A Cashier with a Master’s Degree

A couple of days ago, I swung by Kroger after a full day of classes to pick up some items. 

On checking out, the cashier,  a Nepali man, commented that I was out early from work. 

“Oh, my classes are over,” I replied.

Then he asked how far away I was from finishing school, which I corrected that I wasn’t a student but a teacher in a community college.  That’s when he said, “I have a Master’s in Law from SMU.  What classes do you need to teach in a community college?”

It was an awkward moment.  Here I was, in my ninth year of teaching English on the community college level; and here was my cashier, whom I’ve seen working at Kroger for several years, holding a degree that he can’t use.  I gave a short explanation of having a degree in the teaching discipline, including 18 graduate hours in that discipline.  And my cashier realized that no two-year college offers Law and thus, unless he went back to school, he would remain an over-qualified grocery store cashier.

“They hire what’s in demand,” I commented apologetically.  An odd sense of  — I dunno, survivor’s guilt? — washed over me, knowing how fortunate I am to 1) hold a degree in a field that is *always* in demand, on *any* level, K-16, and 2) thus, have a job in that field with a good salary and bennies, even in this crappy economy. 

And the sad part is that my cashier’s not the only one.  I know far too many people who did the right thing: excelled in school, went to college, finished with a degree — or even several degrees — and began looking for that job in which they were educated in and trained for, only to face market-driven and government-driven obstacles to their aspirations.

“Have a good day,” he said, as I gathered up my bagged groceries.

“You, too,” I said.  And I really hope he did.

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This entry was posted in EDUCATION, History & Currents Events, LQ POV, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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