Misallocated resources

The Ex-Executive Assistant, a story published on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a limited number of installments
"The Ex-Executive Assistant" is a comedic story about a young man who loses both his job and his girlfriend on the same day.

Recap: Shep and Lyle are having dinner at a local restaurant. Lyle reveals to Shep that he wished he would have majored in English instead of journalism, because he always wanted to be a novelist. However, he pursued journalism because he thought it would give him more career options than an English degree. Now, he’s wondering what might have been had he opted to pursue English, instead. He also reveals that he wrote an entire novel in high school, but that he’s given up on his writing over the years. 

Shep cut into his carne asada burrito and took a large bite.

“Mmm,” he said, closing his eyes. “This burrito is awesome. I’m glad I ordered it. I almost went with the burger and fries, but I changed my mind at the last minute.”

Lyle frowned. “That’s crazy. Why go to a Mexican restaurant if you’re just going to order the burger and fries?”

“It’s on the menu.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t make sense. It’s like going to a steakhouse and ordering a salad.”

“I always order a salad when I go to a steakhouse. Meat’s too hard to digest.”

“Then why go to the steakhouse? Why not just go to a salad bar?”

“Who wants to eat at a dirty old salad bar? I hate buffet-style. People are always dropping the tongs in the food and poking their heads beneath the sneeze-guards. It’s disgusting.”

“But I wasn’t talking about salads. I’m talking about Mexican food. You can get a burger and fries anywhere, so why would you order them at a Mexican restaurant?”

“I didn’t order the burger and fries. I ordered the burrito.”

“Yeah, but you entertained the notion of ordering a burger and fries. You just said.”

“I entertain lots of notions. It doesn’t mean I always act on them.”

“But the mere fact that you entertained the notion concerns me.”

“Why should it concern you? I did the right thing in the end. Intentions mean nothing; actions mean everything. Right?”

Lyle picked at his taco with his fork. “Well … I guess so.”

“Of course they do.” Shep brushed his napkin across his mouth. “It’s not our intentions that shape our lives. It’s our actions.”

“Where’d you get that? Was that on one of those positive-thinking posters?”

“I made it up just now, if you can believe that.”

“It’s good. You should put it on Twitter.”

“Actually, I should put it on a positive-thinking poster. You know — sell it to a company that makes them. Then I could earn some money.”

“There you go. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit.”

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Given the right circumstances, I think I’d make a great businessman.”

“What are the right circumstances?”

“Being in the right business. One with a potential for success.”

Lyle grinned. “That would help.”

Step took another bite of burrito. “You know that last job you had?” he asked Lyle. “The executive-assistant thing?”

“Don’t remind me. I’ve been trying to put it behind me.”

“What’s that word you’re always using to describe how you felt there?”

“Miserable?”

“No.”

“Depressed?”

“No. Not that.”

“Suicidal?”

“No! It’s how you felt working there, given the fact that you had a journalism degree. Like you were a resource in the wrong place, or something.”

“Oh.” Lyle nodded. “Misallocated.”

“That’s it. Misallocated. Like, you were meant to be doing one thing, but because of the economy, you were doing something you didn’t particularly like.”

“Yeah. Because of the economy, I was in a job I wouldn’t normally be in. Like how there are baristas with master’s degrees, and college graduates flipping burgers. We’re all misallocated resources.”

“There’s a lot of that going on today, isn’t there?”

Lyle shrugged. “So I’ve read. College grads are taking jobs that normally would go to high-school graduates, and older people are taking jobs that normally would go to college grads, because older people tend to be more experienced and more reliable. It’s like no one in this economy is where they’re supposed to be. We’re all just shuffled around, scrambling for whatever jobs we can get.

“Which is really sad,” Lyle added, “because when you’re in a job that’s beneath you, you’re not living to your highest potential. It’s only when you’re growing and learning and gaining experience that your career can achieve its fullest expression.”

“Sort of like you answering phones when you were trained to write stories.”

“Pretty much. And more so for the college-educated engineer who’s handing out fries at the drive-through. Because he’s not employed in his profession, he’s not gaining the experience and knowledge he normally would. And because he’s not increasing his knowledge, he’s also not increasing his income potential. The more knowledge and experience you get, the more valuable you become. Only if you never get that knowledge and experience, then you never attain the value. Instead, you just stagnate, and whatever abilities you did have begin to atrophy.”

“Sort of like your ability to talk to women – since you haven’t been dating.”

“Let’s keep the focus on jobs. That topic’s depressing enough. If we get into my dating life, I’ll lose all hope.”

Shep grinned. “I see what you’re saying, though. People can’t find jobs in their field, so they’re taking whatever jobs they can. And when they do that, they’re living below their potential.”

“Exactly. They’re misallocated. Just like I was.” Lyle frowned. “Am.”

“You know,” Shep said, “I don’t have a college degree, but I feel like that, too. Misallocated, I mean.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I have all my life.”

“What’s your job?” Lyle asked. “You’ve still never told me.”

Shep sighed. “In the end, does it really matter? I mean, whether I’m stocking shelves in a supermarket or loading palettes in a warehouse, I’m still not doing what I really want to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Haven’t quite thought that part through.”

“It’s hard to achieve a goal when you don’t have one.”

“That’s what’s so frustrating. I have no idea what I want to do in life. All I know is I can’t stand what I’m doing.”

Lyle nodding, chewing his taco. “I think a lot of people feel that way.”

“You think so?”

“Of course.”

“I only ask because it seems like everyone I know has a goal. Including you.”

“I have a goal? I thought I gave up on goals a long time ago.”

“You know — working in the media.”

“Actually, that was never my goal. I just sort of fell into that career path when I got the journalism degree.”

“So what’s your goal, then? Writing?”

“It used to be — in a different time and a different place.”

“It’s not now?”

Lyle shrugged. “It doesn’t seem practical now. Very few people make it as writers. It’s a one-in-a-million shot.”

“One in a million? Are we talking about writing, or your odds of making it with a woman?”

Lyle glared. “I thought we agreed not to discuss my dating life.”

Author: Allen

I’m a humorist and fiction writer, as well as the author of two books. One is a collection of humor, and one is a collection of short stories. Both books are available on Amazon. I always wanted to write a comic strip, but I can’t draw. Not even a stick-person. So that’s why “The Lawn-Cutting Crew” is a comic strip without drawings. I hope you enjoy!

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