When Roseanne busted onto the scene she brought with her a unique brand of comedy, but beyond that she brought a spotlight to what it means to work hours for next to nothing. She introduced viewers to the working class in a way that hadn’t been fully explored on prime time. I imagine it was a tough sell, but she made it happen. Television and films attempt to portray the day in the life of a blue-collar family. But, behind the sentimental talks and topical debates, they seldom get to the heart of what it means to work and not ever, for a single moment, get ahead.
For anyone who has had an hourly wage job, you know the physical toll it takes. You know what it means to work hours on end, and the result being short on cash, short on time, short on patience and health. Many hourly workers are scheduled just enough not to qualify for health care (Affordable Health Care has perks for some, but it leaves many behind) and other employment benefits.
If you are a consultant, you may be experiencing a slightly similar heartache. No paid vacations, no paid holidays or sick time. You manage every facet of your day and you know if you catch a cold, you lose capital. You lose momentum. You don’t dare say no to a gig without the fear of being placed at the bottom of the list. You work with your head down at the task at hand, but every once in a while you scan the horizon to see what’s next. Not because you are not satisfied, but because you know you have to. You have to actively seek your next gig. Outsiders muse…”it must be nice to be your own boss, make your own hours…”. Sure there is something spiritually compelling about taking a walk in the middle of a week day morning. It can feel freeing. But, when times are lean, and let’s face it, they are lean despite the strategically placed, positive shout outs from every social internet site telling us how wonderful it all is….and within reach…if we just….
I have done both types of work in my life, and I fail to see an overwhelming difference between the two; just enough to get by, not enough to get ahead. And as time charges on, any semblance of savings dwindles as the cost of living escalates. Yes, there is typically an underlying privilege that permits consulting work vs. the hourly effort, but the results can often be similar.
Well this is a downer of a post! Unless…
Unless we strive to see the connectivity of all of us working stiffs. The connection between earning a wage, and wanting it to stretch far and wide enough to sustain our families with enough left over to reach other families, here with us or abroad. We are all cogs in the fabricated wheel of time and work invention. We have accepted that a week is seven days, and there are twenty-four hours in each of those days. We have accepted that when we work, we are paid for our efforts. We accept that those dollars earn us a right to purchase goods. We might segregate our lives between the people who work for us, providing us services, and the people who work with us, side by side on a daily basis. But like time, isn’t it a form of illusion? Isn’t the idea that at some level we are not all one in the same, perhaps even a deeper disconnect from reality?
Well, those thoughts do little to help with the water bill. But, it does make for better awareness with our daily interactions. As I have directed an agency, and worn the smock of the hourly wage worker, sometimes interchangeably, I have seen a lot of separation. Us and them. Sharks and the Jets. Didn’t that end badly for everyone? A moral tale? Maybe.
I don’t always hit the mark, but I do try to remember that I’m a thought bearing cog. And it’s probably in my best interest to get along with the other cogs, whether they are paid by the hour, gig, or even salaried. Forget what Jesus, or insert spiritual deity here, would do. If we haven’t figured it out yet, that the person at the drive thru is as relevant as we are, then we are truly riding off the rails, and that’s not good for anyone, especially ourselves.
The Love Train. One of my old-time favorites. The song itself probably has little to do with actual cogs, but it has a lot to do with connectiveness. So, just for today let’s get on board. Next stop and every stop after is Cogville. And that means for everyone – the conductor, the passengers, the engine…all Cogville. All the time. Oh, and the featured image – my ode to living cogs – a beautiful, scented grouping of tulips working together to form a picturesque garden in Cleveland, Ohio. And like the song implies, you’ll be missing out, if you miss it.