Lester Freamon — the “wise old cop” in The Wire — is one of my favorite characters of all time. One of the roles he plays in the structure of the show is to remind the other characters (and the audience) that the job they’re doing is important, and they have a responsibility to do it right.
This is especially clear in the first season, when they’re setting up the wiretap that gives the show its name. Throughout the drawn-out process of getting the administrative and legal clearance to set up the wire and actually monitor the calls, Freamon is the one advocating for doing things by the book.
One of the rules is that they can’t legally monitor the calls unless they know one of their targets is using the phone. So in order to listen to the calls, they need somebody on the roof nearby to confirm who is talking. When Herc, one of the younger cops starts complaining about spending hours on the roof of a building waiting for drug dealers to make phone calls, Freamon cuts him off:
“Detective, this right here, this is the job. Now, when you came downtown, what kind of work were you expecting?”
I love that line. I think about it every time I’m sitting around with a bunch of designers and we end up complaining about everything we have to put up with to do our jobs. Whether it’s implementation issues, software annoyances, client headaches, or just putting in long hours, we all sound like Herc sometimes. “More bullshit,” we complain.
That’s when I hear Lester Freamon’s voice in my head. “This right here, this is the job. What kind of work were you expecting?”