I’ve Worked 44 Years and WHAT??!?!

So when I was 18 , literally by days, I was standing in line. No concert tickets for me — no sireee, I was waiting in line for a job. Little did I know back in the summer of 1968, that standing in line for jobs was going to be a reoccurring story, or at least a setting in my life. My brother had dropped me off at 600 West Washington, Chicago, Illinois. The Union Hall for the IBEW Local 134. I was going to be an Electrician! I got out of the car, I had a fresh copy of The Godfather to read, some food, a few cans of soda, some cash and determination.

Back then, here was the best way to become an Electrician. Know someone. Ok we are done here. Actually, having a Sponsoring Contractor was what was needed. This was a company that said, for all intents and purposes, that they were going to employ you for the next 4 years. Your 4 year Apprenticeship was covered. You’d be a made man in 48 months. So in line I got. Oh By the way the doors opened at 8:30 AM Monday. It was 5:30 AM Sunday. I was given a card that designated my place in line after I sat on teh sidewalk for about 5 hours. I was 134th in line. Wow, an omen — 134 was the Local number too. Destiny.

By the time I was allowed in the building (about Noon, Monday), I had more than my first beer (of the week), had played softball on Washington Ave, I had taken a 2 hour watch with a baseball bat in hand to watch for “line cutters” overnight. The highlight was offering a local (Things were not as PC) Wino a $20 to climb a 10 foot tall pyramid of empty beer cans. He did – he fell we laughed and gave him $30. The next morning someone bought him coffee and a single serve cereal (Corn Flakes), which he poured Orange-A-Go-Go fortified wine. I never saw Willie the Wino again — but he seemed a nice guy.

Flash forward. Its 2012. I have worked many, many jobs. Stood in line for some. Walked by those standing in lines at places I worked. I have worked with many people, some fantastic, some so fucking bad — I actually have to say I can hate. As much as that bothers me. Sure I can hate someone threatening my family — even myself, but to hate someone who only interaction with you is his job…. That my friend is a visceral, basic hate. Yeah — I can do that hate.

I was in the middle of the 1970’s gas wars with embargoes and recession hitting. Off work for 27 months. One son born and my second during some of the poorest times in our lives. My wife and I still laugh about the Federal Cheese, the wonderful neighbor’s apple tree, the Bacon my brother got for working side jobs. I had a trade, I was able to supplement the years of Unemployment Insurance I collected. We made it and when I made the decision to go into maintenance and get out of the building trade, we were better for it. Our marriage was better, we learned to save money, we learned to laugh at adversity. We learned that sometimes working was not important – it was working for a purpose that really made a difference. Even so, work was tough. Remember I was entering the Manufacturing sector which would begin and continue to shrink. Until I established some seniority or hung on longer than others I had to lose, find and lose jobs again. My personal record was 6 jobs in one year. Still, by 1988, I had not worked one job for more than 9 years……

Finally after joining with Union Carbide in early 1988, I managed to stay in one place for nearly 24 years. Sure – three owners (UCC the The Dow Chemical Company (UCC was then a wholly owned subsidiary of TDCC) which then had to sell us (FTC came knocking!!) to Arkema. What a ride. Training, schooling experience, travel…. what a rush. In all that, I kept thinking that one day I’d retire.

Well….. It has. Now a new life begins….

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