I usually don’t know what to write about, though I have hundreds of notes to use as starters. These are the result of thoughts that race into my mind that, I think at the time, are fascinating, and will be great reading. Then when I’m at the keyboard and really think about it, I doubt myself, and then nothing gets written.
There are so many stories on medium.com about people like me, who want to write, and then are deterred by some event or our mental state. I used to be able to write a good stream-of-consciousness essay, but when I look back on what I wrote, it usually doesn’t tell enough of the story to really draw in a reader. I also make false hypotheses about my life. I think of it as so highly dysfunctional, yet in the midst of where I am today, it seems a bit arrogant to think that my life has been that dysfunctional.
This occurs to me, as I am now, really, in a blue-collar world. At the moment, I work for a major US airline at the Albuquerque International Sunport in a customer service capacity, which is a blue-collar job. At the same time, due to an unlawful act (DWI), I am serving as a laborer at the Albuquerque Veterans Hospital in the laundry unit. At of this writing, I’ve served 29 hours of my 80-hour requirement. I work there on my days off from the airport — Wednesdays and Thursdays currently. Here, there is no bottom-line educational requirement. Most of my colleagues here have a high-school education at the most.
At the airport, I work with a wide variety of people who come from all walks of life, many different countries, and many levels of education, though the requirement is only a high school degree. One of the key reasons all of these people are brought together is for the flight benefits. Such residual benefits are not something one often gets at most blue collar jobs.
Transitioning from the white collar to the blue collar world has been an eye-opening experience. In this environment, I am no better than anyone else. My attitude is in the middle of adjusting.
In the white collar world, working from home, I had absolute control over my time. Like all jobs, the first order was to get the work done, which could take many more than eight hours a day. But within that framework, if I had a doctor’s appointment, or if I felt tired and wanted to lay down for a few minutes, or if I just wanted to adjust the time when I would do the work, I could. In the blue collar world, these things are not possible. I feel tightly restricted to the regimen of the 9 to 5er, without any of these aforementioned freedoms. Breaks come at a certain time and with a certain time limit. Lunch is restricted to thirty minutes (which basically means having to wolf down your food) — and there’s no rest time afterwards, you’re back on.
The blue collar world requires little of you but your presence, and your physicality. Move, do, keep moving. There is no such a thing as idle time. In my blue collar world at the VA Hospital, the majority of the work is manually folding gowns — hundreds and hundreds of gowns each day, along with blankets. The sheets have a machine to dry and fold them, but they require a human to feed the machine. Same with the towel folder. Feed that machine, using the same body movement, hundreds and hundreds of times a day. The drone of the machines keeps conversation at bay — people just work. This is the closest to working in a factory I have ever been. Well, it is a factory of sorts.
Who wants to do this work? I don’t see anyone that does, but they are at the mercy of the life that was prescribed them, and they are paid as such. If it wasn’t for them, who would do this work? As a “volunteer”, this work has an end, I can see it. For them, this is their life. Their whole working life. The only working life that they know. Maybe a lucky few will become supervisors, or perhaps be transferred to a more lucrative and less monotonous position. But most will stay exactly where they are, for they don’t have the skills, or the capital, or the aptitude to do anything differently.
After losing my last white collar job in 2017, this has been my lot. There was a time when I was set to start up my own business, but the breakup of my 8-year relationship put the damper on that — I had to come up with some sort of living in my new hometown of Albuquerque. This city has not been kind to me when it comes to finding any sort of white collar job. Perhaps I am finally experiencing “ageism” — I am 62 after all, though most put me at around 50.
So I am living the blue collar world, with all of its attendant worries. Officially, I’m living below the poverty line, on Medicaid, and in the SNAP program. It should come as no surprise that this is a far more common way of life in today’s America than the stereotypical, successful, white collar life. To be living it is, well, shocking.
Everyone CAN’T have a college degree, much to one particular democratic presidential candidate’s belief. Who IS going to do the laundry if everyone has a college degree and demands a college-degree salary?
Here in Albuquerque, without our immigrants and indigenous peoples, the laundry would NOT get done. Service people are the backbone of our employment force, and they are NOT getting their due pay for the jobs that no one else will do.
While the airport job may seem somewhat more prestigious, it comes with the same blue-collar blues because of low wages. So you can fly anywhere in the world for next to nothing, but not have the money to pay for anything once you’re there, which then limits the perceived value of such benefits. Whatever the case, what were once decent paying jobs are now farmed out to a subsidiary where they can negotiate to pay substantially less than they were.
As I enter my “golden age” (and it’s really hard to be saying that), I can see how challenging it may be economically. For myself, time will tell.
But I have heard a lot of good things about Panama.