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Front Page » May 5, 2009 » Opinion » Staff column: World of work is not very far away
Published 2,027 days ago

Staff column: World of work is not very far away


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

The world of work is not far away from any of us. Many of us spend our time there every day, sometimes 24 hours a day depending on the kind of job we have.

What I am thinking of however, is how I perceive work and how I have looked at it in the past.

The reason this comes to mind is that the other day I was walking next door to the local convenience store and there in the parking lot was a truck from one of the soda pop distributors. The driver had his product stacked next to the truck, ready to wheel into the store's cooler and he was just making out some paper work before he took it in. I walked up and looked at him and smiled.

"I used to do this a long time ago," I told him. "But when I had to take it into the store we had a lot of 16 ounce glass bottles and cans, and very few plastic containers."

He looked at me and nodded. Probably thought I was some nutty old coot who had never dumped a stack of two liter bottles over accidentally and watched them roll around the parking lot while they let loose with CO2 pushing them around the place like rockets.

I know too, though, that he had never had to mess around in a bottle bin plucking matching returnable bottles out of it while putting them in plastic or sometimes wooden cases and then hauling them back to the plant so they could be refilled. Bottle bins were like the scourge of a grocery store when I was delivering soda 30 years ago. The store employees would just toss the returns from customers in and there would be broken glass all over. I always wore thick leather gloves so that I wouldn't get pierced by the raw edges of the broken soft drink receptacles.

That was one of the worst things about the job; other wise it was just a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. However at the time I probably didn't think so when I dragged myself home at 10 at night after delivering a couple of thousand cases on a hot summer day.

But I have to say the myriad of jobs I have had in my life has prepared me for the one I have now. I have had three different careers in my adult life, but I have had a lot of what you would call just jobs.

When I was a college student I worked as a custodian for Granite School District in Salt Lake. I remember looking at people through the windows of the district office on a hot summer day while I was mowing the lawn outside the building and thinking how easy they had it. I thought that a desk job inside an air conditioned office would be so easy compared to what I was doing. Later I got an administrative job working in those offices, and on warm spring days I would look out the window and see one of the custodians mowing the lawn and wish I was back out there. That job inside the building, dealing with budgets, crumbling facilities and difficult personnel problems, was not nearly as good as I thought it was on those hot days I peered through the windows only a few years before.

It's funny how in retrospect you see things with 20-20 vision while when you're younger you tend to be myopic. When I was a kid I worked on my dads farm. I remember very hot July weeks hauling hay day after day in long fields where the bales seemed to go on forever. Our farm was in the flight path of the Salt Lake City Airport and I would look up in the sky and see those jets coming in for landing and take offs. I was thinking at the time how cool that would be; going on business trips to far, exotic locations, and lunching on the plane as I traveled.

Years later, I would find myself on those planes, traveling what seemed for endless hours, trying to do work that needed to be done in between the "buckle your seatbelts" and the "don't get up and move about the cabin until the aircraft comes to a complete stop" announcements. The hours spent on planes always seemed much less productive to me than those bales of hay I threw on the wagon one after another. While I spend little time on jets these days I sometimes drive by a field where a farmer is hauling traditional hay bales, and find myself strangely drawn to jumping out of the truck and running out to help him. I never do it because someone might think I am crazy, but there is something strangley comforting about the thought of scratched up sun burnt arms and alfalfa down my back and in my shoes.

Yes, work is what we make of it, what we think of it and what we dream of it. I always thought being a small town newspaper publisher would be a world of solving small town crimes while you had drinks with the local sheriff at the local bar and directed reporters to run off to various locations to gather stories. Too much television I guess.

And no one ever told me it would be work either.

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May 5, 2009
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