Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Give Us Back Our Happy Jobs

Today I heard someone talking about a record trade deficit and problems for the country thereof. I don't remember anyone saying anything about our loss of factory jobs, but they might have. A lot of people, go on about the destruction of our industrial base and the ensuing loss of work. Not me. Maybe I should, but I don't. That does not mean terrible things may not occur because we lost all those jobs. I'm just not going to go on about how terrible it is.

Why? Because I had one of those jobs. Summer after freshman year saw me in a box factory doing hot, sweaty, grunt labor. It is a moment in life that makes you think about your future, and think I did. At the end of the summer I knew I would never go back there and I started bugging relatives to make sure that any avenue of nepotism available would be tapped for a better job the next year.

The point is, all the folks moaning about the loss of factory jobs have no intention of taking one were they to magically reappear on our shores. You listen to them and you would think that the Chinese were just having a ball in all those factories. They are all saying to each other, "I didn't know what fun was until factory work arrived." These are the jobs that remind one of the story of John F. Kennedy campaigning outside a coal mine in West Virginia as the workers were arriving. As he was about to shake the hand of one worker older than himself, the man tore into Kennedy. He told the candidate, "What are you doing here? You have nothing in common with us. You've never worked a day in your life." JFK shocked the man by saying, "Well, suh, you ah right." The man, taken aback by the candidate's honesty, then said, "Son, you ain't missed a damn thing."

So, who knows? The widget plant reopens and maybe everyone leaves Walmart and shows up Monday morning as the whistle blows. Maybe not.

10 comments:

Udolpho said...

No, the people who will take factory jobs are probably not spending all day writing comments on weblogs. If they even know what the Internet is.

But I think of people like my father, a humble appliance repairman, having to compete in various parts of the country with, shall we say, recent arrivals who will be happy to do their jobs (less competently) for peanuts. It's no secret that working class jobs have seen income stagnation.

The question becomes, are we building an America that can support people of all stripes and talents, or are we building a two-tier society that offers riches to certain white collar classes and working poor wages to everyone else. I don't want to live in a country with Mexico's class structure, but that is what we are building. I wish I were a little older so I could be spared the inevitable outcome of this reckless experiment. If we keep this up there is socialism in our futures. Frankly, I'd rather work in a factory.

Black Sea said...

The NY Times (the paper I love to hate) ran an article several months ago about the closing of a refrigerator factory in the Midwest. One of the employees, who'd worked there something like 20 years, and who'd never graduated from high school, said of the factory closing something like, "You know, I'll never get a job this good again in my life."

He's probably right. When these people lose their jobs, they're looking at stuff like lawn maintenance if they're young and fit enough, or, if they're middle aged, working the night shift at a gas station for 7.50 an hour, which doesn't include the health insurance they'll be needing once they're shot in a hold up.

I get the impression that teenagers and college kids don't now do as many different strange and interesting bullshit jobs as was normal when I was growing up. This seems a shame, as these jobs were usually far more intriguing than school.

By the time I was 23, I'd been a warehouse worker, a hospital janitor, a retail clerk, a outdoor guide, a hotel maid, a laundry truck driver, and an unskilled contruction laborer. One thing I learned from all this is that there are people who are - or at least seem to be - pretty content with manual labor.

I remember, years ago, shopping at Cub foods at about 12:40 am, and overhearing a conversation between the cashier and the grocery bagger. They were, with some enthusiasm, discussing which they liked better, scanning or bagging. They went into great detail (well, as much detail as they could muster) about the relative pleasures of each, and who had taught them the art of scanning, and who had schooled them in the intricacies of bagging. These gals clearly had found their calling.

Too bad David Lynch wasn't there to film it.

tvoh said...

Well, this is more than I bargained for.

I shall post as soon as I get some time.

Black Sea said...

By the way, my mania for completeness compels me to add: "dishwasher and bus boy" to my resume above. I wouldn't want to short-change myself, though I did omit sporadic or seasonal work such as delivering telephone books, cleaning gutters, and stuff like that I did with friends.

Obviously, these were summer or part-time jobs, and there's a big difference, psychologically, between washing dishes for a couple of months and doing so for a couple of years.

Nevertheless, I suppose of all my jobs, that would have been the most similar to factory work in terms of utterly mindless, repetitive physical activity. Was it boring? Indeed. On the other hand, for someone with a wandering mind, the fact that it required no concentration was something of a compensation. I would just rocket myself into some imaginary dimension the moment before I walked into the restaurant, then came back down to earth around the time that I started the drive home. Smoking a lot of weed may have been of use to me here, though it's been so long ago, I can hardly remember. (I suppose that my vague memory confirms the suspicion.)

The most intolerably boring work I've ever done is that which was both utterly uninteresting and yet required detailed concentration. This, for me, was a agonizing form of torture. Sadly, a lot of white collar work falls into this category.

Black Sea said...

"then come back down . . . " rather than "then came back down . . ."

"an agonizing" rather than "a agonizing"

You see my problem with detailed concentration. This again, could perhaps be explained, or at least rationalized, by having smoked a lot of weed as a teenager.

However, I won't stoop so low. The fact is I'm just too lazy to carefully proofread my own comments. But this does cause me a certain amount of grief.

Black Sea said...

Well, by sheer coincidence, this appeared in the Atlanta paper this morning:

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/metro/cobb/stories/2006/12/20/1221metgrocery.html

Black Sea said...

Well, the end of the address got cut off. Anyway, it's an article about a grocery bagger in Atlanta competing in some national grocery bagging competition. Evidently, he practices 30 hours per week. I'm not sure if this is actually during working hours or some more esoteric training regimen. I guess he's into it.

Drudge also has an article this morning about legal residents in Colorado flocking to a Swift's meat-packing house to apply for jobs vacated after an INS raid. Things out there must really be tough if people are clambering to do this kind of work.

tvoh said...

"I get the impression that teenagers and college kids don't now do as many different strange and interesting bullshit jobs as was normal when I was growing up. This seems a shame, as these jobs were usually far more intriguing than school."

This is true today. Part of it is that those students who really are serious and have identified a passion are indulged by their parents if they are working toward something. My son has known what he wanted to do since he was five and he is always in a university lab with others of like mind. He does have a part time lifeguard job.

Others are indulged by parents and some are just spaced out and there may be less jobs that they can do.

tvoh said...

"By the way, my mania for completeness compels me to add: "dishwasher and bus boy" to my resume above. I wouldn't want to short-change myself, though I did omit sporadic or seasonal work such as delivering telephone books, cleaning gutters, and stuff like that I did with friends."

Black Sea,

You've gotta get back to the states for 2010. Only census taker is missing from your cv

Black Sea said...

Oh, that was just the list up to age 23. Ten years ago, I was teaching in a university in the mornings, and working as a courier in the afternoons. After finishing up my classes for the day, I would grab some lunch, switch into my "Intown Express" T-shirt, and call up the dispatcher on the radio.

On more than one occasion, I had to pick up from or deliver to the very same university department where I taught. I'd love to claim I pulled this often with a certain laughing nonchalance, but the reality is that I approached this with a sense of humiliation and dread. Neither I nor the secretary I'd greeted earlier that same morning knew how to handle this exchange, so we both just pretended not to recognize each other.

Oh well, it was probably good for me. I was 36 years old at the time.