I’m no spring chicken anymore. I mean, I’m not a youngster, but in the workplace, I have almost 25 years under my belt. Those of us who have been working for that long have seen changes come and go in corporate America–mostly go–but few changes have seemed as optimistic as the promise of “A New Way of Life” as demanded by today’s up and coming Millennials.
What a disappointment that’s been.
I saw an article today on LinkedIn praising the work ethic of the millennial and the first thing that came to mind was, “Well that sort of flies in the face of their demands now doesn’t it?”
For the last few years we’ve heard all about how millennials won’t be slaves to the workplace like boomers and GenXers and how they will demand flexibility and a new breed of “benefits.”
I must confess, I’ve yet to see anything change. In fact, I’m working MORE hours now, for a slower rate of return on my earnings, than I have at any point in the last 25 years (minus my days in the military).
Maybe I’m working for the wrong companies. Truth be told, a healthy number of the “young” people who have started working where I work, spend less than a year there. So maybe I need to join the Clampetts in California and try and get work with some cool, socially conscious startup–if they’ll have me.
Or maybe it’s like the old saying about being a liberal until you get older…and millennials are finally starting to realize that nothing is free, not even that hybrid car they’re so fond of, nor are all of those hip restaurants tucked away in the corner of some cozy NY City alley.
I had high hopes for this up and coming generation and their Brave New World of flexibility and high income, but once again, it looks like success will come from good old plodding, boring, hard work.
The military taught me many things. For example, I learned that quality shoes are essential if you plan on doing any great amount of running. I also learned that if you drink two medium-sized glasses of lukewarm water before every meal, you’ll eat less. These are things you would normally learn on your own–given time. But there were other things taught to us raw recruits–such as how to shave correctly–that many people might never have learned if they hadn’t had the proper teacher(s) at home. The military assumes the very worst about incoming recruits and prepares its training appropriately.
But one of the most useful skills I picked up was ironing. Before the military, I didn’t iron. Oh, I knew how…I just didn’t. Ironing in the military is not a skill; it is an art. It is an art as time-consuming and tedious as Japanese Bonsai. New recruits are taught how to firstfold a t-shirt and then, using tweezers to pull out and hold the edges of the collar so as to not burn your fingers, press that shirt into a perfect square. If you’ve ever ironed a round-necked T-shirt, you can imagine the difficulty here. From T-shirts, one moves onto the more formal uniforms and battle dress uniform (BDUs–those camouflaged things you see soliders wearing).
Needless to say, I became a really great ironer. I even bought my own bottle of STA-FLO liquid starch concentrate and mixed my own starch spray so I could control the crispiness of my creases. And so I have ironed my own clothes for years. CareerMom–notsomuch.
CareerMom has always been a dry-cleaning kinda gal. Even when the clothes don’t require dry-cleaning, she’ll send them to the dry-cleaners just so she doesn’t have to iron them after they come out of the dryer. When times have been tough and the pennies needed penching, this was an area I always criticized. Recognizing that most professional women’s clothes require dry-cleaning, I haven’t been able to make too much of a stink, but the cost was always there…hovering overhead.
Normally I don’t have to do much ironing these days. Thanks to business casual dress, I might have to iron a couple of pairs of dress slacks, but for the most part my shirts are golf-style shirts that don’t require ironing. But lately, I’ve been interviewing a good bit and thanks to it being both summer, and stressful, I’ve been sweating a lot in my shirts. To save money, I’ve only purchased a couple of nice dress shirts to wear under my suit jacket, so I’ve been washing and ironing these same shirts a lot. And I’ve grown tired of it.
So today, I dropped off my two shirts at the drycleaners. It was a pivotal moment and I expected–at any minute–for the clouds to part and the angels start singing “Hallelujah!”
Unfortunately, all I heard was the “Thank you Ms. Megan” from the Asian dry-cleaning lady who pulled my wife’s account up as she took my bundle. I recognize that I will probably always iron the majority of my own clothes, but I gotta be honest…they do a better job than I do and it sure is more handy than dragging out that ironing board every night. Maybe I can find a relatively inexpensive men’s clothing designer whose dress shirts REQUIRE dry cleaning. That way, I wouldn’t feel guilty about having to send them off. It works for CareerMom; why not me?
continued from last post…
(Please enjoy this completely lame video put together by some amateur videographer working for the U.S. government. Take special note of the parental tone. My favorite quote, “Underwear is Mandatory!”)
Now I would love to say that my final night as a free youth of America was spent in languid, steamy, sexual bliss with some nubile young Officer-to-be, but such was not the case. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I went downstairs to the “bar” of the hotel and cased the place out, but it was apparent that either all the ladies already had other plans, or I was just too early. Having grown up in a part of Alabama where everything shut down after 8 p.m., I didn’t yet know that the REAL fun doesn’t start till after 11p.m. Heck, by then I was sawing some logs up in my room and the last thing on my mind was a booty call.
The next morning, we all piled downstairs for a greasy meal and then it was onto the bus (again) to take us over to Maxwell Air Force base for our in-processing. That whole day was a big blur, but I will give you some highlights that stick in my mind:
- Paperwork. LOTS of paperwork.
- Standing in a large room—in my underwear—with a bunch of other guys, while some middle-aged, potbellied supposed doctor walked around issuing orders like, “Raise your arms;” “Touch your toes,” and “Stand on the balls of your feet.” I remember thinking, in addition to, “Hey, I’m not the only person here wearing white underwear,” also that, this was the worst physical I’d ever seen. Now granted, I’d never had a real physical in my life, but I’d seen them on TV and being a relatively intelligent person, I knew that you couldn’t tell if a person had a hernia, say, by having them bend over necessarily.
- Standing in a lot of lines and not talking to anyone.
- Finally passing everything and giving my oath of service. It was a terribly anti-climactic ending to an uneventful day. We all stood in a room arm-length apart. Some officer from the base we were on strolled in like he was the hottest crap since Rocky Balboa; he swaggered around and gave us some “this is your duty” speech that involved lots of words like “honor” and “upholding” and then he finally got down to it and swore us in.
Let me take a brief diversion here and explain something about myself. I’ve previously mentioned that I’m broken on the inside—that I don’t feel things that I believe others feel. Well, the same goes for my sense of patriotism. In fact, I generally rankle inside when someone tries to prey on another person’s sense of pride in their country and it burns me to no end to see car dealers waving this big American flag on television thinking that those of us who have served can be so easily swayed. Don’t get me wrong—I lOVE THIS COUNTRY. It just so happens that it annoys the ever-loving crap outta me when someone assumes it’s a hot button of mine they can push in order to get me to do something. I mean come on! We’re smarter than that. Aren’t we?
Anyway, I wasn’t impressed. Some of the other recruits’ parents actually came and took pictures of the oath, but not mine (thankfully). After that, it was more standing around and waiting until it was time to head to the airport to catch our plane to boot camp at Lackland Air Force base, just outside of San Antonio, Texas.
In the middle of summer.
The group of us heading to Lackland was a diverse bunch, and relatively subdued. I think it had finally hit us all what we had just done and we were each contemplating the hell that we knew was going to be the next six weeks of our lives. Most of us were young, under 25, so we had active imaginations.
How wrong we all were. It was worse. Much worse.
To be continued…
As a rule, I don’t think people give a rat’s butt what my kids did today, or even what I did today for that matter. So, I generally try and refrain from blogging my day-to-day. But, I have had a few interesting times in my life. I’ve done a few things most people (relatively speaking) have not, and if nothing else, I think that long after I’m gone, all these things we’ve put on the Net, will still be out there and maybe my kids will read it and think, “Hey, my dad was pretty cool after all.” (note the “after all,” cuz I’m pretty sure they’re gonna hate me when they hit about 14).
So I thought I’d do something a bit different for a while. I’m going to blog about my life. A sort of poor-man’s memoirs, if you will. Sorry, old girlfriends are off limits (though that WOULD be some good reading); but most everything else is blog-fodder. And to kick it off, I thought I’d blog about “Boot Camp.” It’s fun—it’s raunchy—it’s a great way to start.
Air Force Boot Camp Part I
My dad was in the Air Force for nearly eight years before he got out in order to take care of his ageing family and their farm in North Carolina. I’ve recently learned that he got screwed in the deal, but that’s ancient history and not pertinent. What IS pertinent, is the fact that my dad believed that a military tour of duty was what every young boy needed to make him a man. Growing up, it was silently implied that both my brother and I would go the military route and then IF we decided to go to college, then our Uncle Sam would take care of it. Looking back, I’m not sure whether or not I felt I had a choice. Certainly, my dad never pressured me in that direction, but he never had a, “Are you sure?” talk with me either.
When I was 17, I enrolled in what they called, “Early Enlistment” for the military. It’s kind of like a Letter of Intent. It’s not binding legally, but it’s the military’s way of getting its claws into you before some university does. And let’s be honest, most kids going straight into the military, aren’t Rhodes Scholars anyway, so it’s a gamble that paid off more often than not. But, for enrolling early, I was able to lock in my preference of career fields. I locked in “Electronics,” since I figured that was a career field with growth opportunities. It was one of the few good career moves I’ve made in my life.
Soon enough though, in the early summer of 1991, I graduated from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, AL. I notified my recruiter that I was officially out of school and I quickly received my “shipping out” orders. I had approximately one month after graduating before I was out of the house and into the world. I spent it as you might imagine an 18 year old boy might, but most of that will have to be covered another time.
The day I left was a typically hot July day in Alabama. My mom gave me a quick, though warm goodbye and quietly went in the house while my dad and I packed my few meager belongings into his truck. I was to learn later that my mom had never wanted me to go into the military, but she never said a word and I didn’t learn until later how much my leaving would affect the family.
What happens when you join the service is, that first you must go to a central processing facility called MEPS. MEPS stands for “Military Entrance Processing Station.” At the MEPS, they give you a fairly basic physical, you fill out some paperwork and you “officially” swear into the military. Nothing is “for sure” until that final swearing in. Our central station was a place in Montgomery, AL., so I had to catch the Greyhound bus there from Mobile. Dad and I arrived with time aplenty and as we sat waiting on the bus, we engaged in that same small talk that we’d been doing for ten years. He gave me some last-minute advice about just keeping my head down and plodding through it, and I nodded obediently and promised I’d write.
Soon enough the bus came and I stowed my luggage away and climbed aboard. I remember looking back at my dad and thinking how small he looked through the bus window. All my life I’d lived with him and though he’s not a large man, he has a quiet, solid presence that makes up for his short stature. But, looking at him at that moment, as I was emerging from beneath his shadow, I saw—perhaps for the first time—that he was just a man. He had a smile on his face, but it looked strained and right then, I felt a fondness for him that had been missing for some time. My dad was never much of a hugger growing up. He didn’t casually say, “I love you,” or outwardly express his emotions, but every now and then, you could see it in a gesture—or a smile.
It was a good “last thing to see” as the bus pulled away.
Now, though Montgomery is only about three hours (driving) from Mobile, by Greyhound, it takes about six hours thanks to the roundabout way the bus goes to a dozen or more small towns between the two cities. We didn’t arrive in Montgomery until late in the evening and when I did get to the bus station, I found the van-taxi that was to take me to my “hotel” for the evening before my processing in the morning. The hotel the U.S. Government put us in (The Capitol Inn Hotel) might best be described as an old hotel that had been moderately kept up, and which catered entirely to those whose bills were paid—not by fat, corporate expense accounts—but by the slow, bureaucratic wheels of a government billing cycle. It wasn’t great, but I was only 18 and didn’t know much about these sorts of things. All I cared about was that the rooms were clean, if sparse. The food….the food was the worst part—by far; but, in its defense, it at least had an after hours bar down some stairs around the back where the lights were dim; the pinball machines were loud, and the music was aplenty.
And this is where most of us flocked to spend our last night as free men and women.
To be continued…
When I was eight and playing pine-cone wars with my buds back in Lower Alabama (LA), I never would have dreamed that one day, I’d be doing what I do, or that I’d do some of the things that I’ve done in my life; like working in the DoD and…yeah, that’s pretty much it for the cool stuff.
But also, growing up, I never would have thought I’d end up married to a woman who works full time and we’d be putting our kids in a daycare to be raised by perfect strangers.
I’m not sure where I thought my life would take me, but I’m sure it wasn’t a house in the burbs of Atlanta and exotic family vacations to…the beach.
Looking back, it’s amazing how far off I’ve drifted from “The Plan.” Granted, I didn’t have much of a plan, but I had dreams man! I was gonna do things! I’m not sure what, but THINGS!
I had ambition too. Money…oh! I always wanted to make lots of money, but that was just Alex P. Keaton talking and truthfully, I never completely got that out of my system.
But it’s funny how time changes you isn’t it? The things that you thought were important to you then, are now just footnotes at the bottom of the page, “***Chris was going to do so and so, but then kids came along…”
For the most part, I don’t have regrets. I mean, I did things. Sure, maybe I didn’t travel the world, but knowing what I know now about hygiene and bathrooms in other countries, I’m not so sure it was a loss. But, there is one thing that has changed about me though and perhaps it’s the most surprising since it’s really the one thing that I could still have–the one thing that my life hasn’t thrown up a bar against–ambition!
Do you remember when you started your first REAL job? Do you remember being on the bottom of the totem pole and just grinding your teeth every day and thinking to yourself, “Just wait, one day I’ll be the boss, you just wait and see.” I had that once. I still do–sorta–but now it comes with conditions, such as:but it now comes with conditions. Such as:
- I want to be the boss, AND still be able to walk away from work at the end of the day without having to spend hours upon hours checking e-mail in the wee hours of the night while my family sleeps
- I want the money, but I don’t want to spend all my time in useless meetings talking about “high level overviews” and “program guidance.”
- I want the vacation house and all the perks, but I don’t want to have to have an “office” at my vacation house so I can stay in touch with work
Basically, I want my cake, and of course I want to eat it. What else would you do with cake?
So I find myself at war with…myself…over work. As it is with most companies, at my job, I’m expected to constantly grow in my career. I’m supposed to WANT to get out and get involved in new things, which inevitably means adding more work onto my existing work load, which screws with my aforementioned “wants.” It’s expected that I want to climb the corporate ladder and I do; no really I do. I just don’t want all that other crap that comes with it.
To put it plainly, I’ve lost my ambition. Maybe that’s not quite right, I still have my ambition, but I don’t want all the strings that seem to come attached with it. Does that make sense?
Sometimes I look at my mom up in rural PA and think, “Dang, that’s the life. It’s simple and it’s beautiful up there, and she doesn’t have a care in the world (as she snorts loudly while reading this).” But then, I realize that it too has its problems. Everyone’s life has its problems…we all just hide it behind happy faces and platitudes. Man, what a crappy way to go through life. I’m really working on this whole acceptance thing. Hey, don’t sugar coat it–I’m not getting any younger and the things that I dreamt of as a young man, are by and large never gonna happen if they haven’t happened yet, so I just need to suck it up and “accept” that things are the way they are and try to make the best of it.
(This sounds like a mid-life crisis I know.)
It can’t be just me right? Did you have a Plan? Have you accomplished it? If not, why? I’m curious how many people’s lives actually worked out the way they thought it would.
The guy who sits in the cube behind me is a nice guy. In fact, we share a lot in common. He works out a lot (he’s bigger than me); he’s good looking, he enjoys conspiratory gossip about people with whom we’re forced to work, and he eats protein shakes like there’s no tomorrow.
I like the guy. He’s nice.
He’s also gay.
While he wasn’t at his desk the other day, I took this picture of his desktop. It’s blurry, but hey, I was in a hurry:
I’m pretty sure these aren’t his brothers, and I’m also pretty sure that if I, as a heterosexual male, were to flagrantly use a desktop picture depicting several women trying to look cool and sexy, that I would get taken to HR.
Kinda like the pre-op transsexual who cleans our bathrooms at work, without concern that he/she is creeping out the occupants, I just sometimes wonder, “Where’s the fairness?”
When will the gay segment of our society start enjoying the same restrictions and punishments that we hetero’s enjoy?
I’m just sayin’…