Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Employer's Guilt

The cellist and I are having a little addition put on the house. It's not like we're secret millionaires or just won a lottery. We're blowing our nest egg to do it. It's a simple decision at the end of a complex line of thought. How we got here doesn't really matter. The point is, we're creating jobs.

When you create jobs, people show up for work. They may be people with whom you don't normally spend time. This crew built a previous addition for us in 1999 to prepare for the arrival of the cellist when she came to live here full-time. A friend of mine had worked for them and his brother still does. So they're not total strangers. Two of them have mountain bikes. One still rides fairly regularly. The other rider has been hindered by a bout with lymphoma that left him with nerve pain originating from tumors near his spine.

I ponder my place in the world more than is probably good for me. In terms of my overall contribution to society I often feel I should live in a hovel no matter what I might by chance be able to afford. I'm a bicycle mechanic in a rural resort town. It's not like I get to do heroic deeds in support of transportation cycling in an area where a lot of people can and will take it up. Around here it will always be a challenge of debatable worth. When the bike business had its high points, like the mountain bike craze of the 1990s and the very brief bike commuting surge in 2008 when gasoline first hit $4 a gallon, I felt like what I did mattered. Now, for most customers I service their hobby, their diversion. It's just not important.

I got over any great sense of superiority as a cyclist decades ago. Now I simply try to represent my people in a way that will do them credit. I'm known as that crazy guy who rides his bike from Effingham to Wolfeboro every day. A source of wonder, I am not a role model for more than a minuscule handful of people. They all know better. But if I want to continue to entertain and amaze them with my persistence, that's fine.

The builders could not commute by bike. They are not hostile to the concept. They simply can't do their jobs without trucks. Their work is physically laborious. Their tools and materials are bulky and heavy. And when you need them, you need them.

In the marketplace, people bring their needs and abilities together to make deals. People who spend all their time making money must trade it to people who make things and do things. People who make things and do things for their money still have to get products and services from other providers because of the time and training they have devoted to their particular specialties. Not everyone sweats and strains while making their legitimate contribution to society.

Work that looks like work needs no explanation. You see shovels moving or hear screeching power saws and the bang of nail guns. A building takes shape or changes form. Is a financial manipulator with no conscience really worth 700 times as much as these practical people giving physical form to an idea I sketched and handed to them?

When my money is gone, it's gone. It was a windfall, an utterly unexpected life preserver on the choppy sea of life. In an actual emergency like a serious medical problem it would evaporate faster than spit on a hot griddle. Expanding the shack means we can more comfortably accommodate visiting friends and family. Having lost a few of those in recent years, that seems like a higher value than trying to crouch on top of a little pile of money that wouldn't even make much of a fire.


Steve A said...

Point to remember. Dollar for dollar, dollars make a bigger fire than any othed dead Peresident.

cafiend said...