Hours And Hours

 

clock

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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Getting The Word Out

I guess I got my work ethic from both my parents.  Mom was content to just get a job and do it, in a time and place where women working outside the home, and especially in a factory, were unusual.  Once Dad got a reliable factory job, with a regular salary – paid in cash, in an envelope, every week – he often looked for other minor ways to supplement income, whatever it took to support self and family.

Like me, he’d got some secondary education, but no concrete idea of what he wanted to do with his working life.  Out of school, he worked for a year at a flour mill, then a year in the lumber industry.  He trained as a butcher, and refused to eat any fowl for the rest of his life because of how messy they were to clean.

He worked as a grocery store clerk, as a taxi driver, and then as the taxi dispatcher.  He worked as a poolroom attendant.  Not exactly glamorous, but it paid the bills.  As I was growing up, he devised several ways to supplement income.

He organized a weekly Saturday night party/dance at the local Legion, and took it from a dozen drunks who didn’t want to go home to their wives, to a couple of hundred people dancing and being entertained.  He hired the little band and sang and told jokes and made public service announcements.  It gave him and Mom a social night out, and put a few dollars into the family coffers.

He talked a printer into running him some advertising sheets for “SMITTY’S CARWASH”, and put them on posts on Main Street, and down near the beach, in the tourist area.  I could be mowing the lawn or eating lunch, and someone would roll into our driveway.  A rag, a bucket of hot soapy water, and the garden hose, and ten minutes later they had a shiny car.

Speaker

Another “Remember When” thing that he/we did, that no longer occurs because it’s been outlawed almost everywhere, was mobile public broadcasting.  He got a pair of speaker horns, attached to a sheet of plywood. We would wrestle them up, and attach them to a roof rack on a little British, Vauxhall station-wagon.   A feed cord ran from them to an amplifier in the back.  Power was supplied by a charged auto battery via a cord with alligator clips, because cars didn’t have cigarette lighters.

From when I was about 10, to 14, after I helped him set it up, I would ride with him.  He would drive, and speak into a mike.  Do one block, move to the next, and blast out the same announcement.  Up one street, and down the next, then back and forth across the town.

This was a summertime activity only, for when people were outside their non-air-conditioned houses, or the windows and doors were wide open.  There never seemed to be any dearth of clients – the town was holding a Bingo on the lawn beside the Town Hall – the Softball League had a playoff game – the Anglican Church was holding a pancake supper – the local snake-oil salesman was having a sale at his appliance store – somebody had brought Donkey Baseball to the local park – the Ladies’ Auxiliary was touting their Fish and Chips supper at the Masons’ Lodge – the circus was coming to town.

When I entered my teens, one day my Dad suggested that I take up the mike, and broadcast the spiel.  It would have been much easier for him not to have had to drive one-handed, and be able to concentrate on the road, but I was still a shy little nerd with a squeaky voice.  By the time my voice deepened a bit, and I had taken public-speaking training for assertive projection, times had changed.

This was the stone-age equivalent of social media – just without the internet, but people were waking up to the idea that they didn’t have to put up with things like spam noise pollution.  Churches in town were told to stop ringing their bells, because the faithful now had clocks, and knew when to come to worship.

The one church which had already removed its clanging bell, had replaced it with speakers on all four faces of the tower, and used them to blare out the chimes from their new electronic organ, and the entire service.  It was right across the street from a large Bed and Breakfast, as well as a 9-unit Inn.  The guests, and their hosts, strongly protested that they had the expectation of peace and quiet.

My father sold the amp and speakers.  The churches kept their bells quiet and their sermons indoors, and technology continued to create newer and better (?) ways to get the word out.  Now, if we can just pry the word out of the cell-phone-addicts’ ears.   😕

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