Friday, March 23, 2007

The Grind

This picture is sixty years old, easy. I'm doing the same thing today. How many people are doing anything the same as half a century ago?

The Grind refers to the mental and physical aspect of the day. He's sanding, not grinding. Me too.

There are some details that have changed, to be sure. This fellow didn't write a blogpost before beginning. He arrived at work a half an hour early and read the newspaper a bit and drank bad coffee from his thermos.

It's ever so slightly clunkier than mine, but he's using a belt sander, same a s mine. His might be better, as it weighs more. It's easier to use a heavy belt sander than a light one.

I won't get the enormous snootful of dust this guy got, as a vacuum hose is hooked up to mine. Nose cancer and a condition like miner's lung from the wood flour was very common in the wood trades. Still is, just less so now. I'm 99% sure the guy smoked like a chimney, too. Everybody did then. Come to think of it, you can still find a lot of construction workers that smoke now. It's one of the few patches of life I rub up against where a lot of people smoke. People who work with their hands tend to be very fatalistic about such dangers.

It's very difficult to get them to use devices to safeguard their health and safety, generally. Most large construction companies have to have rigid protocols, strictly enforced, to get people to take the smallest amount of care about such things. They chafe in the harness, that's why they choose to work out in the wild world instead of in a factory or office. They don't like being told what to do, and perform a simple rough calculation of loss/benefit/discomfort in their head, and throw dustmasks in the trash the minute no one's looking. You have to make it safer and easier at the same time, or it doesn't work. Laws mean nothing in this regard.

The fellow shown above is making a big pile of cheap furniture, and his job is on another continent today. No one shed a tear for its loss. Some one else wanted to do it more, and proved it by doing it better for less. It's the only calculus that should be allowed into the equation. That guy's sons and daughters have an enormous amount of consumer goods available to them because the creative destruction wrought by progress was allowed to make his livelihood pass him by. Consider also that there were craftsman making tables before this fellow, that glowered at him and his economy of scale in his big official factory with his state of the art lighting and tools and salesmen and secretary and bathroom and timeclock and power supply and so forth. He did not shed a tear for them, and we do not for him. In particular, it's sad when people's livelihoods are swallowed by progress. In general, we all get richer so it's fine. In a way, I'm more like the guy the fellow in the photo replaced. People shop at IKEA and Wal*Mart and so forth for inexpensive home furnishings. I don't play in that game, and try to take a big piece of a small pie that's left over. It's enough.

I do not expect anyone to shed a tear for me, if the time comes. I'm sanding today, because for right now, nobody wants it more.

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