You had ONE job

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The phrase “You had ONE job” was a popular term and internet meme a few years ago.

The premise was simple; any given person, usually a person of authority, had a single area of responsibility, yet somehow neglected that one, central, basic and most crucial obligation.

If you think about it, no matter how complex or multi-faceted our roles or workday might be, reduced to its most basic points, we really just have one “job” to do.

As a mother or father, manager, employee, president or even something as generic as neighbor or citizen, or any other role or occupation, we actually just have one “job”.

A “one job” might be implied or assumed.

A citizen’s “one job” for example is to insure that all rights and responsibilities of citizenship are applied and available equally to all other citizens.

Some even have this “one job” posted prominently.

Police, for example, in many communities, have the phrase “Protect and serve” on their vehicles and office walls. Beyond all the intricacies and complications, that is their one job.

If you have been operating under the assumption that police are legally bound to protect us from danger (as I mostly have) take a listen to this portrayal of a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and came to the conclusion that law enforcement officers have “no special duty” to intervene when we most need them.

Military and political representatives take a public vow that sums up their new roles in just a few key principles.

As I mentioned, each role has its own central job (caring for the needs of children, for example), but each role might have its own fine-tuning under different conditions, seasons or times of day.

For example, for most of us, in the middle of the night, our one job is to sleep: not to worry about what might happen the next day or re-play the decisions and interactions of the day just ended.

This is basic “sleep hygiene” – but the idea is to stick to the “one job” of getting rest – at the obvious exclusion of any other intruding and distracting thoughts.

Any given topic or situation (or interaction) requires single-minded focus.

Our failure to do our “one job” is almost always the failure of the entire project.

We see this principle at work at every level, from elementary school student to president.

A priest, a Rabbi and an atheist walk into a bar. One of them says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

It’s a familiar set up for a joke. We all have solid, if not rigid, expectations about the predictable behavior and beliefs of certain categories of people. They each have “one job” – and we expect them to uphold and fulfill it. And when, they don’t or we believe that they don’t, we won’t let them forget it.

For whatever reason, we in Tacoma-Pierce County have a long history of elected (and non-elected) officials losing their focus on their “one job”. From George Janovich to David Brame, we’ve had major law enforcement officials who lost track of their “one job”.

Several years ago I saw our then-city manager at night in a sports car with the top down driving erratically. It was obvious that he had been drinking. And it was at least as obvious that he was operating under the assumption that any policeman who pulled him over would be looking for a new job the next day.

To put it mildly, he was not focused on his “one job”.

“The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.” – Mark Twain

Yet another law enforcement official from Pierce County has dominated the news cycle recently for his not paying dedicated attention to his “one job”.

If you have not followed the story, the plot line is very simple – our Pierce County Sheriff, Ed Troyer, had a career-defining showdown with his local newspaper delivery man.

That one sentence sums up the surreal nature and cascading complications that can emerge when that “one job” gets overlooked.

If, a year or two ago, someone had proposed such a ludicrous plot line to a cop show on television, no one would have believed it even remotely possible.

But in the muddled, middle-of-the-night always-surreal world of Tacoma – especially with the added drama of a person of color in an essentially all-white neighborhood, you have the perfect recipe for the not-quite-believable that passes for reality for some of us in Tacoma.

The man delivering newspapers, by all accounts, was fully focused on his “one job” – which he had been doing for an extended time, and continued to do long after this particular encounter.

But our sheriff? He was looking out the window, jumping in his truck, following and finally trapping the newspaper delivery man. And calling the police.

You don’t need to be a detective, or even a newspaper subscriber to know that newspapers are delivered on a regular basis – every day in fact, in almost every neighborhood. Looking out the window (and leaving the newspaper delivery to the professionals) should, under normal circumstances have been adequate. Two or three minutes of observation would have confirmed the obvious.

The papers, by the way, don’t deliver themselves and some delivery people, like this one apparently, have more than one route so early in the morning delivery is a necessity.

By the way, what is the “one job” most of us who are not delivering newspapers or some other essential but largely invisible work, should have at around 2 am?

How about sleeping?

Finding that ONE thing

Many movies are about finding that ONE person. But it is far more important to find that ONE thing.

When you find that one thing that fulfills you and leaves you satisfied, that work you would do, paid or not, you just know.

When it comes to finding that one thing, it can come quickly or take many years – and you won’t know until you experience it.

But you’ll know.