Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday's Words for September 16, 2009

When you’re standing smack dab in the middle of middle age—that is to say when the muck of it is nearing the top of your boots—you begin to have strange thought-tangents. That was me this week, and the basic thought at the center of my tangent was: life isn’t anything at all like THEY said it was going to be.

When I was a teen in school, the educated literati and Academics of the day made some pretty lofty claims with regard to just about everything when it came to what we could expect in the future. Take the work-a-day world, for example.

THEY said that we’d all be working a three day work week, that we would be paid sufficiently for those three days to provide a very good life-style, and that we would all be involved in extensive leisure-time activities—supposedly because we would have a surfeit of leisure time.

Before the recession, a lot of people worked far more than the so-called regulation forty hours per week. Many folks had more than one job, because today’s employers tend to hire “part time” staff, and so often one job doesn’t bring in enough money for one to support one’s self, let alone a family.

My beloved is fortunate enough to be employed in an industry that he loves, an industry that is one of the cradles, if you will, of “infrastructure spending”. While at the beginning of the year he had his hours slashed—a victim of panic on the part of his boss (a gentleman who is, by the way, no longer his boss), at this point in time his company is trying to make up for all that lost time (and product not produced for contracts that had been signed) and my beloved is putting in sixty-four hour weeks. When I remind him he’s not as young as he used to be, he reminds me that slow time will surely come again in the winter, and since the last boss panicked and cut everyone’s hours, the new one could do the same and he best “make hay while the sun shines.”

Surfeit of leisure time indeed. Well, that’s one THEY got wrong.

Another claim THEY made was that with the proliferation of computers, paper and paper reports would be a thing of the past. There would be no need for all this paper: the forests of the world were saved!

The first job I had when still a newlywed was as a clerk in a department store credit office. Within six months of my hire, that company began the (then) arduous task of computerizing their records, a process that was supposed to eliminate my job completely. Fortunately, it did not.

As for the salvation of the trees, according to one source, since the early 1960s, world consumption of paper and paperboard has increased by almost five hundred percent. Basically, the use of paper in the United States works out to about 660 pounds per person per year on average.

Anyone who works in an office will tell you that’s something else THEY got wrong.

Do you recall television before cable and satellite? You had to buy your television, of course, and you had to buy the antenna that went atop your house, and pay for the electricity that made everything work. But television programming itself was free.

I think I ought to repeat that for my readers who are 30 and younger. Television viewing was free.

The only drawback to free television was you had to watch a lot of silly commercials, because it was the commercials that paid for the television programs. Then came this new concept, cable television. You’d have to pay for it of course, THEY said. We were shocked. Pay for television? Yes, THEY said. But don’t worry. There would be no commercials on cable television, because your cable subscription would pay for the programs—thus no need for the commercials.

No need for commercials? Commercials are everywhere, on every available surface the eye can see or the ear can hear, as well as embedded in practically every page a person views on the Internet. Heck, they’re even, sometimes, at the bottom of essays.

It gives me some comfort, after all these years, as I am sliding deeper into the muck of middle age, to know with a surety that THEY weren’t as smart as THEY thought THEY were.

Feed the flames of your passion…with a novel by Morgan Ashbury

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