Friday, 18 May 2012

Rose Coloured Nostalgia

Andrew Potter waxes nostalgic about his fairly horrid job as a fish monger.

Here's Andrew's wrap-up at the end:

"It was the worst job I ever had. But in a way, it was also the best job I ever had. I did the shit out of it....

I promise, you'll learn more from the bad jobs you take as a 20 year old than you will in any other job you'll get. Once you get older, people start giving you jobs because you have skills, training, or ability. And you got those skills or training because you wanted to do the job. That means you're on a glide trajectory, in a comfort zone, following the path of least resistance. The day you start doing a job you like is the day you start to die, just a bit.

Having a bad job is a sign that you are still young. And as everyone eventually realizes, there is never a bad time to be young."

I really don't know what to make of this. I had my own horrid jobs as a teenager saving for college and then in my 20s paying for the first years of college. The only lesson I learned was that I did not want to do repetitive process jobs for the rest of my life. The first "bad job" was working lonely shifts on a water bottling plant assembly line. When an 8 hour shift consisted entirely of washing, filling and packing a few hundred bottles of water the monotony nearly drove me out of my mind.

The second bad job was pruning Christmas trees for 4 summers. That job involved using a knife with a 3 foot blade to whack pine trees into that pretty "natural" cone-shape that everyone likes so much. The only protective equipment was a glove and a hockey shin-pad for one leg. I happened to have steel toed work boots that I wore and the leather covering the steel toe was shredded to within an inch of its life from the knife bouncing off my toes. Many a kid that wore just running shoes had to be driven to the emergency ward after slicing into their foot because they didn't have that steel-toed protection. The other danger was bees; they would build huge nests around the trunks of the trees, and if you didn't keep an ear out when you sliced into their tree, the bees would swarm and sting you to protect their nest. And again, quite a few kids went to the hospital suffering from massive numbers of bee stings.

But hey, I grew up in a rural area without a lot of ways to make money, so kids took any jobs they can find. How that nursery didn't get sued out of existence from endangering kids with horrid and dangerous working conditions I will never know. (And there is no way in hell a "real" Christmas tree will enter my home. Blood trees is what they are to me.)

Like Andrew, I got educated, learned some skills and entered the higher skilled workforce. Now the biggest risk to my health is from the sedentary lifestyle inherent in a desk job. But do I look back wistfully at that time of my life? Hell no. For me the best time of my life was when I was working co-op semesters actively learning the skills college was trying to teach me. I was earning top dollar (compared to the shit unskilled jobs), paying low rent ($100 month for YMCA student housing) and had no other bills other than Community College tuition. The one summer semester was spent on the beaches of Erieau, playing beach volleyball, and hanging out with other co-op students. I had low cost needs, was working a job where my skills were valued, made a good buck and enjoyed a disposable income I have not since matched. I was young with no money worries for a brief awesome period of my life.

Those three co-op semesters taught me to take pride in my work, that you can earn the respect of your peers, and that you can work in a team environment to accomplish a common goal. Lessons that served me well entering the full-time corporate world.

But the biggest lesson I learned is that while I managed to escape the endless drudgery of a bad job, there are many that do not. Yes, working and earning money beats being poor and living on the streets, but jeebus, a shit job is still a shit job and not everyone escapes them. This central fact is something that Flaherty (and to my surprise) Potter ignore. Both treat shit jobs as a stepping stone to something better, as a means to a better end. Well that is only true for the privileged few, but many many others labour day in-day out working at shit jobs for low pay and barely eek out a living.

Yes I have valued skills, but my career has also required a huge amount of luck. So many companies that I worked for or entertained offers from have gone under and the entire staff lost their jobs. I know that so far my life has been blessed with good fortune. My skills have earned me a good salary, and luck has placed me in a stable company that can afford to pay me that good salary.

It is that knowledge that chance plays a part in ones success that causes me to tell Flaherty to go to hell, and to ask Andrew Potter, "Seriously, what the hell?"

No, I have a lot of leniency towards those collecting E.I or welfare. My own experiences have taught me "but for the grace of god go I" and I will not hold chance and circumstance against anyone less fortunate than me.

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