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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Book Review #17

Dark Matter

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. In my list of books read in 2016, I included several time-travel novels. More recently, my Book Review #16 – The Whenabouts of Burr, was not really about time travel, but a voyage across parallel, but slightly different versions of Earth.

I recently read another alternate Earth novel. It was

The book: Dark Matter

The author: Blake Crouch

The review: This book is also about alternate Earths/Universes. The narrator is a man who might have been a great physicist, married to a woman who might have been a great artist. Instead, he is a university science professor, and she runs a graphic design studio out of their home, as they raise a beloved 10-year-old son.

He is kidnapped by Himself from a parallel existence, who never married or had a family, but instead invented/designed a device to make this transposition possible. He is thrust into the other’s frenetic life, while the imposter takes over his peaceful existence.

The ‘Burr’ book makes inter-dimensional travel possible by an electronic device that limits which realities are available. It is largely a discussion about social and political alternatives – USA vs. Russia vs. China – disguised in a roman a cléf.

This book is about infinity, quantum entanglement, and the definitions of ‘reality.’ The device is mostly an elevator-car-sized sensory deprivation chamber, because quantum theory says that merely observing an action, changes the outcome. Essentially, the traveller becomes Schrödinger’s cat. He got some help from a biologist friend who developed a serum that shuts down the section of the brain that accepts the remaining input.

Instead of electronic controls, where you end up when you open the door is controlled by the psyche, the subconscious. You go where you unconsciously want or feel to go. It takes him several months, in and out of the box, to train his mind to return to where he started from.

Just when the reader thinks that it is “Happily Ever After” time, the writer throws another curve-ball at reality. While there is only one ‘his world’, and ‘his wife’, and ‘his son’ to return to, decisions that he made during the months that he was gone, caused other versions of him to split off, and 110 of them return, most of them ready to kill to get the prize. How do you surprise, outthink, and win out over yourself??

I found that this was a great, thought-provoking Science Fiction novel, about something that may become science fact in the all-too-near future. What are you reading? 😕

Not Mirror Image

Mirror

Words with two Meanings

1. THINGY (thing-ee) n.
Female…… Any part under a car’s hood.
Male….. The strap fastener on a woman’s bra.

2. VULNERABLE (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj.
Female…. Fully opening up one’s self emotionally to another.
Male….. Playing football without a cup.

3. COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n.
Female… The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one’s partner.
Male… Leaving a note before taking off on a fishing trip with the boys.

4. COMMITMENT (ko- mit-ment) n.
Female….. A desire to get married and raise a family.
Male…… Trying not to hit on other women while out with this one.

5. ENTERTAINMENT (en-ter-tayn-ment) n.
Female…. A good movie, concert, play or book.
Male…… Anything that can be done while drinking beer.

6. FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n.
Female…. An embarrassing by-product of indigestion.
Male…… A source of entertainment, self-expression, male bonding.

7 MAKING LOVE (may-king luv) n.
Female…… The greatest expression of intimacy a couple can achieve.
Male….. Call it whatever you want, just as long as we do it.

8. REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n.
Female… A device for changing from one TV channel to another.
Male… A device for scanning through all 375 channels every 5 minutes.

AND . . .

He said… I don’t know why you wear a bra; you’ve got nothing to put in it.
She said….You wear pants don’t you?

He said….Shall we try swapping positions tonight?
She said… That’s a good idea – you stand by the ironing board while I sit on the sofa and fart!

He said….. What have you been doing with all the grocery money I gave you?
She said ….Turn sideways and look in the mirror!

He said…. Why are married women heavier than single women?
She said…..Single women come home, see what’s in the fridge and go to bed.
Married women come home, see what’s in bed and go to the fridge.

😳

 

’18 A To Z Challenge – H

Challenge '18Letter H

HERMIT definition (for 10-year old boys); a man who goes off by himself

We live in a medically marvelous age.  Average life expectancy has almost doubled since my birth.  It was not always thus.

Once Upon A Time in the Old West, Ben Cartwright lived on the Ponderosa ranch, with three sons and a male cook, and not a woman in sight.  Life was particularly hard on women, especially during childbirth, with no doctor handy.

Old Ben had three very different sons.  There was handsome, intelligent Adam.  There was big Hoss, strong as an ox, and almost as smart, and there was smartass, ADHD Little Joe.  The writers may have had a back-story which explained the vast variation among My Three Sons, but many who watched the TV series were baffled.  Finally, several seasons in, they had Ben explain the history and reasons, to Joe (and the audience).

Ben brought an Eastern bride with him when he moved west to achieve fame and fortune.  She gave him Adam, and died.  Ben then married a strapping daughter of a Swedish family from Minnesota, who were moving to California.  She produced Hoss, and also died.  Finally, Ben married the daughter of a town merchant.  She died in childbirth, producing Joe.

My paternal grandfather also experienced similar heartache and heartbreak, but he didn’t have Ben Cartwright’s grit and tenacity.  When the going got tough….he became a hermit.

He married early, and had three kids, two girls, and a son whom he named Cecil – and his wife died.  With the help of an older, unmarried sister, he took care of them until the wife’s clan took them in.  This was a family that my Father was totally unaware of, until his half-brother tracked him down, after he was 65.

After a couple of years, Grandpa remarried, and again, had two girls, and then a boy, my Father, whom he named Cyril. Four years later, his second wife died while delivering another daughter.  Grandpa just disappeared, leaving the older sister, and the rest of his family, to take care of 4 kids, including a baby.

I met never-married ‘Aunt Jesse’ (actually my great-aunt) later in life.  She may have been the first instance in my life of, Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell.  Her actual name was Jezebel, but the devout Baptist would never let it be used.

I don’t know if my Father knew where his father was for almost 20 years.  When I was 4 or 5, my Dad began to take me to visit him, two miles up a concession road, off a nowhere highway.  He was living in a wooden, 2-man logging shack, by the side of the road.  It had a two bunks, a table and two chairs, a latch-string door, (look that one up) one tiny window, a wood-burning stove, no electricity, and a hand-pump for water.  The sink drained outside, but there was no bathroom….and I don’t remember an outhouse.  I used to water a nearby Maple.

After ten years of this, my Grandpa got an offer from a nearby farmer.  The farmer had bought the adjoining farm.  Now he had two farm houses, two barns, and two sets of animals, so he paid my Granddad a little, to live in one farm house, as a caretaker.

As a house, this was a big step up.  This one had central heat, hot and cold running water, a bathroom, and lights.  There was no radio, and no TV.  He had copies of the weekly paper from the nearest small town, but I never saw magazines or books.

Probably, after Dad located his Father, his three sisters (and their spouses) must have visited him from time to time, although we never met anyone else when we visited.  The farmer may have at least passed a little time with Grandpa when he came over to do chores, but he must have been alone for days – weeks – at a time.  As a loner, he makes me look like a rank amateur.

I look forward to your company here, again in a couple of days.  Recommend me to a friend – or an enemy.   😳

 

Flash Fiction #142

Walk The Walk

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

WALK THE WALK

Bobby liked his father as a child. He loved his Dad, as a young boy could.  He spent a lot of time with him over the years – rather, his Dad spent a lot of time with him.

He never idolized his Dad, never thought of him like Ward Cleaver, or Father Knows Best. He was just always there, an ordinary, work-a-day kind of guy.

Now that he was grown, and had a wife and children of his own, he saw the many things, great and small, that his father had quietly, competently done.

He had some big shoes to fill.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #135

Halo Statue

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

I GOT CONNECTIONS

Giancarlo had come to America, the land of promise and opportunity. After several years of hard work, he had saved enough to bring Mama over.

He installed her in a nice apartment, in a safe building which also housed several European widows of similar age. He made sure she had every comfort, and visited her each day.

After almost a month, he asked if there was anything she lacked. She said, “Yes, I wanna Halo Statue.”

They were good Catholics, but he’d never heard of a Halo Statue.

Impatiently, she mimed picking up a telephone, and said, “Halo, ‘stat you?”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Ode To Contessa

 

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Contessa – my little one – my Missy – my Lady Cat – my gravatar partner – the one who happily, excitedly, ran to greet me each day as I left the bedroom – has died, and I cried like a baby!

It was not unexpected, but it was no less painful. A retired breeder, she was with us just over 5 years.  She was 16 years old, but many Bengals live to be 20.  She was supposed to be the wife’s cat, but she adopted me and kept me in line just like she did the dog.

A couple of years ago, she developed some sneezing, coughing and wheezing. It was feline asthma.  The vet warned that, when we lost her, it would probably be to breathing problems.  Month by month, the coughing grew more common.

About a month ago, she caught a head cold. Nose was stuffed up and runny.  From February last year, to her vet appointment this year, she dropped from 8 pounds, to seven.  Whether because she felt poorly, or just couldn’t smell her soft food, she stopped eating.  By the time we got her to the vet again, she was down to 5 pounds.

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He gave us some antibiotic, and some high-calorie food. We got the medicine in, but not the food.  When Bengals stop eating, it’s almost impossible to break the cycle.  They will starve themselves.  She spent a week in the computer room, taking the occasional sip of water.  She finally came out and collapsed on the carpet in front of the bathroom door.  The end seemed inevitable.

As I sat in the living-room, reading, I suddenly realized that she’d dragged herself downstairs and was on the floor at my feet. I like to think that she wanted to be near me at the end.  Minute by minute, her breaths became shallower.  I hoped that she would quietly, painlessly drift off.

I had called the daughter and asked what to do with her when she passed. Daughter said that, as soon as I was sure she was gone, to seal her in a plastic bag and put her in the freezer, until a decision could be made – burial with a marker in the back flower garden, or cremated, and her ashes returned?

I’d had a long, hard day with the wife in the hospital for a knee replacement. I left a plastic bag and a note for the son.  I tried to go to bed at my usual 5:00 A.M., but I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t leave the problem to the unsuspecting son.  Besides, if she wanted to be with me, the least I could do is be there for her at the end.

I put clothes back on and went and sat beside her, occasionally stroking her. I couldn’t read.  I couldn’t think.  I alternated between the chair, and pacing the floor, cursing Fate and the Universe, and crying.  It seemed each breath was a little shallower than the last.  At one point she raised her head to look at me.  I want to believe that she was making sure that I was still with her and was comforted.  Then she sank back down and I thought that had been her last breath.  A couple of minutes later, she shook her ears and moved her head.

Around 6:00 AM, she seemed to spasm. Her front legs didn’t work, but she used her hindquarters to scoot a couple of feet across the floor.  I was afraid that she was in distress.  I rushed upstairs to the computer.  Our vet is 15 miles away, and doesn’t open till eight, but there’s an animal hospital a mile down the road which opens at 7:30.  I could take her there as soon as the son gets home with the car, to have them end any pain.

Around 6:20, she rear-leg drove herself over into a corner, behind a scratching post. Cats want to die alone, with dignity.  She managed to flip herself over onto her chest and tummy.  She lowered her face, her mouth and nose into the carpet, and….

I lay beside her, gently touching and stroking her, and crying my eyes out. When the son got home, we bagged and froze her.  Next week, when the wife can walk, we’ll take her to our vet’s.  The price for a job-lot cremation is $25.  A single-animal cremation, with her ashes returned is $200.  The son says he’ll split the cost.  We’ve done it for the others.  Honor says that we shall do it for her.

I don’t know how such a small, little lady managed to occupy such a large part of our hearts and lives. She was definitely part of our weird family.  Like any human relative or friend, she will be sorely missed, and never forgotten.  I/we thank you, my regal little Countess.  Be at peace!

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***

I composed this post later in the morning that it happened, to help myself deal with her passing. Thank you for reading my very personal tale of loss.  I’ll be back soon with something a bit more up-beat.   🙂