Wouldn’t Touch That With a 10-Foot Pole?

 

Nearly four decades ago, on a cold, grey, rainy, overcast day, I found myself pounding the pavement ISO employment totally irrelevant to my God given talents. If all went “well” I’d soon be punching retail world’s time clock and giving my all to some employer who’d be giving me next to nothing in return… paying me $2.65 per hour minimum wage. With unemployment being at a then all-time high, I was fully expecting to wind up “drowning” in the sea of applicant faces.

It was late that afternoon, while filling out my application (along with a couple of other wannabes) when, Diane, our prospective boss, came over to chat with us. She had a problem. As it turned out, the three of us comprised fifty percent of all who had shown up for the entire day! She was wondering if we could remember some of the specific details of her help wanted ad’s content.

While reaching into my suit coat’s inner pocket I cheerfully said, “I can do better than that,” adding, “How about all of the details?” as I produced the actual, neatly clipped out newspaper ad.

Long blog short, I got the job. Logically, I had attributed my “success” to the fact that so few people had applied… but that wasn’t really the case. Following the second run of my boss’s help wanted ad, applicant response had been far better.

Well, it wasn’t until about six months afterwards when I found out the real reason. On that day, as Diane and I chatted while unpacking and merchandising a new shipment of Levis™, she told me that she had considered my pre-interview, eager to help attitude (even without any guarantee that she’d be hiring me), the living embodiment of the excellent customer service I’d be providing on the selling floor. And I spent the next 20 years working for the same company… amply proving her assessment of my character had been spot-on.

My overall point being? Each and every day, without even consciously doing so, each and everyone of us winds up putting our true character on display… and the people we meet can and do evaluate us when we’re least expecting it.

Case in point? My 90-year-young next-door neighbors1 have employed a professional groundskeeper. The man usually parks in front of my house and uses my lower driveway to enter their property perched atop his rider lawnmower.

Well, a few days ago, following an overnight, gusty rainstorm, a thin, 3 m / 10 ft. long branch… weighing a scant 0.9 kg / 2 lbs. (tops)… had fallen and blocked access to my driveway. This left that lawn care dude the following options:

  1. Easily snap the branch in half and toss it onto his truck’s long empty trailer.
  2. Quickly slide the branch onto my lawn to get it out of his way.
  3. Totally avoid all the “extra work” and use his clients’ driveway instead.

Had our roles been reversed, at the very least, I would’ve opted for choice “2”.

Need I even say that he chose option “3”? True, I fully realize he was under no obligation to do any work for any non-paying customer… but he did demonstrate to me a level of pettiness, which is most unbecoming of any truly professional businessperson. Moreover, might such an attitude be a reflection of his overall work ethic? After all… don’t customer care and lawn care go hand in hand?

Now, just for the record, I’m neither a lazy man nor did I even come close to working up a sweat re the disposal of that downed branch.

Nonetheless, this incident did provide me an excellent study in human nature… and I did learn much. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

You see, there may come a time, as I get older, where I might need to hire someone to maintain my lawn. And I’m not entirely sure my neighbor’s groundskeeper would be my first choice anymore.

How that guy dealt with that 10 foot long branch begs the question… would I… would you… choose to “touch” such a petty lawn care service (or any other such business firm) with a 10 foot pole?

 

 

1 I say “young” because upon meeting them, you’d judge them to be in their 60s.

 

 

There’s Still So Much More of Our Work to be Done

 

Once again, it’s Labor Day in America… a “holiday” which:

  1. Ushers in the unofficial end of summer.
  2. Reminds students it’s time to return to their classrooms.
  3. Supposedly honors all industrious workers who’ve ever opted in to the once upon a time, time honored, time for money trade-off.

Well, I suppose, two out of three ain’t bad. To elaborate…

Oh, what an inequitable trade off item #3 usually involves.

Oh, what an utterly meaningless holiday this has become. How so?

Well, workers (who can still think for themselves) have become painfully aware of how, typically, their big bosses wallow in their own astronomical, wildly disproportional salaries and perks… how management feels no obligation to pay a living wage, provide job security and offer a comprehensive benefits package (inclusive of health insurance, paid sick / vacation days and pension plans). In some cases, these big shots even shirk their responsibility of providing a hazard-free work environment.

Without a doubt, such woes are closely related to that bloodsucker, who fronts the present-day DC régime (a foul, fetid, festering government / corporate mash-up). Throughout his pathetic, parasitic career, he has, personally, screwed over labor… e.g., stiffed them on paydays, outsourced their jobs and engaged in union busting.

Yet, hypocritically, he feigns outrage over his very own deplorable business tactics… has successfully suckered in his low information, gullible supporters into bogusly believing he’s the “good guy” who will fight to prevent immigrants from “stealing” their jobs.

To emphasize here, he does ALL OF THAT in spite of the fact that immigrants are NOT actually displacing all that many American workers.

You see, what he has failed to mention is how these jobs oft involve FIELDS most Americans would find unappealing. In fact, these jobs LITERALLY CAN INVOLVE FIELDS… the harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops (oft under horrific working conditions). Similar workplace hellholes shackle slave labor to sweatshop sewing machines. Either way, workers toil overtime and work their fingers to the bone while beastly taskmasters (literally?) crack the whip.

SO folks, unless you view these as attractive career opportunities, don’t ever blame immigrants for your having a tough time finding a new job. We should not be envious OF them… we should feel sorrow FOR them. If our society’s priorities weren’t so totally F’d up, instead of ICE agents rounding up and deporting immigrants, federal agents would be driving the reprehensible, slave driver bosses out of America.

I’m sure many of my international readers would concur that my abovementioned woes are hardly unique to America.

I’m sure we, the readers of John Steinbeck’s literary masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, would agree his plot presages the horrific, present-day dismal working conditions, crappy wages, workplace violence and societal upheaval.

So what’s a working stiff to do, huh?

Well, the problem solving must begin with a truly enlightened president / world leader, who would NEVER embrace wretched, low road tactics such as fanning the flames of racism. To get totally real here… most joblessness is actually caused by corporate greed, union busting, outsourcing, automation and workers’ lack of training / marketable skills.

No learned leader would ever fight to preserve the abysmal status quo of today’s undereducated and unskilled workforce. Allocating tax dollars to pay unemployed workers, of course, would be still be a necessity BUT how much better life would eventually get were he to also funnel additional funds into programs designed to educate and train his out of work compatriots. Education also must be ongoing… i.e., keep up with each and every new technological advance. In other words, our education does not end until the day each of us dies. For all we know, it doesn’t end even then.

Folks, I saw, first hand, how President Lyndon B. Johnson’s progressively minded government functioned. For four summers (spanning 1963 – 66) my own father, a public school teacher, had applied for and received a generous U.S. government stipend to attend college classes and wound up earning his Masters Degree in Chemistry. Bettering himself resulted in his earning a substantially bigger paycheck… of course, not before teachers had also won the rights to organize labor unions… to collectively bargain for a living wage, benefits and smaller class sizes… to go on strike whenever necessary.

Folks, a strong, healthy, happy, unionized productive workforce plays a major role in making America… indeed, every other nation… great!

This Labor Day… and for as many future Labor Days as it may take… we must remind ourselves that there’s still so much more of our work to be done… and that begins with educating / changing attitudes of governments, management and labor.

Meaningful work, which fully enriches our lives, cannot be ours until governments… not only in America but worldwide… cease and desist from devastating workers’ pay and rights.

Labor Day must, once again, become a true holiday… one, where the powers-that-be wholeheartedly honor each and every trainable person in possession of a strong work ethic… ensure every one of them a living wage, comprehensive benefits package, job security and a hazard free workplace.