Saturday, January 26, 2013

“They Were The Worst Of Times…”

“…They were the best of times.” I hope Dickens fans don’t get offended that I reversed the order of those phrases. My soon-to-be former job is what I’m using those words to describe.

I just counted up and discovered that, not counting my own self-employment, I’ve worked eight different jobs in the last 40 years. I worked two weeks for Hickory Farms while in high school, before discovering that this farm boy wasn’t yet ready to stand by himself in a tiny windowless room all day and make cheese logs. I then worked one spring as a fire warden for the West Virginia DNR until they could get a college-educated fellow to do the same job that I was doing without a college degree. After getting married, I worked a few months for Carnation Company, primarily as a delivery driver, then at a mall store that sold wood stoves and fireplace inserts and such. Not long after getting formally divorced, I drove a mail truck for a year (met my wife of 30 years while doing that). I then worked at a muzzle-loader shop for three-and-a-half years. While there, I worked part-time one summer at a lumberyard. Eventually, I worked at a factory for 12 years, went to college for two and have been on my last job for four. That didn’t include my self-employment, either part-time or full-time during those same years, which lasted until about seven years ago.

Each of those jobs had its good points and its bad points, even my self-employment. I was very poorly paid at the gun shop, and the management/labor relations at the factory were the most adversarial I’d ever seen in this area. Still, nothing prepared me for the utter disregard and disrespect of the telemarketing industry. From what I hear, it’s pretty much the same all over. The owners get rich, and the underpaid workers who make them that way are treated like absolute pond scum. They use fear, intimidation and the abject poverty of many of their workers to get by with treating them in ways that no-one should have to tolerate. Quite simply, if slavery ever returns, they’re the kind of people who’ll have slaves. At least they wouldn’t be racists; any color would be fine with them, since they disrespect everyone equally.

On the positive side, I met some interesting folks there. Some (many in fact) were their own worst enemies. Still, once I learned their backgrounds, I understood a lot of their weaknesses. When I see people who’ve been abused, or neglected, as children be responsible enough to show up for work every day and do their best to care for their OWN children, I’m impressed. They certainly didn’t learn responsible behavior from their drunken and doped-out parents. While I’ve seen people get fired for no good reason, I’ve also seen a few times when co-workers would let them crash at their place until other arrangements could be made, when they lost their apartments. I’ve seen a pregnant, homeless teenager crash with a different friend each night so as not to wear out her welcome, leave the home of a morning when they did, and then walk around town until her shift began. All this while trying to eat right and get all the prenatal care she could for her unborn child’s sake. I’ve seen kids who didn’t have enough to eat share their meager food with a co-worker who had none. And, I’ve met some good and decent Christian people who helped what kids there that they could, and prayed for ALL of them.

Most of all, the Lord has opened my eyes to just how blessed I’ve been all these years. I never realized how much I’d taken for granted. I simply considered my life reasonably normal and the way things were supposed to be. I never realized how many others didn’t grow up with warm clothes and a warm house, food in their bellies and parents who loved them. I never realized how many people move out on their own, only to lose their apartment, get their utilities shut off, or go hungry to pay their bills. I was never thankful that I never had to live on the street until I met people who actually did it. Some of my co-workers have slept in tents or cars. Some slept at the Salvation Army. Some, I don’t know where they slept. Don’t let people tell you that telemarketers make a good living; that was in the old days. A few, like me, have been blessed and get by only because of other incomes or other situations in their lives.

God has used my work at this modern version of an American sweat-shop to teach me more in four years than I learned in the 53 previous ones. One night, I found myself saying these words, “Lord, thank you for allowing me to work in that horrible place.” And I meant it. © 2013


irontomflint said...

Having seen much of the same, down-on-their-luck people helping each other out, I can attest to your story.
I have been on both the giving and receiving end of such generosity and I must say, that to be given to from those in such dire straits is very humbling. It reinforces in you a belief that, no matter how bad it gets, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Surely our Heavenly Father is hard at work in and through you. Please, fight against Satan's urging to assume that there is much that we are not meant to understand. For everything that happens really does have a reason, and our Heavenly Father is actually quite willing to personally explain (as opposed to just what could be interpreted from Bible verses) more than what most want to know--let alone understand.

Gorges Smythe said...

You're absolutely right, irontomflint!

Thanks, Jerry.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Call centers and telemarketing always seem to be so hard on their employees and I'm not sure why it has to be that way. I have been very fortunate to be employed where I have for the last 12+ years, although the past three have been challenges- a good thing but stressful. Good luck with whatever you plan to do next.