There’s a scene in Big when Tom Hanks is sitting in on a development meeting at a toy company and is handed a robot that turns into a building. Which sounds boring, but to the company’s credit, it’s a really big building. According to the toy executive played by John Heard, the point is to collect all of the robots until you can build the city skyline. And this must sound really super fun to a guy like John Heard, a real early-80s rich prick who not only drives a car in Manhattan, but also has a special outfit for playing tennis.
Because Tom Hanks is actually a boy trapped in a grown man’s body, he gets his hands on the robot building, regards it disappointedly, and says, “I don’t get it.”
This and his childlike inability to describe exactly what he means by this make John Heard insane, because the robot building was his brainchild and who is Tom Hanks to tell him what kinds of toys aren’t going to sell?
Eventually, the toy company president (played by James Caan, who really is so much more effective when he’s being a murderous gangster) says “What don’t you get?”
Now, anyone who watches the movie understands that John Heard is an asshole and Tom Hanks is great. That’s the point. And even though when I was a child I wouldn’t have cared either way, now that I’m a grownup and think about it, yes, Tom Hanks was probably correct in that children would rather play with robot bugs or robot trucks than with robot buildings. I understand the scene and the movie, but I have to say….I sort of sympathize with John Heard.
This is a guy in his mid- to late-30s who went to college, got a job, and for years he worked hard, worked long, and kissed ass to get that manager’s job. And now some goofy moron with the mental capacity of an 11-year-old is making everybody lose their minds because he doesn’t get it. In John Heard’s world, there is no “I don’t get it.” There is no excuse for not getting it, and no way anyone should admit as such. “I don’t get it” does not exist.
This is exactly how I feel at work.
If you’ve ever worked in any kind of phone or e-mail support, you know that a large portion of your job consists of tickets. A ticket is a request created for someone bigger to handle. It gets plugged into the system and assigned to wherever it needs to go. It’s actually a very simple process that almost anyone can handle. It’s like data entry. Type, send, goodbye.
Most of the ticketing portion of my job involves the company’s core business (which involves selling our primary product, which I’m not going to talk about because I’m not an idiot who wishes to be fired). Since the stuff I do involves the core business, the tickets I create get a lot of attention from both sides, the requestors and the handlers. I’m fine with this because I know how to do my job, and I know how to do my job because I am primarily motivated by three things:
1. Guilt. This is built into all Catholics, former or present, and most Jews, too, at least according to my Jewish friends, who say we’re very similar.
2. Dread. See above re: guilt, Catholics, Jews.
I feel guilty if I don’t do my job correctly, the thought of which causes me great dread because I fear that if I fuck something up, someone’s going to think I’m stupid. And I am not stupid. I might do stupid things sometimes, but my brain is a beautifully functioning machine with a high average IQ and a tendency to use curse words like commas. It takes effort to make it that way. I keep it working, I keep it doing, I keep it making decisions and thinking critically and not looking like a dumbass all the time because “I don’t get it” does not exist for me.
Which is why when the same people in my office make the same mistakes no matter how many times I tell them the same things, my inner John Heard wants to fly out screaming, and I look around for anyone who could play a kindly James Caan and ask “What don’t you get?”
I mean, how hard is it? Not at all, really. It’s incredibly easy if you used that part of your brain that makes you behave and say “thank you” and not masturbate in public whenever you feel like it. If you can act like a functioning member of society, you can do this job. When you don’t do this job – rather, when you don’t do it correctly – you’re not only making yourself look bad, but you’re making me look like a moron, too. And why? Seriously, please tell me, because this is the only reason I can say “I don’t get it” and get away with it right now. I’m beginning to think that you’re refusing to do things the right way, because there’s not even the remotest possibility that you still don’t understand the concept. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to bash my brains against a wall every single day, because I simply cannot make myself understand why anyone would desire to look so motherfucking stupid all of the goddamn time.
I don’t get it.
I DON’T GET IT.
And it’s your fault for making “I don’t get it” exist for me.