Friday Firesmith – Work

I grew up in a time where a man went to work, every day the doors opened, and short of there being a seven-foot-long rattlesnake attached to one of his legs, he was expected to do his job. His family came second, at best, and it was only through the cash flow from the company was he able to feed his children and keep his electricity on. Everyone worked for a living, and young men were expected to have jobs after school, and certainly during the summer between school years. I started working in the fields during the summer when I was fourteen. It wasn’t like anyone was doing anything else.

Nearly everyone in my father’s generation got a job, after high school or college, and they kept the same job until they reached retirement age, and then they got another job after that.

I took a job with the Georgia Department of Transportation in March of 1992. It was a temporary gig. I had fallen on hard times, and needed some money. Twenty-seven years later, I retired. Yeah, it really did happen that fast. I swear.

During that time, how people looked at their jobs evolved, and how companies looked at their workers did, too. Gone were the high paying jobs with great benefits, unless the employee had an advanced degree. People switched jobs, or were laid off, with more frequency. Meanwhile, in what I had always been told was one of the most secure environments in the world, the government job, they began to restructure what benefits employees received, and how much the employee had to contribute. As I began looking towards the door, new employees were not guaranteed a retirement.

The attitude of the people who trained me to build bridges and roads was one of “We are the last line of defense against bad workmanship and poor quality”, but the attitude of the new employees was, “We’re doing the same job you’re doing and we’re getting a hell of a lot less out of this.”

I’m not entirely certain how this is going to work out. But then again, when I was a part of the system that built roads and bridges, I butted heads with those people who said, “Good enough is good enough” rather than sticking to exact specifications. This new age of people who don’t care as much, I’m not sure where they’ll draw the line, that to me, was etched in concrete.

Here’s where all of this is leading, I think: Back when I was just starting out, people in general, and men in particular, were defined by success in their jobs. When businesses began offering less to employees, they began to get less from employees. There was a tipping point, when people began asking, “What’s the point?” and the younger people began being happier with smaller cars, smaller houses, and a hell of a lot less stuff.

When I decided to retire, I was looking for more time, not more money. I wanted time to write, and to be with dogs, and to simply be. I started unloading a lot of clutter in my home. What I am making right now in retirement isn’t nearly what I thought I needed to live comfortably, but up until the Plague hit, I was going to manage.

It’s an illusion, I think, to believe we need more and better stuff. It’s a myth that we need to devote our lives to work. It’s a shame, that people in particular, and men, in general, define themselves by their occupation.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

10 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Work”

  1. What used to was, when meeting someone you asked what they did for a living and from the answer you rank their social status, intelligence, and trustworthyness.
    You ask if they’re married and from the answer you assess their social stability, sexuality, and potential funwithness.
    Then any kids, what they drive, what church, what hobbies, what sports, all refining who they are.
    With their profile now firmly established, over the next weeks, months, years, you discover you were 99% wrong.

    “It’s a shame, that people in particular, and men, in general, define themselves by their occupation.”
    Yet when they did they seemed to take more pride in their work and do a better job.

    • Bruce, perhaps they seemed to take more pride in their work, and do a better job, but were they better people?

      Is the purpose of a human being to function as a robot for some company?

  2. Hi Mike, after about 40 years in the same job I am looking to retire shortly.
    Over the last 6 months or so I have taken a pass on any overtime that is offered.
    I have decided that the time not being at work is worth more to me than the few extra dollars.
    It is not like the extra cash isn’t needed, it is just not worth the lost free time to me.
    I’m also doing the declutter around the house and simply looking at ways to lower costs.
    I look at it as living more of a life even with less of an income.
    More time for crosswords , playing my bass, brewing beer, tossing darts and puttering in the yard.
    Things I enjoy and all of them affordable.

    • hfxer, I want to write, be with my dogs, walk in the woods, and I’m tossing everything overboard that doesn’t help me do that.

      It sounds like you have a great plan for a great life. Rock on!

  3. When I started the job I’m at 18 years ago, I thought I had hit pay dirt. Good benefits, great retirement, and they paid your health insurance even after you retired. Yeah, cut to 18 years later. barely a living wage, they took away that health insurance after retirement that I was promised. I still have a decent retirement I guess. Better than some folks in my area, and I do at least have health insurance for now. I just have to make sure I don’t get sick after I retire.
    I have a couple of really good bosses who see my work ethic, and see my efforts and the fact that I always have max sick time and vacation time. Thankfully they are the higher ups. I also have a couple who couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves. Typical of everywhere these days I guess. Yes, they did get their position on the friends and family plan, however did you know. It’s blocking good hard working people from moving up. I have, however, been there too long to leave. I am getting all my damn money back from those pricks
    Never push a good employee to the point where they no longer care.

    • Chick, slowly but surely, we watched as what was once a great job slowly became something else. The cost of benefits kept rising, the amount we were going to get when we retired never went up, and the hours were still long and hard.

      Companies are used to being able to use people as they want, and give nothing in return. We need that to change.

  4. When I graduated from college, after my time in the Army, I interviewed for several jobs. Coming from a Bell Telephone family, I wound up hiring on there. Probably one of the best moves of my life. I had great benefits, great vacation time and for the most part, great bosses. I did retire the first day that I was eligible since my commute to work sucked, and I laid around for two months and then started teaching school, which was what I had always wanted to do. Spent 10 years doing that and retired again.
    I wound up with two pensions which is nice, especially knowing that younger guys like my son-in-law have horrible benefits and will get squat for a pension.

    • Richard, I think the days of good jobs has come and gone, but perhaps they will return after the Plague has passed. We’ll see. I think a lot of things will change, and they need to change, too.

  5. 40 years building roads and bridges with FDOT. You hit the nail on the head. Times changed, attitudes to state workers changed and workmanship and pride in a job well done went out the window. Our roads have suffered. I am glad I left when I did. I’ll take 50% of my salary and keep my sanity and pride.

    • Brian, that did seem to be the trade off. I knew many who stay a lot longer than they should have and when they did retire there was nothing left of their life to enjoy.

      But that is another subject for another time.

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