Friday, June 19, 2009

An Ability I Wish I Had

The renovations on my condo are well under way. The contractor and his workers are in there ripping stuff out and preparing to install all the new things I bought. Watching these guys rip stuff out and make repairs makes me wish I knew how to do stuff like that.

I can't build anything. I have absolutely no mechanical talents. These guys can do everything. They know how to do electical work, plumbing, carpentry, tile, everything. This man could literally build a house from the ground up if he wanted to. I can't do anything even close to as great as that.

I spent a little while just shooting the breeze with these guys today, and it's crazy how intellectually superior I am to them though. I mean, they have a hard time understanding even the simplest concepts. I have to make sure to use small, common words around them or else they won't understand me. However, they can look at my water heater for 2 seconds and tell me everything about how the pipes run through the house.

My contractor and his workers are all nice guys, but they all look at me like I'm a step above them in society. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable. For example, one of my neighbors is a girl that went to school with me. While I was outside talking to the workers, she came out of her condo to get into her car. She saw me, waved to me, and I waved back. After she drove off, the guys were talking about how "hot" she was, and how I'm the only one of all of them that has a chance with her. One guy even commented about how he should be a "doctor" like me so he could get girls like that. (I quickly corrected him saying I was a pharmacist. I don't like being called a doctor even if my abitrary doctor of pharmacy degree technically makes me one). The ironic thing, of course, is that I'm fairly certain that he gets way more woman than I do. Any amount is more than zero.

Since then, I've been thinking about how I often forget that not everyone can afford the things that I can. I bought a condo I didn't particularly like, so I hired a contractor, had him gut the place, and after they're done, I'll have basically a brand new place. A lot of people have trouble even affording a condo like this place originally was. My job enables me to have nicer things than most others. Why is that though? Why do I make more money doing what I do than the contractor and his workers do?

They can't do my job. Intellectually, it's way over their heads... and I don't even think my job is all that intellectually challenging. They wouldn't be able to handle the classes I had to take to get my degree. It's beyond their mental capacity. On the other hand, I could never do what they do. I just don't have the ability to build things. I've tried before. I just don't have that natural talent.

If neither one of us can do the other's job, then why do I get paid so much more than they do? What makes my job worth more money than their's? If anything, I would think that being able to build a house is a far more useful ability than knowing how to dispense drugs. Yet the world seems to think that because I went to school for so long, I deserve to be paid more. Are there really fewer people who could be pharmacists than can build a house from the ground up?

See... While going through these renovations, I think of how much easier my life would be if I could do this stuff my self. It would save me tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, it would be constantly useful. Knowing how to rebuild and repair things never loses its value. However, my pharmacy knowledge becomes completely useless to me the second I walk out of the pharmacy.

I guess that was my random thought for the day.


Anonymous said...

hmm.. i wouldnt assume that these guys are that low on the intellectual scale. they probably never challenged themselves to take the kinds of classes you took, but im sure they could if they wanted to. and you too could learn how to do the work they do. it's a matter of perspecctive

BlondeCPHT said...

well keep up the random thoughts of the day, I enjoy reading them, pharmacy related or not! :)

Anonymous said...

Mike, you crack me up sometimes. I don't know where you live dude, but around my parts, plumbers are getting paid $80/hr + parts + travel time for any job they do. Last I checked most retail pharmacists were getting fifty something + nothing! I stopped feeling bad for these guys a long time ago my friend. They set their own hours, turn down jobs they don't feel like doing if they have enough other work to do, etc.. Let alone that many of them have vacation homes in addition to their primary residences! You really have me wondering now though whether trade workers have a huge pay difference in other parts of the country than mine!

Pharmacy Mike said...

Sure... the electrician I hired charges $65/hour, which is more than I make. However, my salary is sort of guaranteed. I work 40 hours per week every week. I make $56/hr, and I also get benefits and vacation time.

I don't know too many plumbers that live luxuriously. The contractor I hired took the old dishwasher in my condo (I bought a new one) because he didn't own his own dishwasher. He thought the one that I didn't want was pretty decent, so he took it for his home.

His assistants are getting paid crap. One of them has to work a couple other jobs just to make ends meet. Granted, these guys aren't contractors. They're just hired help, but they're doing most of the dirty work.

Construction workers have useful skills that I do not, but I get paid way more than your average construction worker.

What is my salary for? What skillset do I have? How do I actually benefit the world being a pharmacist? I hand out drugs all day. That's my job. Most of the people don't even need the drugs they're getting. That's the sad part.

Yes, some electricians and plumbers do pretty well for themselves if they own their own businesses. However, it's not like your average electrician and plumber is making anywhere near $115,000/yr.

The Ole' Apothecary said...

Mike, I have enormous respect for SKILLS, from whatever source derived. I may have skills, but there are a lot of skills that I do not have, and that others do. I think those with mechanical or construction skills have precious gifts. I believe that such skills do have an intellectual basis, maybe a kind of thinking different from mine, but still precious, and powerful. Yes, some of these folks speak with double negatives, and I don't, but my correct English won't replace the head gasket on my car, or install a new part in my apartment air conditioner, but these folks can.

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in a book I read about on (, "Shop Class as Soulcraft: an Inquire into the value of work" by Matthew B. Crawford.

Pharmacy Mike said...

I read that article at the link you provided. That is pretty much exactly what I'm talking about.

I kind of got off track mentioning the money aspect in my post. It's not so much the money but the difference in respect that irks me. These guys can fix or build anything in a house. However, if you polled 1,000 people, pharmacists would be overwhelmingly more respected.

Like I said... I'm not even sure if I have any skills. Whatever job skills I have aren't applicable to anything else. If community pharmacy was wiped off the planet tomorrow, there would be nothing I could step in and do without months or years of training.

The ability to build things, on the other hand, never loses its value. Every single day all of us benefit from something that someone built. We all live in houses, apartments, and condos that were at one time built from the ground up. The electricity in our homes was wired by electricians. All this stuff is used every day, and it's stuff we can't go without.

People can make do without pharmacy quite well though. Hell, I haven't had a prescription filled for myself in almost 10 years.

It's just kind of a jolt to your system when you realize that your job is sort of pointless.

Anonymous said...

As usual, enjoy reading this perspective. I wonder, though, had the long road to pharmacy school been taken, whether it would lead to such a sense of lack of general skills. If a pharmacy student of an earlier era when there wasn't such a frantic competition to enter pharmacy school, by studying all the time in high school, for example lead to more familiarity with manual labor. But, it is an interesting speculation about the job of a pharmacist. We close the door and the job is done for the day,

In a solo setting, pharmacists must be able to do everything quickly, but I wonder sometimes how easy it would be for a physically disabled pharmacist to find a job in a pharmacy. I have heard of blind psychiatrists, and know of pharmacists with artificial limbs, but what does a pharmacist do when they lose their mind, ability to plan and organize?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I don't know why anyone has pointed this out yet.

You have a female NEIGHBOR who other guys consider HOT. In other words, you have a HOT NEIGHBOR and she also waved at you. Man, this is prime opportunity. Why don't you knock on her door and see what's been happening with her since you last saw her. See where that takes you from there.

Pharmacy Mike said...

She's not THAT hot.

And it would go nowhere. We're most certainly not each other's type.

Brother Frankie said...

i would suggest you invite the girl over to show her the new apartment!!!

ask her to cook a meal with ya..

just a thought...

Brother Frankie
A Biker for Christ

Becky the Techie said...

It really is a perception thing. I think of it this way: In my current job, I work with pharmacists and other technicians, but wait on everyone from drug addicts, former convicts, and the homeless to highly paid doctors, lawyers, and business owners.

The ones that are pleasant to help and treat me, someone that in some cases is "above" them and in others is "beneath" them, like an actual human being? 90% of the time are the poor or darn close to it. Because of this, I often *distrust* a "rich" person just because so many of their fellows buy into this trick of perception that people with larger salaries are somehow "better". What makes them "better" by having money if their interpersonal skills are in the toilet?

And yet, in my last job I worked with professional actors. Many of them, when they aren't performing, wait tables, mow lawns/landscape, fix computers or even work retail. In that crowd, I was again "beneath" many of them because far fewer people actually *want* to build scenery, hang up lighting instruments, and make all of it work while the actors do their thing on stage. For every actor that had a friendly, welcoming attitude toward theater technicians, there were easily three that thought we were "beneath" them because we weren't *in* the spot light, we were just in charge of making "their" spotlight work on cue.

The assignment of "value" in these situations seems so arbitrary to me. As a blue collar worker, in either aforementioned profession, I don't like it. As a human being, I have the feeling I should be appalled.