In Praise of Working Guys

I was playing golf last week with a friend and on a par five he hit the ball into some long grass. I went to help look and after searching the area a bit he said “Ah, forget about that one. They make them every day.” I like that expression. They do make them every day. Working guys make them every day. And everything else too.

Work and labour. It is all around us and yet it is almost too big to grasp. Although I think I can help to illuminate this a bit.

You see I have a ritual that I like to do on Labour Day. It consists of making a thermos of coffee before everyone gets up. I go outside and sit down in a large Muskoka chair to enjoy the quiet hours of early morning. I sit there watching the sun slowly rise and then pour myself a cup of steaming coffee.

The anticipation of the first sip is not the experience I look forward to. Rather it is the pouring of the coffee into the cup. To me it is a metaphor for Labour Day. Let me explain my thinking.

I’ve spent most of my working days in an industrial plant. I guess you could call me a plant guy. It has been my pleasure to meet and know many plant people. They are the guys on the floor. And when I say guys I mean both male and female. In that connotation it is non-gender specific.

Plant guys are the people you rarely read or hear about. You may read in the business section about a merger or a change to a second quarter profit. But what you don’t see is the people within the plants who take raw material or partly processed pieces and make a finished product. Every day thousands of unseen hands are making the reality and miracle of our infrastructure. By infrastructure I am not referring to bridges and water lines. I am referring to everything we touch and enjoy in this great country we call Canada.

Right now look at the paper you are holding. There are guys who worked late last night to make sure the ink was right and the machine tension was right and the folds occurred where they should and that a whole myriad of process-related requirements where being met. Every paper comes off the end of the line having been inked, pressed and heated. A paper ‘hot off the press’ is exactly that – hot. That is the process. They get the process right so that when you open your door in the morning the paper is there.

The actual paper came from small mill towns usually in Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec. The papermill guys took new stock – courtesy of logging guys – and mixed it with material (our recycling guys collected and combined and sorted and shipped) to make a crisp clean roll of newsprint. It is carefully wrapped, tagged and shipped to newspaper press rooms like the Toronto Star.

Working guys are the people who produce things that we use every day without giving a moment’s thought where it came from. There are lots of things. We really have no idea just how many.

But just to get an idea of these services try this. Think of all the bills you get. I know we dislike bills and I do as much as the next person. But if you look at each bill you come to realize that they represent the services that literally pour towards you, just like coffee from a thermos. For instance, take your telephone bill. Service people maintain the lines, the hardware and software of the switching system so that when you pick up the phone, as Emeril might say, “Bam, you get a dial tone.”

Then there’s the power guys. They send juice down the lines so we can work our computer, have a fridge filled with cold beer, and everything else that we need. I may not appreciate paying my power bill but I appreciate having electricity. Two hours with the power off and I think I am on ‘Survivor’.

What about those credit card bills? After the initial shock of “How the heck did I spend so much?” look at some of the things on the list that you bought. Something from a big box store or a small independent hardware store might just be an item on a list, but behind it is people stocking shelves, ordering new inventory, mopping the floors, working the cash…well, you get the picture. And why? So we can walk in and pick up what we need whether it is a gardening rake or a part for a 20-year old leaky faucet.

Groceries on the list? Again whole flanks of people — from the producers, including farmers and seed co-ops, through to the people who process the food and those who truck it to the store. It is just another line on a bill, but it represents a whole range of activities and services that flows right to you.

Being the summer we may have spent a lot more on gas. I know we all cringe when we see the price shoot up five cents or more, but then again it is nice to have a car. A whole bunch of guys made the seats in one plant and the wiring harnesses in another and the paint in another — enough parts from enough plants to fill a Canadian Tire store. They all come together at the assembly plants to produce the vehicles we drive.

The gas is pumped out of multiple sites across Canada. The crude oil is essentially boiled at refineries to extract off the various weights of petroleum products. One of them being the gas we complain about. But the price of gas and cars and everything we use is the price of freedom. Not freedom from an oppressor but freedom to go wherever we want.

There are millions of people, from mining guys to steelworkers, who do their thing everyday so that goods and services can flow to us. It is very amazing when you think about it.

All this I understand. But here is something I don’t. Why is it we don’t recognize the working guys? These are the people who keep the whole thing running? The people who show up for their shift every day. The people who bring their labour, service and dedication as well as encouragement, humour and personality to their jobs. We will give an Order of Canada to the fifth Oboe player in some symphony yet we don’t seem to recognize the people who make a difference every day, the people who make our world a little better.

So next time you buy, consume or use something, give a thought to the guys that produced it. You may never meet them. Yet you will have benefited from the labour of the many wonderful people who pour their hearts into their jobs. Every day.

That reminds me. I have a thermos of coffee waiting.

Written by Jim Wywrot

CB Power and Industrial Equipment supplies new and used industrial machinery. For expert advice or a quote, call 1-888-317-8959 today.

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