Under Pressure – Overtime

Recently, the son climbed out of the car and left his choice of radio station on.  When I climbed in, I left it playing.  Because of this, both of us heard David Wilcox’s, sexual innuendo, double-entendre song, Layin’ Pipe, with its line of, “Eight shifts a week is never enough.”

People like young, up-and-coming doctors and lawyers put in huge amounts of hours to guarantee future success, but often, hourly-paid workers will do the same, working two or three jobs, to get ahead.

One of my fellow auto-workers put in an 8 AM to 4 PM shift every Saturday at a cookie factory in the next city.  There was no problem when he was on day-shift, or afternoons, but, when our week ended after a midnight shift, Saturday at 7 AM, he had an hour, to drive 20 miles, and punch in by 8.

The son has a co-worker who works as a bus-boy/prep chef at a local family restaurant every Sat. & Sun.  On a straight midnight shift, he gets a few hours sleep, and works Saturday, from 2 till 10.  The plastics plant has offered a couple of Saturday midnight shifts recently, and he took them.  Leave the restaurant at 10 PM Saturday, drive across town and put in an 11 to 7, grab a few Sunday ZZZs, and back to the diner.

Fortunately, they were the weekends before, and after, Easter, giving him a week to recuperate.  The son worked both weekends also.  He had a four-day week with Easter Friday off, but followed by a six-day week.

My auto plant had a five-year stretch of prosperity, where there was overtime available every week and weekend.  As a union shop, the work went first to the person on the required job, and then by seniority.  A young man hot-forming vinyl sheets went through two packs of Hall’s Mentho-Lyptus cough candies per shift, to keep his mouth moist.

Someone suggested doing something on his day off, and he replied that he hadn’t had a day off work in 17 weeks, and many of them had been 12 hour days.  It was either the work stress, dextro-methorphan poisoning from all the Hall’s, or a combination of both, that lost him his job.  Not once, but twice, he phoned the plant manager’s house (who, of course, wasn’t home) and screamed at his wife and daughters and threatened them with violence and death.  I’m not sure if he demanded less overtime, or more.

The inspector/packer on my Jeep line was a little, Muslim, Turkish Cypriot.  As such, he had a great need for male children.  His wife first presented him with two daughters.  He bitched at her, but she was sufficiently Canadian to tell him that he only got back what he put in.

She finally gave him a son, but – Oh Horrors – the boy’s right ear was malformed, and he held it against her, loudly, constantly.  They had a nice little house, with a nice little mortgage.  She must have felt that, if he was going to either ignore her or belittle her, she wanted something that included room away from him.  Before long, they had a nice big house, with a nice big mortgage.

Soon, between abandoning her and paying down the mortgage, he was spending huge amounts of time at the plant.  One day, the supervisor distributed our pay checks and, without thinking, I asked, “Did you work any overtime last week?”  Then I slapped myself!  I worked the standard 40 hours.  He had a slow week at 80, 24 at time-and-a-half, and 16 at double-time pay, and yet, his check was exactly double mine.  All the premium pay had gone to the government as taxes.

He would work four hours over, each day – five 12-hour days by Friday – then come in on Saturday and Sunday as well.  If he wasn’t asked for overtime, he had a system.  Even if he worked till 11 PM Friday night, he was back at the plant by 6 AM Saturday morning, “Just to get something from his locker.”  He knew that, of a crew of 10 or 12, at least one would get drunk, or forget to set an alarm, and he would be invited to fill in.

He had another trick.  He would work the Saturday day-shift, come back at 11 PM and work the overnight midnight shift, get a bit of food and sleep, and return once again and work the Sunday afternoon shift, getting in three shifts over two days.

A few times, he managed to stretch one of the weekend shifts to 12 hours, giving him a total of 88 hours for the week.  Wilcox’s “eight shifts a week” is nothing; that’s eleven! At least once that I know of, he managed to get 12 hours on two of the weekend shifts, setting his record (and anybody else’s) at 92 hours.

He showed me a picture in his wallet once, of a handsome young man.  I thought it might be a younger brother or cousin.  It was just him, shortly before I met him, pinched, dried, wasted!  I own an 11-year-old car that I may not be able to afford to replace.  At 70, my mortgage isn’t paid off yet, but people still don’t believe I’m as old as I am.  I worked to live.  I didn’t live to work.

Huge work hours, and dedication to a job or career can buy you lots of “stuff”, but it often doesn’t leave you enough time or energy to truly enjoy your stuff.  I tried to attain a middle ground with my employment, and still often shake my head at those who don’t leave time for life or family.

14 thoughts on “Under Pressure – Overtime

  1. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Hey Archon! I’m trolling today and thought I would stop by and say Hi. Your post made me tired of work just reading it. My dad worked 60+ hrs a week (not for stuff) to make ends meet, so I can understand why some people do it. I agree with you, though, you have to have time for a life and the important things in it! (I’m not sure if you guys celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow or not – if you do, tell Granma Lbug I hope she has a special day)


    • Archon's Den says:

      Sorry for the delay in reply. Had a big day yesterday. I’m about to start a post about it.

      Yes, we had a lovely Mothers’ Day today. The daughter and grandson came over with some nice presents, and we had a great meal. I gave Granma Lbug your best wishes. She thanks you very much, sends you some good thoughts, and says to take a couple of hugs out of petty cash. 🙂


      • whiteladyinthehood says:

        Sounds like a good day well spent.

        (I appreciate the thoughts n hugs and since I’m in petty cash – I’m gonna spring for a new pair of shoes, too)



  2. I’m with you on that, Archon. What’s life if you don’t take time to enjoy it a little?
    I did that work 24/7 bit. It pulled our financial ass out of the fire, but it contributed heavily to the medical problems which forced my early retirement and really shot our financial wellbeing to hell.
    Shiny new ‘stuff’ is nice to have, impresses the neighbors and all, but is it really worth it?
    Not in my experience.


    • Archon's Den says:

      For the one-in-a-million, like the Arab who owns the Ambassador Bridge, it might be worth it, but perhaps even he is saying, “Maybe I should just have gone bowling with the guys.” 😦


  3. BrainRants says:

    Work is important but I do agree with your theme. 18+ hour days in Afghanistan helped reinforce that belief.


    • Archon's Den says:

      I thought of you as I wrote this, and wondered. Not much Me-Time available in The Suck? I hope there’s more time for sleep, and other bed-related activities, where the longitude measurements are in the pluses.


  4. Jim Wheeler says:

    Work. Always a problem, always interesting. The best descriptions I ever read of it were by the great Studs Terkel, written back in 1974 but timeless, really. It was titled, Working.

    My blue-collar father worked many, many 12-hour shifts on cable-tool oil rigs – he called it “good money”. I vowed I would somehow never do something like that, and then I joined the Navy and became essentially and permanently (it seemed) sleep-deprived.

    It is getting worse. The Great Recession, together with the global economy and third-world manufacturing, eliminated millions of jobs and spurred “productivity”, which is the term they use when people are replaced by machines and computers. This is not a reversible process. Therefore it is going, I predict, to be increasingly difficult for people to emulate the Archon style of work/life prioritization. Nevertheless, I totally approve of it. You and I may have crossed the finish line just in time though.


    • Archon's Den says:

      The son is thankful to even have his minimum-wage manufacturing job. He has dystopian resignation to the assumption (fact?) that there will be a huge global crash. He just hopes that it won’t occur for 30 to 50 years.

      We crossed the work-week finish line. I’m still doing what I can to hold off that other, more permanent one on the chronological horizon. 😦


  5. Money does not buy happiness, it just pays the bills.


  6. […] By Archon’s Den […]


  7. benzeknees says:

    Don’t know if you saw this, but hubby finally got a job, after 6 months of unemployment! Last week was his first full week & he worked 2 – 12 hour days already! It was really busy for him because, of course, everyone wanted their summer tires on in time for the May long weekend. I’m glad for the peace & quiet of him being gone & the relief from having to pinch every penny till it screamed. Now we just hold them extra tight!


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