Jean-Paul Villere: Well, well, well; the culture of ‘not my job’

Print More
A public phone stand lays damaged after an April 10 crash at Magazine and Napoleon. It's still there. ( file photo)

A public phone stand lays damaged after an April 10 crash at Magazine and Napoleon. It’s still there. ( file photo)

Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

How are you doing?”


“No, Superman does good; you’re doing well”

So goes the old exchange that quickly provides the context of good versus well, and how one should really use them properly.  Among the titles New Orleans carries, The City that Care Forgot remains very real despite the influx of the educated and employed.  And you can see it almost anywhere.

Just yesterday as I passed the Uptown / Lake corner of Magazine and Napoleon, right where there’s a field for Laurence Square, I noted a demolished collection of blue plastic shards and black and silver metal mangled, once a phone booth strewn across the city sidewalk but with a touch of caution tape and orange and white striped caution folding pylon, whatever you call those things.  And I just thought, “That’s ridiculous.”  At the center of a buzzing intersection in the shadow of open businesses, parks, schools, a library, and even a police precinct: this (dating back to April 10).

We can’t remove it proper or I’m too busy to really address this, goes the thought process, so we’ll just put a little flare on it so passersby will know this is here.  Really!?

When Coach Sean’s stern countenance was recently circulated in various media while absent from the Saints along with the words emblazoned “Do Your Job,” I always thought “Hey, that’s great. Almost.”  Whatever happened to qualifiers?  Why not just add ‘well’ there at the end.  Doing your job is one thing, but how are you doing it?  EnoughPerfectly?  How about just go with well?  Four little extra letters can go a long way.  Plus I think it better conveys the message intended.

I have a colleague a few years my senior I greatly admire who’s the bee’s knees at storytelling, including relaying the latest jokes he’s heard.  He’s dynamite, and he’s always got one more before he goes.  Once he showed me his business card, and on it he proudly pointed out it read “Serving clients well since – – – ” whatever year it was.  I laughed, and because I respect this man, I pointed out “Well, wait.  What did you do before that year?  Serve them poorly?”  He laughed, stammered, but that was that.  He got me, he gets it, and while he hasn’t changed his card, my point is taken.

Last week as I walked the 2500 block of Jena I noticed the unmistakable seasonal yellow flower petals strewn across the ground beneath an Entergy power pole.  They’d blossomed and were falling away to ground, the vine itself hugging the transformer with legs going in all directions.  In the morning sunlight it grabbed me visually so I snapped a pic of it and tweeted:

And do you know within a few hours someone from the Entergy media department called me to inquire where exactly my pic was taken so they may investigate it, see if it’s a hazard.  I was shocked that anyone official cared, but take note: she didn’t sound local.

Right now people, we’re serving our clients (read: ourselves) poorly.  Because there’s always a reason to do or not to do something.  And while people can rationalize anything, your job is still your job, and if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing well, yes?  With all this new blood pouring into the Crescent City, between the entrepreneurial set, Hollywood types, and medical practitioners, my hope is the ‘not my job’ culture can be fixed along with all the other deficiencies we too often mistake for charm or endearment.  But I’m not convinced.  Yet.  Maybe the media department at Entergy can help out, but then that isn’t their job.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

11 thoughts on “Jean-Paul Villere: Well, well, well; the culture of ‘not my job’

  1. I don’t believe the phone was actually still in service. I’m pretty sure the only payphone operator left in the city is Americoin. I’m guessing that it’s the city’s responsibility to remove the debris.

  2. Oh my … all the stories I could add to that one. Other than the crime, that’s the thing that bothers me most about New Orleans.

  3. Maybe I’m the odd man out, but for the dozen or so years I’ve lived in Carrollton, I’ve always been one to see a problem and just do something about it.

    Partly it’s frustration.

    Partly it’s a decade of being told ‘not my job’ by my city council rep and then the various city departments they usually pass the responsibility off on.

    But mainly it’s because I really like the satisfaction that comes from getting my hands dirty and creating something good out of something that should have never been allowed to get ‘bad’ in the first place.

    Walk around my neighbourhood and you’ll see random flower beds and plantings near intersections where constantly dead weeds once resided. You’ll see catch basins that are cleared or dug out around so that they can now work after years of dysfunction. You’ll see piles of weeds that once blocked sidewalks or intersections; and for that matter, you can see these things whilst walking down any of the many blocks of sidewalk I’ve dug out, or uncovered, or rebuilt, or in too many cases, reconstructed anew because adjacent property owners have stolen the bricks for use in their back yards.

    The sad part is though that I and the many others out there who do such work are very much the exception. Those of us who get our hands dirty making a difference in our neighbourhoods not only do it by ourselves and using our own money, but sweat and labour whilst being watched, stared at, driven past, or even cheered on by our many neighbours who such work is benefiting, and, who wouldn’t lift a finger to help if their lives depended on it.

    That’s the real frustration of this ‘not my job’ mentality. Certainly it’s true that decades of a population of locals with this mindset is in many ways the cause for our city getting into the poor shabby condition it’s in today. And yes, those who are still around generally aren’t going to get out there and help either. However, this is not just a problem of lazy locals.

    In fact, my own observations from interacting with people on the street whilst out toiling on my various projects, is that the ‘worst offenders’ are by and large newer residents and recent transplants. I say worst because they tend to be more attuned to recognising problems that need to be addressed simply due to their looking at things around them with fresh eyes. They also tend to find themselves frustrated by much of the illogical government ineptitude in addressing such things and are often the most vocal complaining and critical voices.

    The sad thing though is that they also tend to be the most likely to hide behind the curtains peeking out every so often to see if the neighbour outside THEIR house pulling THEIR weeds outside of ‘their’ sidewalk has moved on to the next property or not, lest there be some moral expectation of their coming out to help.

    In many cases I have found that a good chunk of New Orleans’ more recent additions see the problems, know the solutions, realise it’s just as much their job as it is anyone else’s, yet run like rats in a sinking ship rather than actually do their part.

    This sort of mentality is much worse than “it’s not my job” because this is really one that moves far beyond such laziness and into the realm of communal dishonestly — a dishonesty that manifests itself as “it is my job; I’m just not going to do it”.

  4. I agree. I’ve recently joined a chorus of people trying to get the Quad fields at City Park cleaned up. The dumpsters in the parking area are beyond disgusting, are infested with rats, and stink up the fields. It was like this last year as well. No one wants to take responsibility.

  5. Anyone who knows the difference between good and well should know the difference between lie and lay. Is copy editing anyone’s job?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *