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.