Sunday, August 24, 2003

The snobberies of Cathy Sherry

Fellow lawyer/writer Cathy Sherry sure knows how to throw an almighty tantrum on the job front (me, I’d be happy with any vaguely appropriate work, part-time or full-time, anywhere in Australia, and many other counties besides). But that’s the difference between Cathy and me – she wants a decent part-time (only) job (and not in the outré precedents section of law firm, mind), and she wants it now.

Happily, this shocking waste of Cathy’s skills (a situation which she implies can only happen to women, and further, only to those women who chose to have children) has now been remedied. Cathy and her crew have packed up from the big smoke, and made the move to the commuting-distance hinterland. An apparent (and unexpected) lawyer shortage in her adopted town has meant that she has had no trouble finding part-time legal work locally. She doesn’t, however, specify the all-important degree of prestige of her new job; very probably this is because the lot of a typical country solicitor makes the precedents section of a big law firm (smaller firms don’t have them at all) look positively “LA Law”-ish.

Anyway, enough of Cathy’s workplace petty snobbery – and on to her visceral hatred of snobby professionals who dare to be particular about . . . the suburb they buy their first home in. Cathy is, in fact, so worked up about this issue that she has written largely the same article about the topic twice so far this year. Obviously her legal work is not the only thing she is highly particular about; as a freelance writer, she seems to turn down any job that doesn’t involve (i) the said snobby-when-it-comes-to-real-estate professionals, or (ii) her own chi-chi, new work/home balanced lifestyle.

As to the substance of Cathy’s accusations, of course, she does have some valid points. There are plenty of suburbs where house prices are far below the sky-high median prices for Melbourne and Sydney. Suburbs usually far from the CBDs where most professionals work. But hey, what’s an extra two hours of commuting each day, when you’re only working 60-70 hours a week*, and getting paid less, per hour than your secretary? Such a suburb’s crime-ridden-by-night streets might not be the most welcoming thing to come straight home to at 11pm, after a 16 hour day – but if you’re a professional living in such a place, it’s guaranteed that there wouldn’t be any local venues where you would be comfortable, or even welcome, in having a late-night drink to unwind. Which means that if you wanted to unwind with a coupla drinks, you’d need to do it back in town. And getting the last train back to your outer suburb – well, that’s an experience that’s going to relax you, good and proper, before you get up for work again in five hours time! So you could alternatively cab it – oh how plentiful cabs are in the CBD at that time of night (and a 30 km fare is nothing, either) – or drive your (embarassingly old) car in, pay a fortune to park it during the day, have to nick out at eight to move it before that car park locks up, etc.

So, Cathy Sherry, you’re absolutely right – over-worked Gen X professionals are snobs, pure and simple. If only they could be more like you, they could live just about anywhere – it doesn’t really matter where you live, after all, when you’re always home by 5pm, ready for yet another Big Night In with the kids.

* I know this from personal experience, having worked at a large law firm, ostensibly as a solicitor, but in practise more a (cheap, as no overtime was payable) photocopying clerk.

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