Forty Years

Yesterday, The Engineer commemorated his fortieth anniversary as an employee of the company where he’s worked since he was sixteen.

In that time, the company has been bought and sold — taken over and renamed — five times. It has been downsized, and many have lost their jobs, but The Engineer remained.

In some ways, he was lucky. Finding a career that suits your abilities at such a young age is unusual, quite unlike my own meandering path to my eventual avocation.

Also, engineering pays reasonably well, always a nice perk.

But having been next to him for thirty-three of those forty years, I know for every penny he’s been paid, his employer has reaped far more as a result of my husband’s labor, knowledge, and work ethic.

Granted, they have earned some of that money, having provided him with training and the structure within which he works. I hope you believe me when I say he has repaid all of their investments a multitude of times and continues to do so every working day (and night).

My husband is smart, pragmatic, and logical. He rarely takes things personally, and I’ve never seen him panic, even in situations where panic would seem a normal reaction.

He approaches problems from the bottom up, looking for the simplest explanation first. This has proved an extremely effective way of troubleshooting.

The Engineer can fix almost anything. In fact, I often tell the story of when Darling Daughter, aged six or seven, took a squirt gun to our television.

This was out of character for her because she wasn’t a bratty kid. (I know I’m her mom, but truly, she wasn’t.) Surprised at her actions, I asked her to explain herself, after first doing some explaining of my own.

“You’ve broken the television,” I said. “Why did you do that?”

Completely unfazed, Darling Daughter replied, “Daddy can fix it.”

Her faith in her father’s abilities was absolute.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

But he did.

On the other hand, my husband has no qualms admitting when he’s out of his depth. Many times I’ve heard him remark on a situation at work that it’s time to get the designers or the masterminds in.

And there are a few (just a few) home repair tasks he won’t tackle because he knows they are beyond his ken.

The Engineer is creative, able to look at an item and see alternative uses for it. This year, he repurposed some pieces of hive frames as handles for my thirty-five-plus-year-old Weber grill. And in our hangar, we still have picnic table benches he made from our old wood waterbed frame.

Also, he has a sense of humor, not raucous, but playful and clever. I’m sure most readers will agree about that attribute is invaluable in a workplace.

Engineering suits my husband, but with his native intelligence, character, and integrity, I know he could have been a success in a variety of careers.

As I said earlier, his company is lucky to have him.

Unfortunately, that company is part of a huge, global corporation, so no one at the top even knows his name.

For forty years, he’s earned them a lot of money, and I doubt he’s even seen as a cog in a wheel because the leaders seem to view everyone as replaceable.

True, some of the managers he reports to (and there are many — more managers than engineers, in fact) understand and appreciate his capablities, but even they are small fish in an ocean of international trade.

Forty years he’s spent doing his job in a time when many people complain about how no one has a work ethic anymore, and workers flit from job to job with no loyalty to their employers.

Well, I was a child of the seventies, and I remember the days when a “good job” was one where working for a company for your whole life meant you could look forward to a pension when you retired. It was like an unwritten contract between an employer and their employees.

Do a search on “raiding pension funds” to see how that worked out for employees. (I’ll save you the trouble, click here, here, here, or here.)

On the other hand, the CEOs did just fine, even if they’ve run those endeavors to the ground. Those high flyers — including the ones where The Engineer works — come and go, often leaving with a gold, no, make that platinum, handshake for their efforts.

In fact, the most recent figures put the average CEO salary at 299 times the average worker’s.

Meanwhile, The Engineer’s employer has gone from being considered a solid investment and blue-chip stock to quite the opposite.

Thus, it’s a little galling that their HR department regularly send emails offering financial tips. And the 401K fund options they offer are extremely limited, with most of the funds being run by his employer.

It’s a bit like the old “company stores” that once proliferated in factory and coal towns. You can spend or invest your money anywhere you want … as long as your employer make a profit on it.

So, if those employers complain about the dearth of good applicants for jobs, all I can say is they are reaping what they’ve sown.

Hey, I know we’re lucky to have had retirement plans and the money to invest in them. Many don’t have that option. We’re fortunate to have had careers that meshed with our interests and skills. Countless others slave at positions that offer little hope for advancement or financial stability. And how many people work multiple jobs just to make ends meet?

I know I did for many years.

Still, forty years is just over 70% of The Engineer’s life so far, and I can’t help feeling that much dedicated work should be recognized by a bit more than a form email from the current CEO and the option to order some useless item from an online catalog.

We chose to commemorate his efforts our own way, by going out for a nice Indian meal. And you know what? It was lovely.

Also, when The Engineer retires (and when I eventually follow him and retire from my little “retirement job”), we hope (plan, pray) to able to reap the benefits of both our efforts and savings.

End of rant.

To end on a more positive note, here’s a picture of the honey we extracted yesterday. My best estimate is we got about twenty-seven pounds.