A friend who’s a contractor told me about an interesting question he poses to anyone who wants to work on his crew. Before getting into their qualifications, he asks them whether they mowed the lawn at the house they grew up in. Most of the time they say no, which indicates to him that they don’t have the discipline to do hour upon hour of manual labor, so the interview is over.

In my neighborhood, I never see a teenager mowing their parents’ lawn — it’s all done by landscaping companies. Not only that, but in the 20 years we’ve lived in our house, I can remember only one occasion when a couple of teenagers knocked on the door to offer to shovel the snow off our sidewalk. Granted, we don’t get a lot of snow in the St. Louis area, but when we got nearly a foot of the white stuff a few weeks ago, my daughter and I got out there and spent nearly an hour clearing it from our driveway. In that time, not one single kid from our mostly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood — or an adjoining one — came by to help dig us out and make a few dollars.

I have another friend who is a very conservative Republican. As long as we don’t talk politics, we get along fine. The other day, I asked him what’s up in his construction business, and he complained yet again about having trouble finding young men to work for him. He’s in employment mode a lot, because too often, he’ll hire someone, only to have them not show up the next day to start the job. No phone call, no excuse, just no-show.

I asked if it’s a salary question and he said no. He’s starting them at $15/hour and they can make more the longer they’re on the job. He’s got quite a few people on his crews who make pretty good money.

Now here’s the kicker about the guys who accept the job but then disappear: they have all been white. It’s not that he’s purposely avoiding hiring people of color, but that’s who comes to him from the job pool in his part of Missouri. He used to hire quite a few Mexicans, who were all very good workers, but he told me they aren’t around in large enough numbers anymore because of the crack down on immigrants by this White House.

That’s when, in the interest of our friendship, I had to squelch a gigantic laugh at the irony — since that’s the White House he voted for.