August 28, 2009

First, Kill All The Lawyers...

Always wanted to say that. I mean, for the first two decades of my life, I wanted to be a lawyer, but still.

Interesting little piece in the NYT about how the economy is reshaping people's view of the trades. My dad was a bricklayer. It never occurred to me for a fraction of a second that a life in the trades wasn't a great choice. And not a fallback - a great choice.

The Poor Sod works in a trade. He was late to it, at age 30. We used to call him the world's oldest apprentice when he started, 8 years ago. Now, there's been a noticeable uptick in the age of newbies. Perhaps they've figured out a couple of things: working with your hands, if you've the aptitude, is a damned sight more rewarding than pushing papers around a cubicle, especially if computer monitors and harsh lighting are your idea of hell.

With defined hours, he doesn't tote work home with him. And if projects blow over the finish line, he gets paid to sort it out. I watched my Dad work his shifts for 24 years, which was tough, but he also had almost full time hours to put into his garden, his cottage, and us. When he went onto straight days, the cat knew what time his car would come around the car every night. And that was 4:20.

I had the Dad who used to come on field trips. That never happened with the brigade getting off the GO train each night at 6. He built a cottage neighbour an amazing stone fireplace. It was gorgeous. Of course we didn't have one (cobbler's kids and all that), but my Dad was good.

Tradesmen (and women) are the ones you want to know. I like people that can fix a toilet, change an outlet, patch a wall, shingle a roof. I can do all that stuff, but I'm scared of heights. Or so I say. I've worked in offices - a lot. I've spent days, weeks, months, years, staring out the window, breathing in the fake air and wished for anything but this. That's a pretty good sign that maybe this isn't the way to spend a third of your life - wishing for it to be over. This is the part where I tell everyone to buy a great bed, too. A third of your life is spent there - do not skimp on a good bed and nice linens. Back on topic now.

Ladies, remember back in high school when they made us all take typing and shorthand (I think I might be the last person to take shorthand - YMMV), so that we'd always have something to 'fall back on'? Remember every job being asked if you could type, and hesitating knowing it would destine you for that crappy job if you admitted you could do it?

I took typing. I took shorthand. But I also took 3 years of wood construction. If I was gonna have a fallback, it was going to be something good. I would rather work a table saw than a dictaphone. If you don't know what that is, ask your mother.

If nothing else, this fall-apart economy is reminding us how stupid and useless we've become. Too many people can't fix a washer, change a sparkplug, clean the eaves. I have repeatedly, and expressly, told my boys that the trades are not just an option, they're an excellent one. Apprenticeships are usually 5 years, they're not easy, and the classroom component is serious. But I think they also bring with them the ability to teach someone the many things you can do, rather than wait for some other entity to announce that you're no longer of use.

A Master of the Universe should know how to use tools.


Blogger DJW said...

When I was just a young pup, my Father gave me this advice, "Learn to weld, son. You'll never be out of work."

This was true.

Until my back gave out.

Fall back #1, Taxi Driving.

8 years of nights.

Back to school. At 32.

Now I'm working in the multi-diciplined field of Engineering Construction Surveying/Inspection for a Municipality.

But I could still weld if I had too.

Or drive a Taxi.

August 28, 2009 2:58 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

I have been embarrassed for some time now with how lily white and soft my hands are. When spring pokes it's head through my screen door, it finds blisters on my hands when I start the little manual labour that I actually accomplish. Oh sure, I open and close the pool and inground sprinkler system myself. But that's just because I'm too cheap to fork out $300 each spring and fall. I have lots of tools, most of which are growing a nice crop of rust.

I really, really hope that this economic crash that we've come through has turned people back to a more frugal, enjoyable lifestyle. I, for one, have realized that the chase of the almighty dollar is a very hollow adventure. The simpler things in life now lighten my day. So far we have reduced our monthly budget by over $2,000 and our aim is $4,000. We will no longer be "From Oakville" where cash is King... or more likely... credit. We are going to move out to the country and get some calouses on our hands.

And I can't wait.

PS. I took typing, too. Back when the clackety old keys would smash into each other if you typed too fast and white-out actually did something. Then you had to line the paper back up and pray no one noticed that it was off by 1/32nd of an inch.

August 28, 2009 3:02 PM  
Anonymous buzzwhack said...

Trust the NYT to interview someone from Harvard about "the romance of working with your hands." I'm glad the yuppies are learning to work with their hands. I suspect a few of them are in it to be able to have "the certificate" and hang up their own shingle and charge ludicrous prices for their service. I can see it now, "The Skulls Plumbing--Tradition since 2008 Discount for Yale undergrads!"

August 28, 2009 3:05 PM  

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