Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Livin' the Dream

I met a really happy guy today -- which isn't all that unusual, in and of itself -- it was just the sheer sincerity of his ebullience combined with the circumstances under which I met him (he was at my office to snake my drains, and that is soooooo not a euphemism), that pleasantly surprised me a little.

We exchanged the usual polite greetings when I answered the door -- he asked how I was doing, so I asked it back -- and his response was, "Livin' the dream, young lady! Livin the dream" -- and then he burst out laughing, and I did too.

The thing is, he really seemed like he was. I kept him company while he worked (any opportunity I get to learn about flanges and flue baffles and foot valves and so on is an opportunity I'll take) -- and he talked very affectionately to the pipes he was cajoling ("come over here, you..." and "just do the best you can, baby!") He didn't seem just happy; he appeared to take real joy in what he was doing.

As always, I'm just impressed by people who clearly like and value the work they do, and that periodically elicits a dubious response from observers who say that it depends on the job. But I don't think it does, and that's the point.

I was a happy kid at eight years old, earning 25 cents an hour in my Uncle's tobacco fields (my ultimate goal was $15 bucks in pocket money for a summer trip to DC which happened to coincide with the Watergate hearings). I was delirious when he gave me a raise to a buck an hour the next summer. And by the time I secured my first high-school Christmas job in gift-wrapping at JCPenney -- for minimum wage plus tips -- I more or less thought I'd won the lottery.

I contrasted that with a snippet of "news" that scrolled past me somewhere this morning from one of those bachelor/ette shows (where everybody hot-tubs in search of Mr. or Mrs. Right as I understand it). In this clip, some guy was blathering on about how he was "unfulfilled" in his "consulting" gig in Chicago and so he'd run off to Paris to find himself as a Poet, or something like that. He was obviously recounting this as an asset, whereas my immediate inner-monologue response was "Get a job, Loser." (Or Poser, I couldn't decide which, but I'm sure I would have an opinion if I'd watched the show; I'm not too good for trash TV; it's just that particular brand strikes me as more "sad" than "escapist.") And that shows you just how out of touch I am, because he advanced to the next round.

It reminded me of a dinner date I was on recently where we were exchanging the obligatory first-date information about professional fulfillment, aspirations, dreams etc. And it turned out this guy's idea of epic success was "a job where you could smoke all the weed you want and never get drug-tested." Seriously? Had I accidentally wandered into a scene from a Judd Apatow movie? I won't identify his profession, but it's fair to say it's one most people his age would envy and that he makes plenty of money; his only objection seems to be that he can't do it all while high. I don't want to be judgmental. It's good to have goals, and I don't especially object to anybody's recreational enjoyment of some occasional relief from the heartbreak of glaucoma, but it didn't seem to occur to him that buildings or roads or things might fall down if he was stoned on the job. (He did not advance to the next round with me.)

I'd just like everybody to be as happy with their work as the plumber was when he tightened one last screw and pronounced (I think he was talking to the toilet, rather than to me), "The end is near, baby! The end is near."

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