A Workman’s Thought

There was a time when I was younger and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Here I am at the age of 47 and I laugh because I’m still trying to find out.
I remember when members of my family told me it was time to grow up. I was told there is no fast lane to success.
It takes hard work.
I was told to get ready to make an honest living. I was told about this thing we call “Corporate America,” which was this huge thing to me at the time.

I was told, “It’s time to get honest and earn an honest living.”
I was told to live my life on the “Up and up,” or whatever that means.
Turned out I was misled.
Corporate America is a lot of things but of all things, honesty is far from one of them.

There is a company I know of, run by an egomaniac. He likes to hire people that only tell him yes. The pay is great but life is a bitch when things go wrong.
Everyone is waiting to see him fall but I suppose he can’t fall, so long as he pays people to take the dive for him.

We live in a strange world. No one likes to take the fall. No one likes to be told they’re wrong. Everyone is chasing the almighty dollar and every office has a water-cooler, which is home to the rumor factory and the gossip mills. This is where people find the fat to chew.
I thought I had seen enough of this is junior high school, but no. This is life. Everyone is still trying to prove their spot on the playground.

As for Corporate America . . .
The dignity of a handshake means nothing when there’s a cheaper price that helps turn out a better profit. And I agree of this appears cynical but that doesn’t mean this isn’t true.

This is life, which is constant. But what about us?
What about the other half of our society?
What about the people that wants to work and live and provide for their home? What about the people that isn’t underhanded?

I tell you this without any mistake; the working world is a tough place.
This is true.
I can say that I have seen jail cells that are less cutthroat than a big corporate boardroom.
I can say that I have been part of sales teams and watched people steal a commission without so much as a thought to someone else’s financial problems.

“Oh, Teddy needs to pay for his kid’s surgery?”
“Fuck’em! I have a mortgage to pay.”

I have worked on both the white collar and the blue collar side, to which I have learned one valuable lesson. No matter what happens in whichever career you choose; no matter what rejection comes your way, no matter how hard you hit the ground or how far you fall, do not give in, do not compromise yourself, and more than anything, do not give up on your trick.

That’s right. I said “Trick.”
Isn’t that all this is.
Same as me or you, everyone has their own game going on. Everyone is trying to achieve something—even if it’s nothing; nothing is still something if that’s the goal.

Safe to say there were times throughout my life that I heard the word “NO,” more than I heard the word “Yes.”
Like you or the rest of the world, I have received rejection letters that open with the sentence, “Thank you for your interest but we regret to inform you.”

I have been laughed at more than once. I have been embarrassed and felt the sting of public humiliation. In fact, I have been bullied inside of boardroom more than I’ve ever been bullied in the schoolyard.
I’ve been promised the world and received nothing more than a thankful parting gift.
I have stood in front of corporate environments, blue collar employees, schools, jail, and homeless shelters and found all things are more similar than we believe.

I was told things were about to happen and to “Be ready,” because something big was about to come my way.
I was promised this, only to have the phone calls go to slack and none of my messages were returned. More to the point; none of the promises ever came through. I shook my head and wondered, “Why?”
I was told to “Keep trying,” and “Better luck next time, Kid.”
This is a true story.

I knew someone that ran into a little problem as a stock broker. Last I heard, they walked through his office and escorted him out in handcuffs.
He used to tell me that he invents wealth.
He said that he was a “Market Maker.”
He told me how great he was at his job, which I agree. He must have been exceptional enough to raise the eyebrows of the F.B.I.

There was someone else I knew in a similar business. He used to tell me that it would be unfair to compare my life to his.
He told me this because I did not grow up with the same advantages.
He knew the “Right” people and I didn’t.
He told me I will never see the same kind of success as him.

I wonder if he thought the same thing when he lost everything and was living in a trailer at the back section of a K-Mart parking lot.
This does not mean I rejoice in his failure. Instead, I realize the reason I have not failed the same way is because I refused to accept his bullshit.

Every so often, life comes along and delivers a good swift kick, right in the ass. I know this is true because I’ve been kicked more times than I can count.
I’ve fallen. I’ve seen what Karma does. And I agree; she’s a bitch!
What goes around comes around.

There was a lesson I learned on a jobsite when I was a union apprentice. The job was a total gut and rebuild of an entire floor, which I estimate to be somewhere around 53,000sq.ft.
I was a young helper in a commercial office building on 3rd Avenue and hanging around to make sure the place was cleaned and prepped.

The job was about to be wrapped up, the walls were painted and the floor was leveled to be ready for carpeting, which was supposed to begin once all the other trades left.
There was a laborer. He was a quiet guy, older, funny, but he seldom spoke. Safe to say I liked him. Safe to say he liked me too.
We would have coffee sometimes and talk about how the world “Used” to be when he was coming up in the business.

There was an electrician on the job at the time. He was young. He had a connection in the union, which he used to his advantage. He was a wise ass. No one liked him but no one really said anything because no one wanted to start a beef with the foreman.
For whatever reason, the young electrician thought it was a good idea to poke fun at the laborer.

The laborer never gave in or answered back. However, at the tail-end of the job, the young electrician was standing on a ladder and making a few quick repairs on some of the light fixtures in the ceiling.
The electrician had a little box of wire nuts and electrical fitting on top of the ladder, which unfortunately spilled and rolled all over the freshly swept floor.

The look on the laborer’s face was clear.
He was not happy.
The electrician laughed because he finally got a rise out of the laborer.
“Looks like you gotta sweep that up too,” said the wise ass electrician.

In full disclosure, no one liked this kid.
He was a prankster at best and a crybaby at worst.
The laborer walked over with broom in hand. The electrician was standing on the bottom run of the ladder.

The older laborer approached the electrician whose smile was still present. He very calmly leaned the broom against the nearby wall.
Then he turned to the electrician, reached out, grabbed him by the throat, pulled him off the ladder in a quick sweep and then placed the young electrician’s back to the wall.

The laborer took on a calm but intense voice and said, “In my life, I have three takes.”
Using the fingers on his left hand to count beginning with his gnarled thumb; and with his right hand still tight around the electrician’s throat, the laborer said, “I take my time.”
Then he switched to his pointing finger and said, “I take my breaks.”
Then he switched to his third finger and explained, ” And I take no shit! Now clean it up your-fuckin-self.”

The electrician was stunned. He had nothing to say. His union connection was nowhere to be found and all there was in the room was me, the laborer, the electrician and his arrogance, which was muted and dulled. And so was his smile when it quickly turned awkward and afraid.

The one thing I learned is I am not put in this world to teach lessons. People will be the way they are, without apology, and without concern.
I learned not to worry about this.
Karma is very real.
If I want the best then I have to work to the best of my ability. I cannot worry about the times I fall or the times I fail.
I have to pay attention to my ability to endure and continue because nothing else will save me —well, almost nothing.
My friend the laborer always told me he’d be there to catch my back (if I need it.)

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