Mary had just driven her brand new 1984 VW Rabbit Cabriolet over the Southern Pacific Railroad crossing on Sixth Street in Lincoln.
It’s one of those “humpback” style level crossings. You have to slow down as you cross or you will get a heavy blow and the entire car will rattle.
If you are a low rider and you don’t slack off, you will hit rock bottom. Channeling Starsky & Hutch can take your breath away when you go much faster than 25 mph.
I turned to my sister as she drove on.
“It’s a shame you don’t treat mom’s car like that,” I said.
She asked what I meant.
I pointed out that she was crossing the tracks as if she was worried about damaging her car, unlike our mom’s 1970 Chevy Caprice. She wouldn’t slow down to make passengers feel like they were sitting in a bumper car on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
She looked at me a little questioningly
“It’s amazing how you treat things differently when you get the money to pay for them,” I added.
After some thought, Mary said a few seconds later that she understood what I was talking about.
It wasn’t that I was a wise big brother, on the contrary. I just shared what my grandmother Edna Towle was pounding into me while we were playing Chinese checkers or solitaire, when I was 6- and 7-year-olds and spent the night in the two-story, 700-square-foot house she had built with their own hands during the Great Depression.
It was wise advice sharpened by their life experiences and reinforced by the way I observed others over the years.
Grandmother didn’t impress her skills with a saw and hammer or shoeing a horse. But a lot got stuck, at least for the most part.
I’m not always up to the situation, but I make a conscious effort to live up to her two biggest points that she has worked on every time we have had one-on-one conversations: Don’t go around with a chip on your shoulder and treat others like that how you would like them to treat you.
I wish I could say I hit both pieces of advice 100 percent. Not me. I can honestly say that I strive to walk through life after these two pearls of wisdom.
Grandmother’s advice, which I shared with my sister 33 years ago, should definitely be heeded as we approach Labor Day.
Most of us see this as a good excuse for a three-day weekend or the recent summer breakout. We seldom think about “work” in itself, its worth, or its virtue.
Given that more than a few of us have seen government efforts to keep the pandemic from slowing the economy while trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, we might want to do a little searching for souls .
Labor built and running this country, not the government.
And what is given to us is of less value to us than what we deserve.
It pays to be able to work to get something. It creates values that go far beyond economic considerations. The delayed satisfaction associated with working for what one needs or wants is manifested in a sense of self-worth, the concept of value, and a reluctance to waste hard-earned profits.
Over the past year, when the government reached out to prop up the economy, many people considered spending more dollars building better lives for all.
There is a great danger that enough “free money” from the government will dilute the incentive to work, creating societal problems and undermining the economy.
When in doubt, ask yourself a few questions.
Did you wake up this morning with a roof over your head?
Thank you work.
Did you enjoy a breakfast that included food that was grown, processed, trucked, placed on a shelf, refrigerated, cooked on a natural gas or electric stove, and sat at a table?
Thank you work.
Are you going to drive over roads and bridges in your car filled with oil refined into gasoline to play by the lake?
Thank you work.
And while it took a lot of brains to design your smartphone, computer, tablet, X-Box, and smartwatch, none of this would have been possible without mining materials, manufacturing components, and assembling them.
Thank you work.
There is a lot of fuss about how we move from a manufacturing to a service economy.
At the same time, everyone thinks that coding and 3D printing are making physical labor as we know it obsolete. But someone still has to mine and process the raw material and then build the robots, computers and 3D printers.
Engineers specializing in a repertoire of disciplines provided the blueprints for the Industrial Age, the Space Age, and the Internet Age. But everything they do would have stayed on paper, or millions of numbers on a microchip, had it not been for the work.
Try indoor plumbing if it wasn’t for work. Not only did workers build and install the toilet, they also installed the pipeline and sewage treatment plant.
We look at modern marvels like the Golden Gate Bridge and remember only one man, Joseph Strauss. History does not know the thousands who mined the ore, shaped the steel, made the wire, and drove the 600,000 rivets into each tower, and those who risked life and limb when they built the suspension bridge over the dangerous Golden Gate. Eleven men were killed while the bridge was being built. None of them were engineers.
Labor literally created the American dream.
It turned the New World into an economic juggernaut that emerged in the world’s darkest hour and made the weapons to repel Axis power and then rebuild war-ravaged countries.
Work is still as important as ever.
Unfortunately, many look down on miners, farm workers, truck drivers, train engineers, mechanics, plumbers, and others for not being engineers, lawyers, professors, code writers, or other professionals. Try to start an internet start-up by avoiding anything the work produces.
Your innovative workspace could be outdoors or in a cave where you wouldn’t leave bean bags next to cabins. They wouldn’t be the energy to run your computer, charge your smartphone, or run your espresso machine. You couldn’t sell or ship a physical product. You would have to walk to work and do so naked, unless you can sew your own clothes or find fig leaves large enough.
You need to make sure your office is on a creek as there are no plumbing or bottled water supplies that require a truck, a plastic bottle molding facility, and a processing system to fill and sanitize the water.
It’s ironic. We’re not hesitant to pay $ 1,000 for an iPhone that has a massive markup, but we screech bloodily when we can’t hammer someone who uses work skills to do a job for us or get a merchandise down to the lowest possible profit margin to produce .
We value gadgets beyond the essentials.
That’s because the job did its job and did it well.
We seldom think about what they’re doing. Work and what it produces is taken for granted.
There is great honor both in work and in value.
And none of what we enjoy in America today would be possible if people didn’t take the work.