Great Jobs 25-Other Useful Jobs
Life moves on, and it seemed to Charley and many of my friends that I was hard headed and maybe even a numbskull. I had walked away from a thriving business, but I looked at it differently. In my mind, I had done it, made it work, and now I was satisfied with myself. I was still young enough to realize that there were other things to do. And, I did go out and do new things and as I did those each became a new life experience, and after the experience I moved on to new ones again.
I suppose I thrive on being able to do something different, and to this day I love to make an impression by doing something that may not be my expertise, but I never say I can’t do it. When I was growing up I seemed to push myself into doing whatever anyone else could do. I had this ‘exaggerated’ opinion of myself as being equal to anyone and everyone, ‘I can do anything I want to do’.
For those who may read this, and wonder about my attitude, you may want to go back to the beginning and read again. If you do that you might understand my attitude. I was a sissy, but I learned from early on that I was the GREATEST SISSY of all time. Actually if my early years were pushed forward to today, I probably would have been in special school for those children who have disabilities, and I surely would have grown up a real sissy who would have to rely on the charity of others. But, in my day such things were not thought of. You went with the flow or you were an outcast. I may have been one of those in the minds of some of my peers and my teachers, but to me I was just me. If someone wanted to challenge me I answered the challenge in the best way I could. I may not have always won, but I tried to win and regardless of any outcome, my final thought was, I WON. Or at least I showed them.
Let’s just say I overcame my inferiorities with a super superiority. It was not so much that I thought I was superior to any one else, but more like I just had to be as good if not better. So, as I grew into manhood my first thoughts were ‘I am as good as anybody and I can do anything (any one else can do)’.
Another thought of mine was, “If it was made by man, then man should be able to fix it”. Thus later in life I had a job with a company in Saint Louis that made computer boards for National Cash Registers. Those machines compiled the guest checks for a restaurant for instance, among other things. It would keep a running tab, regardless of how many times it was inserted into the register. My boss was the EE who figured out the components necessary to make it work.
It was my job to put this information into an EE design program, which was a special one with its own library of electronic components and circuit diagrams and figure out the placement and wiring on the motherboard for the particular cash register. And, it was interesting how those boards were made. Usually there were three parts to those boards, a top layer for mounting components, a mid layer for wire tracing to make connections and a bottom layer for soldering connections. I used the Special EE design program that my boss had invested in to make these layers. And from that program an image was made for each layer to transfer to a sheet of copper coated plastic. The image was transferred to the plastic sheet and a special acid bath would wash off the unnecessary copper and leave only the image of the wiring diagrams. It was also my job to then drill the proper holes to mount the various components and solder them in place.
I built my first computer at that shop. I could order the parts wholesale from our suppliers. And even in 1986 at wholesale prices my first computer cost me almost $2000, but then it had much more than what could be purchased then from a computer manufacturer. In those days we still had DOS 2.1 or DOS 3.x as an operating system. My first computer also had a 300 baud modem, a big deal in those days. The Hard Drive was 62 megabytes, almost twice as large as what was commonly put into a manufactured machine. Word Star and Alpha 4 were the programs that would do word processing or data base operations. What a change in 20 or so years. Since then I have for the most part assembled my own computers from stock parts.
It just might be that I should have never had a driver’s license. But, I did it just to show I could do the normal things everyone could do. It just might be that I should have never been driving at all, but I learned how to control my limitations. I understood how far I could see ahead and learned to use my surroundings to verify my position. For instance, how many individuals might look at a white line in the street and accommodate that line to a car length. If I had to stay so many car lengths behind the car in front of me to be able to stop, then I would put the proper number of lines between me and that car. Some things I do not even know how to explain as to how I associated my surroundings, but what I am saying is that I had to make accommodations. Thus the points on a car to use to show a cars position in the road. These points were useful in showing my students how to associate surroundings to driving safety.
Some may think that I should have accepted my 4F status and took some desk job somewhere, but that would not have been me. I was as good as anybody that may have been drafted and had to serve his country. After all, my dad and his brothers had done their part in WWI and they all bore the scars of their duty. Were they any different from anyone else? Well maybe.
I had heard of stories of those who would injure themselves in some way so as to be unfit for service. But I was a sissy, no way could I ever bear hurt, to this day I whine and carry on when I ‘hurt’ or am uncomfortable. I do not bear pain well at all. But, I was not going to be classed as ‘unfit for service’. What a cruel way to classify anyone. As far as I was concerned I would be ‘where it was happening’ no matter what my problem. Was I not capable of doing engine work after learning that in school? For what reason would I not try to pursue what I had learned?
Should I have never been behind the wheel of a big transport truck? Well, there again, I was a good driver as far as I was concerned. And, I understood my limitations and drove accordingly. I ended my over the road days with a safety record of over one million miles without a chargeable accident. Should I brag here or just reiterate? Well, yes I am a braggart of sorts, so why not brag? I always had in mind that I was the greatest at whatever I did, because I did it with less. Does that make sense?
So, when it came to jobs, I tried to do more. Let’s look at some of the later jobs I had after the Driving School business. Later in life I worked in a super market just because I liked the Union Activity, the job of ‘bagger’ was for the birds. I worked as a doorman at a classy senior apartment. Did I like bowing and scraping to a bunch of old, well heeled, folks who thought of you as the ‘hired help’ but, there again I was the shop steward, and I liked the job for the position.
I loved fighting for workers rights and contract negotiating. I have even been arrested for my part in strikes and demonstrations. For that, younger Union Members looked up to me.
And, when the new dome was built in Saint Louis to house the Rams, I got a job as a ticket collector, but I knew the Saint Louis Labor Council had put up some money for the project and that guaranteed Union Jobs at the new facility. Again I was a shop steward at the facility. I did not consider the job as much as I considered the position.
Let’s face it, I had gone to union schooling on many occasions. I learned how to negotiate a contract, I learned to even write a contract. I learned the basic rights of every worker as taught in union schools and earned certificates of training completion. I learned to utilize the various organizations that helped people in need all from my union schooling. I have certificates of completion of many facets of union schooling and to this day I use all that training and education.
Right now I am still active in Unions, being an elected official in my area Labor Council. Some of this may seem menial but I love this work as much as I hate bosses and companies who take advantage of workers just because they do have to work and support their families as best they can. And, above all it lets me know I am still capable and useful. Being capable and useful is a big thing to me and it somehow keeps my life in order. As long as I think I am doing something useful, then there is no reason to leave this world.
Think of all the seniors who retire and then when they have nothing to do but watch the tube and sit around all day doing little or nothing they soon pass on.
An example I think of is my good friend Charley, who after he retired as an Iron Worker did little more than sit in front of the tube and down a few brews along with chips and dips. It finally caught up with him and he began to have problems with his health, as for as I am concerned he died prematurely in 1996.
Or think of those who are warehoused in nursing homes. I have seen many of them and I volunteered as an ombudsman for them, and that is one volunteer job I just had to quit. I could not stand to see these intelligent people being ‘herded into activities’ designed only to pass the day.
“Go day, come day, Lord send my day’.
You could see this in their eyes.
‘This is my last place on earth’.
Nothing more to look forward to, for so many of these seniors; even their own children forget about them. To me this is no way to end time given by our Creator. Or, as some may think ‘There is no Creator’; then all the more reason to never leave.
‘Big Guy’ you will have to come after me personally and you better bring help; I ain’t sittin’ around on my butt lookin’ forward to your beck and call. I will probably have to be dragged out kickin’ and screamin’. I love me and my life and want all of it I can stand. If and when I become so old and sick and everybody has to take care of me then it is time to go. So far I have taken care of myself pretty well.
And yes, at this time I do have the support and help of a wonderful companion, Mary E. Adair, who does the things I like to do and helps me do them. It is great that she is able to drive and haul me where I want to go. After about 1980 I finally had to give up driving as my eyesight was getting worse with age and I surely knew even my limitations had run out.
But my ability to be useful is still with me.
This December article concludes Helmer's series on Great Jobs in the eZine. The previous chapters can be accessed when you:
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