Work


Dr. D. running for the Beatrice Corporate Marathon Team.

I’ve often heard that “work” is a four-letter word. No wonder I try to avoid it at all costs. But wait, “word” is also a four-letter word. Hm. And so is “four.”

The more I think about work, the less I like it. I’ve worked all of my adult life despite never having a job that I really loved, or at least liked even a little bit. I mean, I can work very hard as long what I do isn’t classified as “work.” If I have to do physical or intellectual labor for someone else, and hopefully, for a salary, I’m unhappy and resentful.

I can workout all day just for the fun of it because I’m doing it just for me. Years ago when I ran marathons, I used to run more that one-hundred mile weeks just because I loved running marathons and I wanted to run my fastest marathon possible.

One of my pet peeves of having a job is having a boss who bosses me around. But worse than me being ordered about by someone on a power trip who loves to exert his or her authority just to show everyone who’s the boss, is having me in charge and having me order people around.

When I worked at the peanut butter factory, I did repetitive, monotonous manual labor. My first job was stacking sixty cases of peanut butter on wooden pallets. Each case weighed about forty pounds. I learned how to save a step here, an arm movement there. When you work eight hours doing manual labor, every motion adds up. That was the only way to conserve my energy so I wouldn’t wear myself out. Sometimes when the assembly line broke down, I got to rest awhile. Eventually, I brought a paperback with me so I could read during my breaks and whenever the line was down. Well, my bosses couldn’t stand to see me sitting there doing nothing, so they would always find something for me to do like sweep the floor, stack pallets up, etc. Well, no matter how many things I was supposed to do during that downtime, I always figured out a way to do everything more efficiently. No matter. I still always had time to sit and read. My boss finally gave up on finding more tasks for me.

My mother used to get mad at me because I didn’t aspire to get promoted or take better paying positions such as mechanic. My mother coached me as to what to say whenever I was approached to advance on the job. The boss would usually ask if I could do a certain task and I was supposed to answer, “No, but I can learn!” Every time I was asked, I would say, “No, I don’t know how.” “Would you like to learn?” “No.” And that would be the end of my climbing the company ladder.

Somehow, my mother would always find out about my new job offer and yell at me for not accepting the promotion. She would call me lazy and unambitious. Back then I was really into kung fu, so on my days off I would work out all day. I want to build up my endurance and stamina. In fact, at work I could work tirelessly for hours. Then, one day, against my wishes–due to a shortage of manpower–I was promoted to assistant foreman on one of the peanut butter production lines. Suddenly, I found myself having to boss my fellow employees around. And they didn’t like it! They liked me well enough as a coworker, but hated me as their boss. One possible reason was because I was younger than them. I was caught in the middle. My boss would give me orders to get certain things done, and I had to make the workers work. Well, absolutely no one obeyed any of my commands. So, silently, I started doing all the work that had to be done. And everyone just watched me. I didn’t complain. I just kept working, minding my own business. I didn’t know what else to do. At least, I wouldn’t get in trouble for not working. Eventually, everyone start working alongside me. I was shocked! When we were done, the foreman showed up and congratulated us on a job well-done. After that, I never bossed anyone around, but everyone did their job before I even had to tell them. Go figure!

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.