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Friday, January 5, 2007

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Work - it’s just
not for me

If you have not seen me lately, there is a reason - I’ve been working. Just for the record, I’m not really cut out for hard work. I have tried my hand at it more than once, and it just does not fit me.

Take shovels - the darn things just do not fit my hands. Genetics, I guess. Neither do grubbing hoes or sledge hammers.

I really tried. In earlier years I worked on concrete crews, with brick masons, in construction, and even humped a pack and rifle for Uncle Sam for a bit.

A decade or more back a wise man told me that a really wise man knows his limitations.

Well, I try not to be conceited or overly ambitious and I try to recognize my limitations. And, one of my limitations is hard labor. I am just not very good at it.

Knowing this, I have consciously worked toward my strengths - jobs that require plenty of sitting down, drinking coffee, and complicated thinking that usually requires me to lean back in my chair, put my boots on my desk, and squeeze my eyes shut so I can concentrate harder.

After years of dedicated practice, I think I have mastered these job skills.

Frankly, I am good. Maybe even great. I can drink a pot of coffee without a blink and my butt is positively calloused from hours of hard work.

Most importantly, my eyelid muscles are strong - practically ripped like a body builder’s abs - so strong that I can hold my eyes shut in deep thought while all hell breaks loose around me.

So, after decades of consciously training and sweating to develop these skills, what does Fate do?

She throws me back into the world of physical labor.

About two months back my full-time pressman took a job in the oilfield - not an uncommon thing around these parts these days.

All I could do was give him a good recommendation and wish him luck. Then, I did what I do best, and put my feet up on my desk, squeezed my eyes shut, and engaged in about an hour of deep thought.

My thought was so deep that a lay person would mistake my strenuous concentration for sleep.

I woke, I mean I broke my chain of thought, when a startling and disconcerting conclusion passed through my brain - I was going to have to run the press.

Now, there is a four-letter word to describe what a pressman does. That word is “work.”

And, like I said, I am not really cut out for such.

So, I went to Carlos, our part-time pressman and explained the situation to him.

Now, Carlos started working as a pressman about the time I started to learn to walk on two feet and before I figured out diapers were meant to be a temporary stage in life.

He has forgotten more about running a press than I will ever know.

Which is a good thing, because I know very little. Technically, I could run the press - kind of like a sixteen-year-old socialite girl can drive her BMW. The sixteen-year-old socialite girls I have known knew where to stick the key, and that the car went forward when she put it in “D” and pushed down on the gas. She might have known how to fill it up. Maybe.

That’s about what I knew about running the press. Except that sometimes I forgot where to put the key.

I could see the realization on his face as I explained that I would be his new helper and trainee.

You could almost see the wheels turn in his mind. I like to think he was contemplating how much fun it would be to teach me the wonders of pressing even though, when he was finished thinking, he said something like, “Geeez, I guess I can’t retire tomorrow, so…”

There were tears in his eyes - probably of joy, as he walked out of my office.

So, since early Thanksgiving, that is where I have been.

Carlos usually starts the day with, “Uh boss, if you are done “thinking” maybe we should put some of those big rolls of paper on the press and pump some ink.”

Carlos usually ends our day with, “Well, you’ve still got all your fingers and I’m alive, and we got the fire put out - I guess it was a good day.”

Who knows, maybe I’m a late bloomer and I’ll catch on to this hard work thing.

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