Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Work is the curse of the drinking classes

Wall Street Journal:

In late 2007, he took a job at Lowe's while working at a series of fast-food jobs on the side, as well as a stint at Pathmark supermarket. He still works at Lowe's, earning $15.96 an hour selling lawnmowers, outdoor furniture and Christmas ornaments. At night, he pumps gas at a Quick Check for $13.70 an hour.

Typically, he works between 61 and 63 hours per week. It wouldn't be so bad, he says, if the hours were consecutive. But with the gap between jobs, he can only sleep a few hours a night now -- sometimes just an hour. Last week, he managed to clock 87 hours and barely saw his son.

"That's all I do -- every day -- I just keep working," he says. "I've got to. I'm not going to lose everything I have."


Speaking for myself: my part-time, unionized job has excellent benefits, but no hours.  Shifts tend to run 3-4 hours, unless you don't have the driver's license required to operate equipment.  Typically, this means you are a person from Philadelphia who can claim higher levels of melanin in your skin.  Your shift will be 2 hours of modern day field work in the back of a tractor trailer or sorting station: parcels will rain on you at maximum capacity -- then you will be asked if you want your contractually guaranteed third hour doing something even worse.  After three hours you are off the clock. 

My part-time, non-unionized gig is comprised of eight hour blocks at night, various days of the week.  This means breaking down pallets of Pellegrino and bulk dog food when my body would prefer to be shutting down for the night.  Instead, your brain shuts down.  What is interesting, however, is that one's body can continue working for a long time afterward, provided it only calls upon basic motor skills.  Why did I take the four cases of marshmallows to the back instead of leaving them for the morning supervisor to make his holiday marshmallow mountain display, he wants to know.  Because the brain doesn't work like that, fuck face!  But alas: three write ups and I am out of a job -- so I do my best to determine whether the constant over-ordering of product should be interpreted as "new display" or just incompetence which deserves to be tidied up on my end.

Theoretically, these jobs are meant to be the stepping stones to something -- anything -- else.  But in a system premised on the idea that employers aren't obligated to their employees' long-term welfare, every job carries the prospect of becoming a stepping stone to nowhere.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

dude, i've been reading your blog (kudos to ioz) for the last couple of months now. i notice almost nobody comments here. all i can say is, bro, you tell it like it is like nobody else. for the day to day experience of the working joe/joe-hanna. a quick peek at your site every day would do this country a shitload of good.

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha, anonymous # 1 beat me to the punch. More like this post because you've inspired at least two people to comment. This post hit a nerve with me because you pretty much described most of my working life with this one. Out of high school I didn't think about college so I tried to get a job and it was one hell hole after another. I worked in a few factories in Scranton and Honesdale (!?) back in the day (1988 - 1991) and you captured the sameness and dead endedness of it all. I switched to hotel clerk jobs after that and it was no better. I'm out of college now and after two years of being a manager in hotels (super bad) I switched to billing in an office setting. No idea where I'll go next but this job at least has given me some stability that has been lacking in my life for years. I haha'ed because I read this at work :) and I wanted to comment then but obviously thought I'd wait. I know they can track my web-browsing but still...

JRB said...

Thanks, buddies. As long as my spine holds up as a weight bearing device, I intend to serve up only the best off the floor of private enterprise.

Whatever your station in life, you have stories worth telling. I don't care if you tell them here. But for fuck's sake tell them!

Anonymous said...

Something about this post makes us lurkers want to express ourselves. I first came here at IOZ's insistence, too. Although I finished my brief stint in paid manual labor 22 years ago (badly injured on my last scheduled day before I started a new job steering a desk), it always seems part of a possible escape plan in the future. Last spring, a post here inspired me to lift my moratorium on making anything other than weather-related smalltalk with some of the people I see on rare social occasions. The resulting incident is still the subject of discussion around the house sometimes. Thank you for putting the blog out where it could be found.

Montag said...

That's all I do -- every day -- I just keep working. I've got to. I'm not going to lose everything I have.

says it all.

JRB said...

If it weren't for IOZ, I wouldn't have an audience. That's significant to me on many levels.