Hours And Hours

 

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Some Japanese office workers literally work themselves to death, putting in huge numbers of hours. Others commit suicide if they feel that they have somehow failed – their employer, their family, or themselves.

North Americans may be losing ground to devoted Asians, even though they try to work smarter, not longer. Unlike my Cypriot Turkey auto-parts co-worker, I have never felt the need, or the ability, to put in consistent 80/90 hour work weeks.

The first full job I obtained in this town, 50 years ago, was a position as an Inventory clerk at a steel warehouse/fabricating plant. I was classed as an office worker, but was paid an hourly wage, rather than a weekly salary.

The rest of the office worked from 8:30 to 5:00 PM, with an hour for lunch. I was told that there was a lot to do in Inventory, and told to start at 7:00 AM. I quickly found that I accomplished more in that first hour and a half, than I did the rest of the day.

Long before computers, the department ran on paper. And we had piles and piles, and PILES of paper. Large cards in a bin for new material received, and then sold or applied to a job. Four drawers of rolodex-sized cards for material used in fabricating. If a 37 foot part-beam had another 19 feet cut off it, the 37’ card had to be removed, and a 18’ card inserted. We kept two women busy at an IBM punch-card machine. A worksheet for every job had to have weight calculated, material prices applied, and costed, so that Billing/Accounting could determine profit (or loss).

As company sales increased, so did the piles of paper. I took to coming back one evening a week, usually Wednesday, and working from 7 till 10. My 45 hour week became 48, and still the paper piles mounted. Billings (and company income) were delayed.

My manager asked me if I could work Saturday mornings to clear the backlog, so I came in from 7 till noon. The Provincial work standard insisted that any time above 48 hours had to be paid at time-and-a-half. Now I was regularly working 53 hours/week, and being paid the equivalent of 55-1/2.

No matter how careful we were with the paper, often the card amounts didn’t match the physical count. Once a year we did a physical inventory. The plant was divided into 4 categories, plate, sheet, bar and beam. Four counts were done on four successive weekends.

The workers from each division only had to work their one weekend. We lucky Inventory clerks had to work from 7 to 5, Saturday and Sunday, all four weeks – actually working 5 weeks without a day off. And since the Saturday time was spent correcting the inventory, an extra evening was often necessary to keep up with Billing.

It’s a good thing that I was young and stupid strong. I started with the company just before their yearly material count (lucky me), so I endured five of these 5-week, 7 days/70+ hours/week sprints, before I was promoted to the 37-1/2 hour position of Purchasing Agent, and got to know my kids.

Part of the reason for my lack of success, is my lack of stamina and dedication to both my career and my employers. How about you faithful readers?? Did you ever work somewhere where you had to put in long hours?? Or were you able to ‘git-er-done’ in a 40-hour (or less) work week? 😯

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7 thoughts on “Hours And Hours

  1. Americans are work obsessed and think toiling long hours for highly taxed overtime pay is the way to go. When we visited Europe we couldn’t help but notice how much happier French workers were. They take long breaks and leave from 1:30 to 4:00 every day only to resume in the late afternoon more refreshed and productive. Of course highly caffeinated shots of espresso may have something to do with that.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      Perhaps it’s just as well that I’ll never get to Europe. I can’t stand/don’t drink even coffee, much less espresso. Maybe they might make a decent dark hot chocolate to sip with my croissant or brioche. I do have the siesta down pat though. 😎

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t drink coffee either, and since the French don’t drink anything cold my iced tea was not at all satisfying. But the ample cheese, bread and wine more than made up for it!

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  2. Jim Wheeler says:

    I recently listened to a pod-cast of Stuff You Should Know about the building of the Hoover dam during the depression. Managed by work-obsessed manager, an army of poverty-driven men completed the perfectly-designed project two years early and under budget. The most dangerous jobs, and they were plenty dangerous, were the lowest paid. Many died of “pneumonia” which was actually caused by mineral dust, so the official cost in lives, which was high, was under-stated.

    “What a piece of work is man.”

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    • Archon's Den says:

      When Canada built the Trans-Canada Railroad, Chinese workers – coolies – were allowed to immigrate and do much of the dirty work. Especially through the Rockies, the estimate was one dead Chinaman for every mile of track. 😳

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  3. I never had to work extra long hours, but I’ve had jobs that were so stressful that I lost my health because of it. Only after I’d been in the hospital for 10 days, and off work recovering for another 3 weeks, did my boss realize how hard my job was – because he had to do it for me. Stupidly, I repeated the adventure when I later took The Job From Hell, but by then I was wise enough to get out before winding up in the hospital.

    People who like getting that extra money for overtime are welcome to it. Personally, I think even a 5-day workweek is too much, especially in high-stress jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Archon's Den says:

    So glad that you’ve seen the light. You might even retire sometime….
    The Turkish co-worker would work 80 hours, twice my 40 – and his check was twice the amount of mine. All the time-and-a-half, and double-time pay went to the government as taxes. It got him away from a wife who he’d decided he didn’t want, but couldn’t afford to divorce. 😳

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