Tag Archives: work

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night…

This post is from littlejailbird.

The city of Minneapolis has a wonderful thing going where you can get a free tree for your boulevard. You just have to make a request before November and the following spring you will have a tree planted in front of your house, no money or labor from you required.

Many years ago, I requested one of these trees and subsequently had a pin oak tree planted on my boulevard. I don’t know if the city still does this, but back then it took care of watering the tree for the first summer. They must have had a schedule where the watering truck would go around and water the new trees.

They were very good at following the schedule and didn’t let pesky things like bad weather interfere. They could have taken the motto often associated with the U.S. Post Office and tweaked it to reflect their dedication to the tree-watering schedule: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays theses tree waterers from the swift completion of their rounds.”

I know this because one day there was quite the deluge outside. It was pouring so hard that a person would have been totally soaked in approximately 2 seconds. I was nice and dry indoors and while I watched the rain pouring down, a truck pulled up in front of my house. Soon the tree-waterer had the hose out and was diligently watering the boulevard tree. I was impressed with his dedication…and amazed at a system which would send someone out to water trees when it seemed the tree was already getting plenty of moisture by natural means. I’m sure the tree-waterer felt his job was redundant that day.

Tell us about something you’ve done or witnessed that turned out to be totally unnecessary.

I Don’t Snow About That

Today’s post comes from Clyde of Mankato

The photo shows my sister Cleo at age 13 and and me at age 10.

Standard clothing and standard work for farm children in the mid 1950’s. I cannot imagine my ten-year-old and thirteen-year-old Minnesota grandchildren working like this, nor do I want to. But I do not regret this labor in my childhood. My father did not assign us this task lightly. He no doubt was off doing even harder work at the same time. My sister, I suspect, came out of her own free will to help me. We were close that way. My sister was not afraid of exercise. She became a physical education teacher. The work she and I did mattered; it contributed to the welfare of the family.

However, one of my many back issues is a disorder in my upper back which is associated with doing heavy lifting at a young age. Perhaps it is related; perhaps it is not. I promise that was heavy snow, having been pushed there by the county plow. We lived at the end of a road.

I am a bit confused about the issue of children working. I did not make my children do much work, but none of the supposed effects of not requiring children to work is evident in my mid-forties offspring. Quite the opposite in fact.

What’s your history and attitude on child labor?

My Short “Career” Packing Meat

Today’s post comes from Jim Tjepkema

I could see that my work as a private agricultural consultant was coming to an end.  Many of the vegetable farmers that were my best customers were retiring or going out of business.  I found an opening working as a temporary employee in a local meat packing plant and ended up working at that plant for 2 years.  During those two years I worked at many different positions, starting as a laboratory technician, followed by working at a variety of quality control jobs, and finishing up by working on various production lines.

I learned a lot about the production of processed meat, and met many very interesting people.   There were times when I didn’t mind working at that plant.   However, in many ways it was not a good place to work.  A man who had worked there for many years told me that while it might look as if he liked his job, the opposite was true for him and many of the other employees.

In my first position at the plant I had limited contact with people working in the production areas.  I did get to know the quality control clerk who sent samples up to me from a production line.  She and I developed a good working relationship helping each other to make sure the samples were checked in a timely manner.   One night didn’t go so well when I tried to bring her test results while she was eating in the lunchroom. She made it very, very clear that I should never bother her during her lunch break.

I went from working in the lab to working as a quality control clerk when they eliminated the job I had in the lab.  I found out that those clerks often had a very difficult time completing all of the checking and sampling that was required.

In fact, I wasn’t able to do some of those jobs fast enough.  The position I was given required me to learn to fill in at any and all of the many different quality control clerk jobs.  When it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to master all of those jobs in the small amount of time I was given me to learn them, I moved on to production work.

I started out on a ham line putting chunks of sliced ham into compartments on a bagging machine.  At first I wasn’t able to do this job fast enough.  However, they gave me enough time at this job to get up to speed and I eventually mastered the job.   Unfortunately, work on that ham line was seasonal and I had to move on to another job.  I took several different temporary jobs in other parts of the plant to hold me over until I was needed again on the ham line.   With more time to learn the temporary jobs, I might have been able to handle all of them.  However, they gave me very little time to learn them and I failed at some of them.  At that point I decided I was not cut out to be a meat packer, bringing my days working there to an end.

What kind of short term work have you done that was interesting or not so interesting?

Mr. Distractible

Today’s post comes from tim

Driving by Lake Nokomis on Thursday morning the crew was out with the truck with the lift in the bucket on the back to hold the chainsaw guy to take down the 40 foot tall Elm tree with the disease.

I was wondering before we got there why there was such a big traffic back up. when I got there I realized everyone has to watch guys cut trees down a little bit. past that was a crew of another 10 workers who were digging a hole to get up some water pipes beneath the sidewalk. the hole was 15 feet long and 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep and traffic going the opposite way was slowing down to watch the guys dig.

I was reminded of leave it to beaver where Larry and the beeve would get distracted on their way to school stop and watch guys dig a hole or wait for people to come out of the manhole cover.

I feel that way when I’m watching guys set up amplifiers and drum sets on stage at a concert. where I should be looking towards the musical guest I get distracted and focus on other tasks.

I think it’s interesting when human instinct takes over and you get to see what can only be described as natural behavior kick in and override all of the polished growth and adult posturing we all do.

What ordinary sight transfixes you?

Mary Poppins in Russia

Today’s guest post comes from Plain Jane. It was originally part of a conversation on our companion blog, The Baboondocks, related to the sudden shift in King Juan Carlos’ job description. The question was “What is the best job you’ve ever abdicated?”

The best job I ever had was working as an au pair for the Bridges family in Moscow in 1964.

It was a fun job with lots of challenges, satisfaction and privilege. Certainly not a high paying job, but at $90.00 per month and free room and board, all the necessities were covered. The rest was gravy.

Taking care of three kids ranging in age from three to nine was a blast. Mary and Elizabeth, the two youngest, were early risers. By the time I’d get out of bed around 7 A.M. they’d already have played ballerinas for hours and left a trail of fancy dresses discarded on the floor of the hallway. After a breakfast of Danish pancakes, they’d be off to school and daycare, and I’d a have a few hours to do laundry and tidy up our quarters.

After school we’d explore Moscow on foot, by bus, train and embassy car. If I didn’t feel like making them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, we’d head for the embassy snack bar where a German cook made wonderful burgers, BLTs and the best German potato salad. Then we’d hang out on the embassy playground in the afternoon. Au pairs from Canada, Australia and several European countries lounging in swim suits on beach towels spread on the ground, watching their charges happily at play.

On days with no school, we’d pack picnic lunches and take the bus and subway to whatever destination struck our fancy that day. One such place was Gorky Park. There we’d while away the hours. Locals – mostly old men drinking Kvass and playing chess at small tables, and work crews of matronly, babushka-wearing women with big shovels for maintaining flower beds would give us curious looks – our brightly colored clothes in stark contrast to their drab hues. Other days we’d go to the Red Square, hike through the Kremlin or explore the banks along the Moscow River.

I’d take a lot of photos on these excursions. Pictures of David staring longingly at a toy train display at the Gum department store on the Red Square, or of Elizabeth posed in front of the Tsar canon inside the Kremlin walls. Snapshots of all three of them in swimsuits, munching on a picnic lunch on a weekend outing to the beach along the Moscow River.

After dinner, bath time and a little horsing around in their pajamas. Then the kids and I would pile into David’s bed for bedtime stories and singing. Of all her obscure childhood memories, Elizabeth wrote me a few years ago, the one that stands out as her fondest is of me singing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini,” to them. To this day it a song that she often hums to herself when cleaning house. She says it cheers her up to remember that summer fifty years ago. And David told me that he still makes those Danish pancakes for his own kids on their birthdays.

That’s a legacy I’m proud of.

What lifelong habit have you inherited from a teacher or caretaker?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I have a steady, good paying job that’s as vital to the community as anything anybody else does, and it’s more important than most. I’m proud of my work and I don’t mind saying so. But snide comments from the neighbors, my friends and even some members of my own family are wearing me down. It feels like people just don’t understand what I do.

Even though we have a great history that’s directly connected to human progress, there hasn’t been a popular role model for my line of work since Art Carney was hanging out with Jackie Gleason.

Yes, I’m a sewer worker.

Sometimes I have to go into dank places where waste collects and congeals into a putrid sludge. Our high-tech equipment usually keeps us at a distance from the most unsavory elements of our work, although it helps to have a strong stomach. I am very careful about where I step, though I do sometimes get a fragrant paste smeared on my boots and clothes.

But I’ve done this for a while, so clean-up is one of my best skills. On my way home I look just as prim and pressed as anyone. My house is as tidy and as sweet smelling as a fussy florist’s flat.

Still, as soon as people realize what I do for a living, I am subjected to a never-ending flow of poop jokes. There is never a time when people don’t feel that it’s appropriate to cut loose with another good-natured jibe about gas, muck, and chunks.

Diarrhea comes up with surprising regularity in these casual conversations, even though we in the profession treat it the same way actors approach Macbeth – we never speak its name.

My 25th high school class reunion is coming up in a few weeks, and I’m torn. I want to go but I feel like I can’t tell people what I do for a living. My wife suggested I say I’m in the disease prevention field, which is accurate but it could lead to more questions and eventual disappointment when people find out I’m not a doctor. My brother said I should just tell them I’m in the pipeline business, but somehow that sounds … dirty!

Dr. Babooner, I feel stuck. Should I tell the truth, lie, or just stay home?

Clogged Brain

I told Clogged he should definitely go to his class reunion and should consider telling the truth. Most people truly appreciate our sewage system and the professionals who make it run. It’s not at all difficult to understand why this work is a social good. Even small-government conservatives are willing to pay taxes in support of what you do. But if being honest is too painful, one can always claim to be a member of the U.S. Congress. With some, that revelation will give you a quick taste of how it feels to have a job that is truly reviled, and everyone else will quickly change the subject to something more pleasant!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?