September 26
Just another average working stiff slowly losing ground in the land of opportunity...


MeatMonkey's Links
OCTOBER 4, 2011 11:02PM

In Defense of Manual Labor

Rate: 5 Flag

I love to complain about my job. By every measure being a supermarket meat cutter, I have a lot of justification. I’m over-educated, under-employed and underpaid. My job is cold, wet, messy, gross, physically exhausting, mentally frustrating and, throw in customer service on a busy day, you even have quite a bit of stress for very little money.

The truth, however, is little more complicated.

 I am my job.

 Though I didn’t intend it when I walked into the Sedona, Arizona grocery back in 1984 looking for a little gas money, I am now a professional meat-cutter with 27 years experience. I am one of the old dogs I looked at with wonder (and pity) back in my youth. Now I am fifty years old and I have reached a level of expertise and easy competency at my job that I will never gain anywhere else. It is a good feeling. I think about where I would be if I followed many of my generation’s soft-skilled, job-hopping, paper-pushing, marginally-employed tendencies and I am happy to be a underachiever.

 The pay is pretty low. Compared with my more successful fellow college classmates, I am living on the margin. I own a vey modest ranch house in a rundown neighborhood. Both our vehicles have over 150,000 miles on them. I do not have such modern necessities as cable TV, garbage service, or a cell phone. And still I struggle to make the mortgage every month. I always seem one large bill away from ruin.

 We’ve taken pay cuts. We’ve lost benefits. Every year we’re asked to kick in more towards healthcare. I don’t want to get political. I don’t know the reason why we are eliminating our craftsmen. But it makes me sad and sometimes a little angry to see a job that was once solidly middleclass slide into being just another service sector McJob.

 But it’s okay. I’ve made peace with it. Being middle-class is probably over-rated. Someone once said that comfort and luxury is over-rated. All you really need is something to be excited about. I have situated myself in a beautiful part of the country and everything I really love to do is cheap—hiking, biking, backpacking, camping or just staring at the skyline.

 While my job has not made me financially successful, it has given me other things. I am strong, tough, patient, disciplined and can think on my feet. I know how to work hard. And like it. I take pride is a good day’s work and the meaningless craftsmanship of everyday things. Sometimes I look at a fresh cut display of steaks that I just created and my heart swells.

 Yes I complain a lot about my job. I think we need a raise. We need more benefits. We need competent upper management. We need a couple freaking days off in a row once in while. Once, just once I'd like to have a long holiday weekend just to see what it feels like. And sometimes, I am utterly exhausted when I get home. Truth is, though, my job is so ingrained now in the very fiber of my being that I cannot imagine doing anything else.

 Sometimes I think I have become the anti-Hunter S. Thompson. I hate to advocate backbreaking, mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, hard labor for everyone, but it’s worked for me.

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There's a satisfaction in working with your hands that you don't get from so-called "mind work." I find washing dishes at the end of the day (one of the few forms of manual labor I can handle--ask a former boss of mine on an assembly line) calms me down.
I LOVE THIS!! You should be getting better pay. We need to value all labor, may the day come soon. In the meantime, you are taking a positive attitude toward your life. Very wise!!
Con, yes sometimes I'm so calm I at the end of the day, I can hardly move my lips.

Kathy, thanks for your kind words.
Not to be maudlin but I do know a lot of people who have been "broken" because they cannot find nor have they had a job in the past couple years. Sometimes a bad job (one you hate) is better than no job. Not to negate your complaints one bit, but I have repeated this statement to several people in the past year. In fact, I have a 36-yr-old friend who is "starting over" in the next couple weeks. He's been living at home with parents for a few years, as his mom was sick and she passed away this past summer. Now he has to try and find a job again. He is depressed, as he will undoubtedly have to answer the same question 100 times about what he's been doing. But he will happily take any job to get started again. It reminds me of the saying my mother always quoted, "I thought I was poor until I met the man with no shoes..." On Christmas Eve this year, I reminded my family just how good we had it, even tho each of us complains about our job, our financials, our lack of "me time"... and we each took a moment to be thankful for those things we have. It made all the difference.
I think you missed the point of the post. Despite its shortcoming, I am very proud of my job. As far as the "Be Grateful You have a Job" sentiment I've been hearing so much lately... Sigh. I know a lot of people are out of work and suffering terribly, but I can't help but feel the powers that be are using that to their own advantage. I can't strive for better pay or benefits because other people have it worse?

I feel for your friend. My company declared bankruptcy two years ago and was staring the same scenario in the face (at the age of 50). Luckily it worked out for me.

Somehow we need to level the playing field in this country but if I knew how to do that I'd definitely have a better job!!!
Nothing wrong with manual labor...I've found it to be very satisfying on the occasions where I have done it. I've worked in construction and demolition...and actually looked forward to going to work.

But the problem is...and there is no getting away from this...there is less and less manual labor that needs doing (machines have become very sophisticated)...and almost no need to pay anywhere close to a living wage in order to get people to do it.
Well, they haven't made a machine that cuts cows up (yet). Unfortunately they have "centralized" a lot of the cutting in depressed areas and imported third world immigrants to do the dirty work.