In 1992, David Sedaris first read “Santaland Diaries,” the tale of the horrible time he had working as a Macy’s elf. The story includes him recounting an awful customer threatening to have him fired, which he imagines responding to by saying, “I’m going to have you killed.” That was the ‘90s, though, and Sedaris is no longer a lowly department store elf. He’s now a rich guy who would like to be able to fire people who, like his younger self, did not do their jobs to the satisfaction of angry customers.
Sedaris’ crummy new story debuted on CBS Sunday Morning in both text and video. We recommend the former option to anyone who generally likes Sedaris’ work and would prefer to pretend that his choice of excerpt from new collection The Best Of Me was written by someone else. The story is simple: “During this difﬁcult time when so many Americas are looking for work, I’d like introduce an idea for something I’m calling the ‘citizen’s dismissal,’” Sedaris begins. “It’s like a citizen’s arrest, but instead of detaining someone, you get to ﬁre them!”
He describes situations like a lifeguard who ended her shift at a swimming pool early because she needed to do laundry at her parents’ house and a cashier who didn’t have any “bubble wrap or bags” on hand after Sedaris “bought a number of very expensive cups and saucers.” The joke is that he thinks those who dislike the quality of a lowly-paid customer service worker’s efforts should be able to fire them from their job. Then, he says, the “go-getters” could have their jobs instead.
The story is a joke, of course, but it’s also just not a very good joke—the sort of material usually written by people who’ve never worked demeaning minimum wage gigs where customers yell at them all day—and one that just kind of fizzles out into a not particularly funny complaint. That it was used as a book promotion toward the end of particularly difficult year for people who have to actively risk death to earn less-than-subsistence-level pay only adds to how bizarrely ill-considered it all is.
If we’re all potential book customers, maybe we should just ask for this story to be fired from Sedaris’ repertoire.
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