“Eenie beanie, hilly billy, let the spirits speak.”
I opened my dejected eyes. And smiled. A tanned and grinning face, framed with white hair flowing from beneath an old ball cap greeted me. The friend, standing behind me, stopped rubbing my scalp. The jolly stranger, who was also on our recently cancelled flight, inserted himself into the parallel non-line waiting with those who would eventually approach the counter agents of “No.” I had made closure with the end of my Bahamian sailing adventure. I was ready to go home. But, due to “weather” which the other airlines evidently couldn’t see or didn’t mind as they continued to fly, our single option to leave Marsh Harbour that day was off the table. I know how these things go from bad to worse. First they cry, “weather” to absolve themselves of any liability, then put you on the StandBy list for the next oversold flight. It had already been an expensive holiday, my gut clenching to think of further haemorrhage just to be cooling our heels. Lerici is a long way from Abaco, so adding 24 hours ~or more~ to the journey was dispiriting.
But this funny man turned up, making me laugh. Our intrepid Captain was already on the phone finding a nice spot to spend the night. I’d envisioned sleeping on the floor in MHH, subsisting on my emergency rations of granola bars and stale nuts. So, the Lofty Fig, with rooms to rent only because they had been booked by people on the flight which would have done a turn and taken us away, was a charming place to sleep, bathe, and repack more carefully. The proprietor is a lovely man who feels upstaged by his wonderful dog, Brandy.
In the morning, back at the airport I hear, “Eenie beanie, hilly billy…” Marc and his long-suffering wife have also returned to have another go at going. We’re early for lack of anything else to do or to be first in line when it all goes pear-shaped again. We would be entertained, or nearly so, by Marc’s stories and diving videos until our plane indeed did depart. At one point, he said “I’m as dumb as a stick. My wife, now, she’s the smart one.” Many people whose greater gifts do not lie between their ears are not so self-aware or comfortable with the fact. Being smart or dumb is no more something we can help than height or the ability to sculpt. Marc seems like a really nice guy. He does the maintenance on the boat where they live up north and was very concerned about getting back to the work awaiting him. He did what he could to keep spirits up amongst people who had more on the line for being delayed than I. He’s a talker and teller of tallish tales, but still better company than some insufferable smart people I know.
Listening to Diane Rehm this morning ~man, am I going to miss her show~ they were discussing the most recent US Jobs Report. Fewer unemployed but some have just given up looking, discouraged at their prospects in a technological world. I thought about Marc and people like him, those who do their best work with their hands. As automation fills the factories, those that are still left on US soil, what of people who aren’t built for keyboarding? There must still be valuable roles in society for people who live in the physical world more than in the mind. Other generations have seen their traditional livelihoods obsolesced. They found new things to make and to do. What of this generation? What new services might we envision to enjoy and employ? A glut of massage therapists on the market would make me happy. Services which deliver everything to make dinner seem to be a thing. What if the delivery person stayed and cooked it, too? Could we be convinced to value things well-made from wood and other nice stuff over cheap plastic crap imported from China? That might mean we buy fewer things. Which, overall, is also good. As we save so much money with robots doing the repetitive and dangerous jobs, where is it going? Union pay doesn’t seem to have followed former Union assembly line workers into their new minimum wage jobs. The panelists on today’s podcast speak of “the working class.” It’s a common expression. We know, give or take, who it means, what a “working class neighborhood” looks like. But it seems to imply that the other classes don’t work. Curious. Does the upper class subconsciously believe that what they do isn’t quite the same as actual labor, building things, picking produce, walking a beat, tilling a field, fighting forest fires? Or is it economic privilege to allow someone else to claim the title of “working?” What of the lower class? They have no privilege, but no voice either. And semantics matter little when there is nothing on the table.
But I digress. We’re brainstorming about a new economy! What are we doing with all this wealth and leisure the robots / computers / progress are giving us? I support organic farmers whenever I can. In fact, just yesterday, I met a 1st-generation, as in eight years ago, goat farmer and cheese maker. And her happy, healthy free-ranging herd. She’s working to save a particularly rare species. I give money to people doing work I support but cannot do myself, mostly animal rescue, but that’s my bag. You get to choose your own. Buy the good stuff, but less of it, then take care of it. Quality will out. I travel and try to support local interests. Use your leisure time mindfully. Invest it in your loved ones. Invest it in the unloved. If you’ve found your path to financial independence, you are fortunate and should be grateful. What of those still searching for their vocational answers in complicated environments?
The days of corporate loyalty are over, companies to employees and vice versa. People have many jobs over a lifetime, sometimes several at once. People are stitching their worklives together to suit their needs. There are Master Gardeners who sell their expertise and their time to people who need everything from simple guidance to physical help. I’ve heard about Task Rabbit, but am too far from civilization to have seen it in action. It’s in that ambiguous new field where workers are left a bit out to dry, but have great opportunity, e.g. Uber. If Americans didn’t need a “real” job for insurance just to feel secure enough to fall ill or get broken, the system would function much better. Seriously. I’d sign up as an IKEA Installer. Because I like it and I’m good at it and I know there is a demand for it. Yes, I’m afraid one of the biggest problems with people being able to make a living doing what they like and are good at is medical coverage. We spend more for poorer outcomes than most of the rest of the developed countries in the world. The crux is the insurance industry. And it’s probably too late. Too big to fail. Too big to fix. What can we do? We’re ingenious Americans! There has to be a fix. Keeping people healthy keeps them working, is good for society and the economy. No one should go bankrupt because the ladder broke while he was fixing his roof.
Wow, how do I tie together this long-winded ramble? I met a man on vacation who made me think about being nice rather than clever, what is to become of hard workers who aren’t great thinkers, and how our society is stuck with a dysfunctional accretion of a health care system (which values neither health nor care). Maybe you don’t get a tidy wrap-up. It’s just my blog and what’s percolating in my brain today. I’m still waiting for those spirits to speak. And I didn’t even mention plant-based-diet or show pictures of cats. I really am branching out.