Originally published 10/17/2007
Flying back home to Portland from the Delta, after King Biscuit. I break into song as everyone stands to get off the plane at the Portland Airport. It had been a long and difficult trip, although wonderful in many ways. We had gotten stuck overnight in Salt Lake City the night before, so it was good to finally make it back home. So I started singing out loud, a Ma Rainey tune. Taizz joined in. And a guy standing near us says, “Don’t quit your day job.”
“I don’t have a day job. I am a professional singer,” I told him. “Yes, he’s a national act,” Taizz said. The guy made some kind of little joke and skulked away from the conversation.
Maybe I should have explained to him that that is never a nice thing to say, regardless of whom he’s talking to. People think they’re being funny or at least cute when they say that. But they are actually quashing joy. Other similar, common, mean and joy-killing sayings: “There’s no (singing, dancing, laughing, other happy activity) allowed here!” “You two are having too much fun!” Maybe there are others but you get the idea. Such statements discourage fun, creativity, music and happiness. And reinforce conformity, dullness and dumbness. Of all of them, though, “Don’t quit your day job” is the worst. It tells you to be conformist, dull and dumb not just now, but for the rest of your life.
So let’s eliminate that phrase from our vocabularies. When you see someone laughing, singing, dancing or doing some other fun, creative activity, instead try one of these responses:
1) Compliment the person and suggest that he quit his day job.
2) Join in.
3) Quit your own day job – if you go around saying things like that, you’ve been at it way too long!