I was recently reminded by one of my coworkers that a subtle class system still exists in the North American corporate culture. It was rather harsh too, it hurt my feelings. Someone from our vast customer relations department went out of their way to put me in my place in front of some of the other employees for a reason I still don't totally understand. They told me my call volume was not satisfactory and I had better do something about it. It really blindsided me and came out of nowhere, because my direct supervisor has never said anything to me about that. Maybe I misunderstood it, and it was meant as a joke, but the tone was definitely condescending and demeaning.
It reminded me of other times when I have been put in my place by other people in a perceived different "caste" than me. I've worked in quite a few jobs where I was on the periphery of going between the divisions of "office" and "labor". I was a mailroom employee for awhile, and did data entry in a manufacturing plant, and other jobs where I moved in and out of the office and plant or warehouse. I had what I thought were friends in the offices, people that would joke with me, and we seemed to be close, but time and time again I would be reminded that I was to remember my place as lower on the corporate food chain. Most of the time it would come indirectly, like being told through my superior that I should limit my time in certain areas of the office, or that it was ok to get a cup of coffee from the office, but don't abuse it by going too often. The most incredible one had to do with not being told by a member of management not to approach another coworker to borrow a couple bucks, after I had lent them money on several occasions and gave them rides home when their car was broke down.
I always thought these sorts of degrading episodes would stop after I got older, more educated, or simply became wiser in the ways of the world. This episode lately involved a very educated man that I had worked closely with. I really thought we were friends. I really thought he would speak to me privately before putting me down publicly. I guess the only worldly wisdom I'll attain is to remember that mid-level bureaucrats will only be your friend when it's convenient.
It's always a shock when you are growing up in America, and are told these ideals that everybody is equal, and that no one person is better than the other, and other working class beliefs, and then to run head on into a wall of class divisions and prejudice. Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had been brought up knowing that other people would actively put me in my place, and that the classes are actually divided, at least then I would not keep trying to make friends with people that will not respect me as an equal.