has any level of importance. It’s like saying you’re a telemarketer or an IRS agent. Just watch your audience recoil and let Mother time handle the rest.

 

“That’s my brother Steve. He’s into cars.” – Now I get to be in problem solving mode. Chances are the person needs to buy a car or has a mechanical issue with their vehicle. If I’m familiar with it, great. If not, I just refer them to enthusiast sites for the given brand and model.

Nearly every time I buy a used vehicle that hasn’t been in my inventory for a while, I will revisit these forums and type in “most miles”. Weird hobby, but I just enjoy hearing stories about cars that are kept for the long haul.

 

“That’s my brother Steve. He used to own an auction.” – Until 2010 I had a 50% share of the profits of an auto auction in South Atlanta. I wound up picking the wrong partner (long story there), but the by-product of this is that Paul is trying to draw me into a conversation that will likely either involve buying or selling.

It’s a good opportunity to tell stories about $21 Dodge Daytonas or a $20,000 Vladimir Kagan tables, depending on your audience.

 

“That’s my brother Steve. He’s the auctioneer.” – I used to work in the auction staff of five to seven different auctions. All of which were weekly deals except for a powersport sale (think motorcycles and ATV’s) which was once a month. I started out a ringman, worked my way into becoming an auctioneer at public and impound auctions, and eventually became a remarketing manager for  a few years at Capital One Auto Finance.

If I’m introduced this way, the hidden signal I’m given is to entertain. Someone will likely ask how I do an auction chant, or how to get a great deal. Harmless questions, with plenty of good stories to share.

 

“This is Steve. He’s a writer.” – My wife is pretty good at letting me leave the orbit of the car business. Her friends are writers, artists, intellectuals… and moms.

 

A lot of us have worn the hats of different professions and personal interests. Accountants, zoologists, botanists, the world we dwell in is as varied and unique as pizzas with pineapples and anchovies. So let me share a thought with you folks. What work have you done? And if you can vaguely recall, what was the reaction of your audience when you shared it with them? Feel free to throw in former girlfriends, loved ones and those ever so judgmental parents into the usual party mix.

 

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52 Comments on “Hammer Time: Stereotypes...”


  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    The second job I ever had was as a telemarketer, trying to sell the hardest thing imaginable.

    Rodeo tickets to help raise money for the sheriff.

    It was actually for funding a search and rescue unit, but that’s usually all most gleaned from my sell. A Rodeo and country show with limited appeal, that helps out “The Man”.

    I sold about 3 tickets over 8 hours of calls. Pathetic. One day, I mimicked the voice of a gruff-sounding sheriff as a joke, and sold 10 tickets!

    I got introduced as “he’s a telemarketer” several times. It wasn’t that bad. I had lots of stories of calls I made. I would give advice on the best way to piss off a telemarketer. Everyone loved to hear about that.

    If I met you at a party, I would try to pry every “deadbeat customer” story you had out of you.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      How do you piss off a telemarketer? My new strategy is to let them talk and keep them on the phone as long as possible asking non relevant personal questions to waste their time. I seem to get fewer repeat calls than simply asking to be removed from their call list.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        Bingo.

        The worst is the hand off. Let them go through their whole sell, and then say “Ohhhh, you need to speak to ____. Hold on.” If you can do the hand off more than 3 times, you got skills.

        Talking about off subject stuff in the pit sounds like a record scratch in a dance club. Pit boss picks up his phone to listen in, and glares at you as if it’s your fault.

        • 0 avatar
          rnc

          My personal favorite, when was spending a lot of time with my grandmother towards her end (and you can’t imagine the telemarketing aimed at old people especially since they’re always home), reverse morts, MC supp. insurance, etc, I would let them get about 30 minutes into their routine, asking a bunch of the right questions, feigning the correct amount of ignorance and just when they thought the hook was set, I would inform them that I was 35 and that they would need to talk to granny, who would immediately hang up on them.

          I did that work for about a day and an a half

          “How the $##@$ did you get my #$@#$ number?”

          “From your wife sir”

          End of telemarketing for me.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatist

        I do not like telemarketing, but heck, most of these people are just hired and need a job. I have no interest in picking an argument with them.

        Though once a sheriff’s group called and when I declined became rather insulting, going on about how I was viciously keeping these poor kids from going to the circus.

  • avatar

    I will never tire of that YouTube clip.

    Its a good thing you have many hats, gearheads are dull one subject folks with an absolute ignorance of all things not involving a set of wheels. My wife hates it, but it keeps me out of boring fantasy football conversations at work.

    Them – “Hey, did you see who won the game last night?”

    Me – “Which one?”

    Them – “Oh sorry, Cleveland and Atlanta.”

    Me – “No, I mean which sport?”

  • avatar
    mcarr

    Being a database administrator, and somewhat of an introvert, I hate these questions at parties. No, you don’t really want to know what I do, I don’t want to explain it to you because you won’t understand it, I’ll bore myself telling you about it, and in the end, you’ll ask me if I can fix your mom’s computer.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      SQL Server or Oracle?

    • 0 avatar
      reclusive_in_nature

      I apologize for getting off the topic of automotives.

      I’m in a tech school for database administration. Is it normal to be perpetually confused? My instructor doesn’t teach a damn thing, and all we ever do is fend for ourselves. I squeaked by Oracle SQL (take the cert either this month or the next), but pl/SQL is killing me. Is this a kind of right of passage DBAs go through just to do some REAL learning upon landing an entry level job or am I just screwed?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I graduated in 2005 with a B.S. in Info BS and my first job was a QA with the added bonus of light DBA type work (operating system installation, Oracle product installation, restores/backups, later VMs). Specifically, Oracle 9i as the sysadmins and developers didn’t want to touch it. I had done almost nothing with databases (save Access 2000) in either my associates (networking) or bachelors, so I found Oracle daunting and completely understand where you are coming from. I can tell you after working with SQL Server primarily since 2008 (including a stint as a database developer) there were so many things that made more sense about Oracle vs SQL 2000 (although things have gotten much better in SQL 2005/8). I can also tell you if you can stick it out with Oracle products in a couple years with adequate experience you can make bank like you wouldn’t believe. My company is a MSFT shop (unfortunately) but the accountants use Oracle Financials. I was told by the now previous NOC DBA they were looking to hire someone who had the skills to manage our limited Oracle footprint (inc the servers), write reports, manage whatever goes on with Oracle financials and be available to support the system in a disaster recovery situation… in other words hire one good perm person to do the jobs of two to three [reasonably competent] contractors. They heavily scrutinized several candidates and made an offer to the only one they liked and had all of the skills for $150K to start (plus bennies), and he turned it down because it wasn’t enough (this is Western PA btw where that’s a nice amount of money, not NYC). They ended up bringing in contractors. I’m happy with my job but part of me wishes I had gone down the straight DBA path years back instead of SQL Server dev and .NET.

        • 0 avatar
          mcarr

          I started out in Oracle many years ago, and was actually an Oracle certified DBA. Have been working with SQL Server primarily now for 12 years. Did a stint as a SQL dev/.NET guy for a few years, but now back in the admin role.

          @reclusive_in_nature, there is certainly a disconnect between learning about Oracle in a book and actually doing it for work. When you get your first job, a lot of what you’ve tested for and read about will start to click. Out of the work context, though, a lot of it just doesn’t make sense. I remember feeling the same way.

  • avatar
    Yoss

    “I’m a graphic designer.”

    -”Really? So is my nephew/my cousin/my daughter/my dog.”

    “Cool. What kind of work do they do?”

    -”Well, they’ve never actually worked as designers, they just took a couple classes years ago/know how to fix red eye on photos.”

    “Oh….”

    • 0 avatar

      People must think “graphic designer” is just that simple. I like playing with Photoshop, sure. But designing from the ground up like some of you guys do is beyond me. I have a friend in it (no really– it’s his actual job, not red-eye correction) and it’s just amazing. Making cartoons from scratch and everything.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Yup. Graphic design is definitely one of those jobs that seems simple until you actually try to do it, web design is much the same. It is the ultimate synergy of left and right brains which most people are incapable of tapping into in equal measure.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Like ‘computer systems consultant’

      I was at a party some years ago where almost everyone was carrying a ‘computer systems consultant’ card.

      Yeah.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I think engineer carries a lot of preconceived notions.

    • 0 avatar
      TheAnswerIsPolara

      My uncle got that question a lot. They would ask him what he did for a living. He’d say, “engineer”. They’d follow up with, “Electrical or Mechanical?”. He responded with, “No”, and hold his hand up to grip an imaginary horn and say, “Choo Choooooooo” and watch their eyes…

      He retired as a Locomotive Engineer with Santa Fe.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      When someone tells me that they’re an engineer, I often respond with, “It must be hard driving those trains all day.”

      You’d be amazed by how many aren’t sure if I’m serious. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be, because: engineers.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Haha, when people ask me if I like driving the train, I typically try and come up with a witty/comical response.

        In general, if someone asks me what I do, I say “structural engineer.” Most people know what a structure is to a sufficient degree that I don’t have to expand, unless they specifically ask for more details.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Unless they try to be funny by asking if it takes a couple to make a moment….

        • 0 avatar
          Wscott97

          Try being a civil engineer. Most people have no clue on that that is. Then I’ll tell them I design streets.
          Sure enough, Every time I’ll get the response, So you’re the one I can blame for the freeways? The answer is always NO, THAT’S CALTRANS.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Thats why I dont tell people I am a civil engineer, even though that is what my degree says. I only do structures.

  • avatar

    I’ve done my share of fast food, student paper in a community college, “glassware technician” at an environmental lab (over-glorified dish washer, but working with nitric acid was interesting), and even scrubbing vaulted toilets for a local reservoir over the summer (even got to help put out a 3 1/2 acre grass fire, which even necessitated aerial retardant drops). I’ve done some content writing online, and have made my mark (small as it is) with my Toyota Echo through whatever means I can. That car has put me in a couple very interesting job interview situations over the years.

    Really my experience goes unnoticed even by me, until of course it comes up in a conversation. I used to study reptiles, whales, have some knowledge of trains, and geology. Nothing spectacular, but I hold my own. If it’s not me, it’s someone I know that could be brought up.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Well, I’m a mechanic, but I spent a large time in college, so I’m not like the stereotype, as negative as it usually is, “mechanic”.

    So, with my ex, her mother-doctor and doctor friends, it was nothing really to be looked upon greatly. Most were like “Really?” probably followed by “eeeww” in their minds. She was into politics herself, worked for a lobbyist, so I got dragged around to some pretty high profile stuff. Stuff put on by Nancy Pelosi in the national capital with the young campus progressives. I pretty much stayed silent at these things, in total aw of how stupid these people were and listened as they plot to pretty much enslave the working class and people like myself. Seriously, these people were so out of touch with reality in general, there was just absolutely nothing to even say so I stayed anti-social and tried to enjoy the free food and spirits provided.

    The Next one though. Her family knows what work is, and their carpenters/mechanics; typical working class people. Same with her friends. So I get asked a lot of questions, and because I work on large trucks, and it’s hard to answer many of them. Still, people generally find it interesting, and especially when her friends come over, they see the house, the cars; they’re pretty taken a back.

    I hang out with a guy from work sometimes. His wife is uppity business world kind of deal. So it’s him, and me and my wife (she’s a HVAC tech) hanging out, and his wife and her friends hanging out. We might say like 2 sentences across the two different groups. VAST difference. He can’t stand most of her friends and I feel his pain.

    I’m proud of what I can do. Despite fitting in the “college educated” circle, I have a vast understanding and skills far beyond many of those people. Quite honestly, it’s usually me looking down upon their dumbasses. I generally just stick to the “working class” folks though. Far more fun and pleasant, and I just fit in there better.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      I have the opposite problem.

      I’m an NCO in the military, and even in the more technical or white collar career fields, the USAF crowd is definitely toward the blue collar working class end in tastes, interests, and just the way people in general relate to one another.

      My wife works in education, and her family is from a firmly upper-middle-class background. College executives, attorneys, professors, judges, diplomats. Our social circle ends up being a mix of educators, professionals and management types. I don’t get strange looks for my love of craft beer. I don’t get blank stares when I talk about going to see stage productions. And nobody ever mentions UFC. And, at the very least, if I profess my sincere disinterest in football, or my disbelief in Jesus, Joseph Smith, Jahweh, whomever, I’m not treated to shocked stares as if I grew an NBC peacock tail mid-sentence.

      Social class is an interesting thing – money has some (small) influence, as does occupation (somewhat more), but in the end, most of us are most comfortable with our own crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’d add education to your list of factors, with money and occupation. I find myself having less and less in common with people who don’t have an approximate similar education level.

        It’s like parents>money>education>occupation>money

        • 0 avatar
          AMC_CJ

          I would consider myself to be fairly well educated, which is a bit unusual for my field (although half of the education was for my field, the other was business).

          But I find myself with little in common with fellow college graduates. While going to college I was working as a mechanic at various places. Usually little crappy shops alongside ex-criminals, druggies, etc.

          It’s hard to describe. I just find a lot of what they say to be utter nonsense, if not borderline idiotic. Especially the younger ones in our age bracket. They just don’t seem to be grounded really well in reality itself, and much of their ideals, beliefs, are such nonsense and trivial. I mean, the “college people” really seem to get hung up on the most trivial stupid nonsense.

          The “other people”. We talk about fixing up or restoring cars. We talk about our homes, share ideas on how to fix stuff, build stuff, etc. Everything is just really grounded, informative.

          I have both backgrounds. I’m actually a rare oddity, in my field, and in my educational background. Keeps things interesting.

          • 0 avatar
            afflo

            http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/sensing-or-intuition.asp

            It sounds like you have a strong “S” (Sensing) personality and find the “N” (Intuitive) personality types irritating.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I recall from a Sociology elective in college that most can step up or down one level with reasonable comfort, but beyond that most people are rather uncomfortable with people that vary greatly to their own background, exposure, and education. I agree that money can play a part, but not always. One of my best friends in college seemed to have a lot in common with me; imagine my surprise when I found out that her father worked in the FX Matts brewery. Because of her parents push to expose their daughter to musical instruments, travel, literature, etc, she was remarkably well rounded. She did say her parents sacrificed quite a bit for her, and it certainly showed.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think it is like anything – it is REALLY hard to be all that enthusiastic about what you do all day. So most cars salespeople are just not all that into cars. Similarly, I am an enterprise computer consultant, the very LAST thing I want to talk about when I am not being paid to do so is computers – I don’t even play computer games! And just like with cars, if people think you deal with them for a living, you should be able to help them with whatever weird issue they are having. I have all but nothing to do with desktop computers in my professional career – I’m just an end user, just like they are. And I know LESS than they do about tablets.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      This is true. Generally speaking what you love (music, cars, computers, art, photography) should NOT be your job. Why kill the fun of something you enjoy by making it a daily grind.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    I usually say I’m in adult entertainment.

    I like the reaction…

  • avatar
    Garagezone

    Damned funny scene from “Used Cars” !

  • avatar
    slow kills

    If I want to be unassuming, I say I’m a drafter. If I need respectability, I’m an engineer. To sound interesting, I’m a designer.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I work at an insurance company. But I do things which most people aren’t aware of unless they work in the industry.

    So I say, “I work at an insurance company.”

    Usually that gets one of three responses here lately:
    “Oh, so you’re a salesman?”
    “Obama ruined your company/job right?”
    “So health insurance right? It’s expensive.”

    My answers are always:
    “No.”
    “Nothing. We don’t sell any health.”
    “No, only life insurance.”

    Then they ask me about what I do (reinsurance). I explain it, and they pretend to be interested. By that time someone’s introduced a different topic, or I can go into my time teaching in South Korea. That one’s a better topic and gets a better audience response.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I’ve worn a few different hats. I did what is more or less a junior college’s equivalent of a science diploma, a failed semester in mechanical engineering, a diploma in auto mechanics (although it was never my intention to go on to doing the apprenticeship), a bicycle tour guide and general construction labourer in France and Switzerland, a technical data controller for a jet engine MRO where I wrote reports and did physical inspections of CFM-56 and CF-34 engines, and did part-time work parking cars, fixing and selling bicycles, and working in a clothing warehouse.

    In terms of perceptions, all of that goes out the window when I tell people I’m currently working as a flight attendant (while working part-time on a B.Comm). The fact that I drive a Miata furthers the stereotype (at least until I mention the track time and having done some suspension mods myself), but the benefits and quality of life currently make it worth it. Ironically, I’d be ready for a new challenge, but I earn more money doing this than some of the junior aerospace engineers I used to work with did, with a better pension and far fewer working hours. To everyone else, though, I still just pour coffee for a living.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I. LOVE. THAT. CLIP.

    My best friend has an actual, no-bullshit, Kurt Russell-autographed VHS copy of that movie in a place of honor on his mantle, next to his homemade Jobu doll.

    Back on topic, I occasionally get calls from the local police benevolent association, asking for donations.

    I tell them, quote verbatim, that if they need cash, they should take it out of that revenue scam they call traffic enforcement.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If people didn’t have questions about their cars or their finances, I would be completely useless.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Awesome, Steve. If I want to talk about the legal system: “He’s a retired prison guard.” If I want to talk about everything else: “He started as a teacher, then worked for Caltrans.”

  • avatar
    Bark M.

    Being a musician is particularly annoying. Everybody plays an instrument. Everybody was in high school band. Everybody asks if you have your instrument with you. Everybody asks if you’ll play their weddings for free.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I spent 22 on the floor,and 14 years on the docks at GM, as an hourly worker. My wife worked her way up from teller,to upper middle management at a bank.

    My mother,may she rest in peace, taught me to read long before I went to school. I developed a life long passion for reading. In conversation, I can hold my own in any socio economic group. However I feel the most comfortable with my own people.

    I watched many, highly educated,very smart young management people, come to the production floor,and get destroyed. Chewed up by the hourly,and then spit out.

    They all made the same mistake. They talked down to people.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I work in retail. It’s hell on Earth and I wish I could burn the building down.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    This is always a tough one for me. I design computer data center networks which is a difficult job to describe. Telling people I work in “technology” is too general, saying I work on “the cloud” sounds douchey, and if I tell them I work in “IT” they want me to fix their iPhone so no easy answers for me either.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    “So whadayado?”

    “I’m an AME”

    “What the blue f*** is an AME?”

    “Aircraft maintenance engineer”. (That’s what they call aircraft mechanics in Canada and Europe to keep them from quitting over the low pay-vs.-responsibility ratio).

    “uh, ok, but what does that mean?”

    “I fix whatever the pilots break.”

    At this point the conversation is usually over.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Not for me.. I love hearing stories my uncle would tell about being an AME for Northwest for 30 plus years.. One being about a shift supervisor needing to turn around a DC-9. It was not a heavy duty check but for reasons unknown at the time, the supe wants to flip this plane as quickly as possible. He orders the techs to move it. They say they cannot, and request help from a tow. The supe pushes the issue and they go to move the plane and one of the wings rips thru a smaller plane next to it. Oops.. Both planes out of commission and there is a lot of explaining to do.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I admit it. I worked in the adult industry. Not what you think. I managed a store that sold only adult oriented items. Many, many funny stories from that job. I didn’t care what people thought when they asked me, it was temporary and I was doing what I had to do. I moved on to bigger and better things eventually.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. During the day, I earn money by doing IT which includes pretty much everything for a non-profit. Although we do use the services of an outside vendor for large projects. People think I know everything about computers, but they soon find out that I dislike iDevices greatly and to quit bothering me with questions about their home PCs.

    During non-work hours, I DIY pretty much everything with rare exceptions if it’s something I’m not comfortable with or when I think of potential consequences of screwing something up like a timing belt job on an interference engine.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    This is Sanman, he is a psychologist…

    1. “OMG, are you analyzing me?”

    “No, I just met you and I don’t really care to put in the effort. Besides, I am enjoying my beer/wine”

    2. “OMG, can you analyze me/my mom/dad/sister/brother/etc.”

    “Do I show up at your job and ask for free stuff?”

    3. “I was a psychology major in college.”

    “Me too. I liked it so much I spent another 6 years studying it.”

    4. “Are you psychic?”

    “Yes, right now I am sensing you are stupid.”


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