Friday, October 14, 2011

WorkPlace 101: Does Anyone Actually "Work Hard"?!?

A few years ago, we went to Rome on vacation. While we were shopping, around mid-day, I remember one store locking the door behind us as we exited. So I'm thinking "man, that sh*t is racist!" But then as we keep walking, I realize pretty much every other store is also closing. And it's like 1pm. Little did I know this was just Italian custom. They take long lunches (with lots of wine) and then kick back for an afternoon nap. It's just how they roll. And to this clueless America, it looked lazy as hell.

America is a capitalist society, and as such, with few exceptions, if you don't work, you don't eat. We pull 90 hour weeks, and pride ourselves on fierce determination and unrivaled work ethic. But does anyone actually "work hard" anymore, or is that just another American made cliche?

Think about it: how many jobs actually entail an activity that would be considered "hard"? Mine doesn't. I essentially set my own hours. I spent most of my time either on the phone with a customer, or writing code. When I have to travel, I go to nice cities, stay in relatively good accommodations, and get a nice per diem. I've got great benefits, and work with cool people. So even when I'm pulling the occasional 60 hour billable week, this isn't exactly "hard" work. Even if you aren't an engineer, I'm assuming most of my readers live a similar white collar existence. I could be wrong.

When I look around, I don't see many other people "working hard" either. I see security guards playing Angry Birds. Cops checking Facebook accounts. Waiters Twittering while you wait for your food. The mailman drives around listening to his iPod (earbud game proper). Even the trash guys take their own leisurely time when they show up twice a week.[1]

Don't get me wrong, I know menial labor. I been had "hard" jobs. I worked in a steel factory sanding computer motherboards for 8 hours a day. I've picked fruits and veggies in the scalding Carolina heat for money. I had a job at a grocery store whose responsibilities regularly entailed jumping up and down in a dumpster (often filled with raw chicken parts) to avoid overcrowding. I know hard jobs, which is why I worked hard as sh*t in school and professionally to ensure that I'd work "smart" jobs the rest of my life.[2]

Back in the days (yep, dating myself) folks did actually work hard. My grandparents were a case study in bone shattering Day Jobiness. My grandma cleaned (relatively) rich folks homes during the day, and did a 3rd shift at a textile plant. My grandaddy was a GM mechanic. Those folks worked H.A.R.D. They were in constant ache and pain from their Day Jobs, and to some degree, the jobs they have eventually shortened their lives. It certainly diminished their quality of life as they aged. Anytime I feel like complaining about having to go to Orlando on short notice for some boring client meeting, I think about how downtrodden they both would be at the end of the day, and I smack myself for complaining about how comparatively easy I have it. Seriously, it could always be worse. Much worse. You know, 9.1% unemployment worse.

I'm just sayin' does anyone actually "work hard" anymore?

I guess cops (Facebook notwithstanding) have it bad, with the element of danger around every corner and whatnot. Ditto for soldiers. Firemen? Sure, I suppose, although that job seems to entail a sh*tload of sitting around waiting for something to pop off. Construction work isn't easy, and it's also dangerous. Then again, if you're the guy whose sole job it is to switch that caution sign from "Stop" to "Drive", workin' outdoors prolly ain't that hard either.

Annndddd, unless I'm missing something, that's about it.

Seriously, does anyone actually "work hard" anymore?

Question: Would you consider your job "hard" or merely an occasional annoyance? What's the "hardest" job you've ever worked? Are there any "hard" jobs I missed?

[1] One profitable side-hustle of being a trash man is salvaging lightly used items and reselling them. Our guys are always examining whatever is left at the curb. If it's good, they'll put it in a separate container on the truck. Hustle hard.

[2] I know that sounded crass, and sorta elitist. Sorry if anyone was offended. And yeah, I could go back if I needed to, but seriously, who wants to hustle backwards? I'd collect unemployment for a minute before I did that.

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