Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The O.C., Fishing Boats, Manual Labor, And My Dad

I haven't written anything in a long time, as life has been pretty chaotic lately.  Of course, there have been the holidays.  There have also been other things -- family health problems, weddings -- a mixture of the good and the bad.  But, I have missed blogging.  So, I thought I would start out 2013 by talking about two of my favorite subjects -- "The O.C." and my dad.

At one point during the four seasons of "The O.C.", Ryan becomes dejected.  Yes, I know he spends most of his time being dejected.  But, this particular time, he decides it would be a good idea to go off and work on a fishing boat for several months.  Of course, none of the other characters in the show think this is a good idea.  I, on the contrary, thought it was a marvelous plan.  Why?  It reminded me of my dad and his very wise ideas about life and work.

Now, don't get me wrong.  My dad encouraged my sisters and I to go to college.  He told us that it would make life much easier for us.  You see, he had not gone to college.  He went for a semester, after his two years in the army were over, but he didn't think much of the professors and their ideas.  He explained to us how one of his teachers tried to tell the class that nobody and nothing was really there.  That they were all just imagining everything.  Of course, which of them was the real one who was actually doing the imagining was not made clear.  This kind of thing frustrated my very down-to-earth father to no end.  One day, though, when he was at Bank of America depositing some money, the manager came over to him and offered him a job as a teller.  (That is the way getting a job used to work in the "old days.")  My dad jumped at the chance.  And he ended up having a pretty successful career at the bank, but he realized that he was sometimes passed over for promotions or had to work harder for them because he had no degree.  So, he told us that we should just buckle down and get that piece of paper, even if it meant putting up with some "nutty" thinking along the way.

Even as he thought getting a degree was a very important thing, though, my father always taught me about the value of hard work and the wisdom of the working man (or woman).  He was of the opinion that those who are not formally educated, who do the "blue-collar" jobs in our society, are often smarter than those with advanced degrees.  He felt that because they usually do not make much money, and have to work really hard to get ahead, that they develop common sense about how to interact with people and solve the practical problems of life -- like providing food, clothing, transportation, and shelter for themselves and their families. 

And my father's positive opinion of working-class people was proven to me by those individuals I met through him.  After working for 16 years at Bank of America, he left the suit and tie behind to become a general contractor.  He had a partner and they ran a pretty small company, but they would hire sub-contractors for various jobs that they did.  I, therefore, had the privilege of meeting many plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers, appliance repairmen, etc.  My father knew the very best of these working men, and he thought very highly of them.  And they, in turn, thought very highly of him.  When I lived in the Bay Area and I needed something done in my house, my dad would send the very best guy available to my assistance.  The job was always done right, by a polite man who never left a mess.  And each of these men would tell me how great my father was and how much they enjoyed doing jobs for him.  I don't really miss living in the Bay Area, but -- I tell you truly -- I miss those guys when something springs a leak in my home. 

Because of his life experience, then, my dad never thought of it as a negative thing to be a working-class person.  In fact, I remember him making numerous comments through the years about how spending some time digging ditches could be the very best thing for a young man's character.  So, if my son was having some struggles in life and he told me that he wanted to spend several months working on a fishing boat -- saving up some money and contemplating his future -- I would totally and completely give him the green light.  Not only would he learn a lot about himself, he would gain an appreciation of those who spend their lives doing that kind of work.  For, it is a kind of work that does require skill and common sense.  The kind of skill and common sense that it is not a waste of time acquiring from those who might be willing to teach it to you.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    There is something very satisfying about the manual labor of working with "stuff" as an occupation (e.g., plumbing, wiring, roofing, etc).

    Stepping back at the end of the job and saying to one's self, "I built that" holds a special kind of joy.