Tom Purcell, 5/8/2006 [Archive]

For Mother's Day - Hardest Job of Them All

The Hardest Job in the World

By Tom Purcell

'I've come to apply for the job.'

'You're aware that this isn't just any job, but the hardest job in the world?"

'That's right, and you're about to interview the best employee in the world."

'Let's start from the top then. Have you ever run a small manufacturing operation? Or do you have management skills in purchasing, inventory, budgeting, production and accounting?'

'No, but I sold hangers once as part of a Junior Achievement project.'

'I see. How are your people skills? Are you able to quickly assess people and determine their strengths and weaknesses? Are you able to quickly identify which people have our interests at heart and which intend us harm?'

'I took a psychology course in college once.'

'OK, then, how are you at managing disputes? There will be a lot of disputes in this job and resolving them requires excellent listening skills, comprehensive reasoning skills and the ability to enforce sound judgment.'

'Managing disputes? Well, I almost talked my way out of a parking ticket once, but that cop had it out for me.'

'Perhaps you have other skills that are mandatory for the hardest job in the world. How are your comedy skills? That is, how are you at encouraging laughter, one of the most important elements of this job?'

'Laughter? You mean like telling jokes? I know a good Irish joke about these two guys --'

'That won't be necessary. What about ethics and morals? Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong? Are you able to quickly determine the honest path in any situation? And do you have the ability to promote this knowledge as part of an extended development program?'

'Ethics and morals? Well, I got a C-plus once on a paper I wrote on Aristotle. Or was it Plato? I always confuse those two. Of course, it might have been that Ben Franklin paper and --'

'Let's just keep moving along. In this job, you will be facing unprecedented threats from outsiders. As a result of the Internet and mass media, there are many charlatans out there who hold evil intentions. Do you have the fortitude to fend off such threats?'

'Sure, if someone can help me determine what they are? I'm good with tasks once somebody helps me define them.'

'Oh, brother. There has to be some area where you excel. In this job you will have every one of your buttons pushed, but you must never lose your cool. Do you have extraordinary patience?'

'I waited nearly five minutes for a burger once before berating the counter lady.'

'Extraordinary. Let's talk then about your career aspirations. Where do you see yourself in five years?'

'I figure that once I show everyone how good I am at the hardest job in the world, I'll quickly move to the top of the ladder."

'But you cannot advance in this job. There is only one job level. You will never be promoted.'

'Never promoted? What kind of shift would I have to work?'

'Ah, excellent question. This job requires a 24-hour-a-day shift, seven days a week. There are no breaks.'

'No breaks! Let me get this straight. This job requires a high level of skills of every kind. It requires sound judgment and patience. It means never having the weekend off or even taking a break. Please tell me I'd get lots of assistants.'

'There are no assistants."

'Then surely this job pays a lot of dough?'

'Not a penny. People who hold this job work free.'


"Yes, free."

"What the heck kind of job is this anyway?'

'It's the job of mother, the hardest job in the world.'

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Contact him at

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