07 February 2011

Passion gap blues

Susan Erasmus doesn't think Checkers in Bloubergstrand has the right to tell their workers to get rid of their passion gaps.


Susan Erasmus doesn't think Checkers in Bloubergstrand has the right to tell their workers to get rid of their passion gaps.

But that is just what they did, in October last year. A notice was apparently put up telling people "to come to work with a full set of teeth, or show proof that they are planning to get false teeth if they are missing some."

Read the full article here.

Note to Checkers: this branch is in Cape Town. Here are more passion gaps than dust in a southeaster. I think it's time you made peace with it.

Let me spend a few minutes being reasonable, before I go off on a frothy. I do not think passion gaps are particularly attractive, and would not rush to the dentist to get one. I also think in our society they limit one's social mobility and work opportunities.

But hey, whatever happened to personal choice?

In Cape Town a passion gap is part of a rite of passage in certain social groups. No one can really give you a good reason for it, and the origins are lost in the mists of time. I suspect passion doesn't really come into it. (Missing teeth are, if anything, a serious kissing hazard, second only to metal braces. As this is a family website I shall not embroider on any further hazards).

When I was teaching in the 1980s on the Cape Flats, I remember that many kids went the passion gap route round about age 15 or 16. And if that's what they wanted, why ever not? I am so tired of people imposing their ideas on what others should look like, or do. Remember that each person sees himself  or herself as the norm – you included. So does the person with the passion gap.

OK, back to Checkers. I do not dispute that employers have a right to choose their employees. Employers know what the public face is of their businesses and choose people who fit that.  If these people had missing teeth when they were appointed, employers can hardly turn around later and make new demands. If a full set of teeth were a condition of employment, it should have been made clear at the outset.

False teeth are also enormously expensive, especially if you earn a labourer's wages, and nowhere did I see an offer from Checkers to foot the bill, so to speak.

While the Tygerberg dental school will no doubt be of assistance to  some people who have a dental crisis, I just can't see them providing false teeth for thousands of Capetonians. A passion gap is not a dental crisis.

There is no doubt that external factors do play a role in appointing staff.  Trendy restaurants do not appoint waiters of 60, newsreaders are usually attractive and you probably won't find an upmarket company whose receptionist has a passion gap.

But as far as can be ascertained, it seems as if the toothless 'offenders' at Checkers were cleaners and shelf-packers. How is a full set of teeth necessary to do that job well?

The supermarket's argument was that customers were unable to hear the answers when they were asked what the price of an item was. We are not talking cashiers here, who work directly with the public.

 If you take this to its logical conclusion, it means that all foreigners who speak with accents should be fired, as well as anyone with a speech impediment, or anyone who struggles with English as a second language. We have just managed to cut down the potential labour force in SA by 90%.

Well, if Mr Kunene can adopt the slogan of "One Comrade, one California Roll", I suggest the workers of Cape Town adopt the following: "One packer, one passion gap".

Dis lekka innie Kaap!

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, February 2011)


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