The Myopia of the Masses: My Own "Better Off Dead" Experience

Crossposted at DailyKos.

If you haven't read the diary " surely better off dead" by Auntie Neo Kawn of DailyKos yet, go read it now -- I'll wait.

This diary is an additional build upon it -- my own experience as one of those who the comment "better off dead" refers to.

When you're ready and you've tipped, rec'd and commented over on Auntie's piece, feel free to drop below the fold to get my take. And thank you for your time.


Referring to this quote (taken from Auntie's diary):

A man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead.

...the comment is nearsighted. Myopic. Delusional.

I know.

I've had many career ups and down, and am currently working on getting back to an "up" from an extended down, made more challenging due to the economic freefall that 8 years of Republican mismanagement, corruption and greed have wrought.

I knew that getting back "up" would be a challenge when I made the conscious decision, with my wife's agreement, to shut down my consulting in order to focus on the role I'd assumed as primary care giver for my mother-in-law. I knew it would be tough. I knew there'd be financial strain.

During a large portion of it, I was still able to work a bit, here and there. On those occasions, if I worked 3 days of a month, I made more than my wife did in a month. I'm usually very quick to recover and get back into business -- I'm not used to being without income for long periods of time.

But I'm used to it enough that I've got several survival strategies, and those have helped in several ways. They don't solve the problems, and times are still tough, but things are slowly (slowly, slowly) getting back on track.

One strategy that works on several levels for me is the part-time job I secured. It's a basic job, paying minimum wage, working on a replenishment team at a department store. It's physical.

I refer to it as "the gym" and have lost 2 of the 3 pants sizes that I'd put on during the stress of the caregiving period.

The part-time job wasn't easy to secure. I'd applied for full and part time jobs when it looked like rebuilding the consulting business was simply going to take too long in the sluggish economy, but nobody wanted to hire someone my age in spite of my experience. Even for part time jobs. But, for one of my financial stabilization strategies to work, I had to have at least a small regular income.

Thus, part-time work, particularly off-hours, would be ideal in absence of a management or leadership position. I could work on rebuilding my consulting business, and still have a minimal level of wages to help secure basic needs, juggle bills and pay toward tax requirements. The problem was that sooooo many people wanted to work ANY job, and every part-time job was saturated with applications. A relatively healthy 45-year-old who'd been a technology and business consultant for most of his career just didn't appeal to most part-time positions.

I got lucky. The manager I'd interviewed with asked me why I wanted the job. I told him the truth -- that I needed it, and that it provided me with several advantages. The job would allow me to see what the folks on the front line were doing with the type of inventory and ordering systems that I would normally write report for or help to implement on the other side of the equation. I'd get valuable insight into viability -- what makes a good program from the side of the bean counters doesn't necessarily mean it's of any use to the folks on the floor.

The position also gave me with the opportunity to work on my team player and team building skills, as well as my communication with co-workers and customers.

And, as a bonus, I got some much-needed physical exercise that I was paid to get. I didn't have to pay for a gym membership in order to get a damn good workout.

The manager took me at my word. I told him that, unless he saw reason to let me go before that, I'd give him at least a year. I knew turnover was relatively quick, and the hours I'd requested would permit me to do a lot of additional consulting work without interfering, so I felt making a commitment like that was worthwhile. And it has been.

I'm re-living, re-learning and enhancing my skills and observations about how this type of retail operation works with regard to yearly sales cycles, product counts, shipping & receiving and employee relations. I'm noting the good, bad, effective and ineffective aspects of hand-held information devices that integrate with back-end inventory and sales systems. I'm seeing the kinds of interactions that employees have with each other, the types of supervisory challenges they face and kinds of widely varied skillsets, training and education that often mix in a retail environment.

And I'm learning a bit about some of the people -- real people, with real day-to-day issues; some have years of success in higher-paying, higher-responsibility roles in other fields. Others are just out of college. Many are turning to part-time positions as the only form of employment they can get right now -- they are the underemployed that are often overlooked when folks cite "growing" employment figures. (Sure, employment is up -- we're not bleeding from all parts now. But underemployment is up tremendously.)

My consulting business is slowly climbing out of the early grave I'd laid it in. It was supposed to be only in suspended animation, so re-animation is taking a bit longer than originally anticipated, but the color is returning to the once-pallid complexion and the patient now has a pulse, albeit weak. Over the course of the last couple of years, and in particular during the three months since I started the current recovery plan that included the part-time "re-education" gym technique, I've also finished co-authoring two books, and each new project that my business partner and I take on is somewhat more complex than the last, and bids out at almost twice as much as each preceding project.

But I'll continue to work the part-time job, going to the 'gym' four times a week, because even when my consulting income becomes more stable and reliable, I'm giving and receiving an important set of value-adds. Right now, I need the job as much -- perhaps more -- than some. Later, I may not need it as much, but it is serving several purposes -- I can confidently say that the year I've promised will be well worth it, and barring any unanticipated events, I'll seriously consider retaining it beyond that year.

For anyone to state that anyone at my age (or slightly older) working at a part time job of that type is "better off dead" means only one thing to me: the person making the statement is not very smart, not very experienced, certainly lacking in leadership and communication skills and quite likely has serious emotional maturity issues.

I'd not want to hire anyone like that, for any position, unless the person demonstrated the ability to learn and grow beyond such ignorant tripe.

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neither delayed nor denied! And well-said to boot, you part-timer, you :-)

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson