Tag Archives: op-ed

home improvements

Homeowner Wisdom, From A Tool Idiot.

By: Chris Warren.

Back in the summer of 2015 I wrote an article about people who have good intentions but no skill for home repairs and how they always manage to botch up even the simplest job. What I left out was that any homeowner who is quite handy with tools owes the “tool idiot” a debt of gratitude.

A new construction house is a poor teacher. When a building is sparkling and new, there is nothing to change or fix. It will be many years, maybe a decade or more, before any major upgrades or repairs should be needed. But an older house carries with it the wisdom and skill of the previous homeowner, or if the case may be, the flubs and foibles of the previous homeowner.

My house is about 35 years old, and I’ve lived here for fifteen of those years. The guy who owned this place before me was a “tool idiot”. He meant well and really tried, but pretty much everything he touched became a fat smelly turd. One would think fifteen years is enough time to undo all his screw ups, yet even now I still occasionally come across one of his homeowner from hell Frankenstien efforts.

At first it was easy & obvious stuff: Upside down hardware on the doors. Ten feet of trim held up by only two nails (and they were incorrect nails). Bathtub caulk that looked like it was put on by someone having a seizure. Then I got into the hidden treasures: A bathroom fan that vents to nowhere. Pink paint under wallpaper that needed numerous coats of primer to cover up. Plumbing that defies the laws of physics. A deck put together with three different kinds of screws.

Sometimes his flubs actually worked to my benefit, namely, wallpaper so poorly hung that I effortlessly tore it off in huge sheets. My dad is a supreme handy man and homeowner. He can do pretty much everything, and he usually helped me with the bigger projects.

Over the years I’ve needed dad’s help less and less because as I became more experienced as a homeowner, I figured out how to do things myself. My latest project is the bathroom. After a decade and a half, the tool idiot strikes again: An improperly installed vanity and a tile floor that could have been done better by a first semester high school shop student. What was supposed to be a relatively simple weekend paint/redecorate ended up with me completely gutting the entire room.

I was frustrated but not surprised. I long ago acclimated myself to expect these problems and now approach them with a sense of humor. I tell myself it’s just another one of what’s-his-face’s screw ups. The upside is that his screw ups are my homeowner education. But for his hapless incompetence, my skills would have never developed this far. I’ve learned so much in the last fifteen years that now my dad asks for my input on projects he’s working on. One of the greatest signs of respect is when the master defers to the student.

Back in the day, I was told that the guy I bought this place from moved into new construction a few towns over. His house is now at the age where big stuff starts breaking. Assuming he’s still there, I imagine he will revert to his old ways and the cycle of tool idiocy will perpetuate itself.

The old cliché that you learn from your mistakes has a forgotten step brother: You can also learn from someone else’s mistakes. That maxim has never been more evident than within the walls of my own house. I kinda feel sorry for the previous homeowner because he did give it an honest effort, yet all he succeeded in doing was providing the instructional material for my “training”. And for that, I think I owe him some respect and gratitude.

train set

If I Could Live In A Train Set.

By: Chris Warren.

Last Saturday evening I stopped by my brother’s house to see his kids, and as luck would have it, my young nephew was away at a sleepover and my niece was with one of her girlfriends busy doing…whatever junior high age girls do. So I thought to myself, uhhmm, well, I guess I can stay a while and actually spend some time with my brother. What I thought was kind of bummer because I didn’t get to see my niece and nephew turned into a fun and insightful evening playing with a train set.

My brother is big into model trains and has a large O-gauge layout in his basement. So like two little kids we descended the stairs into his electrified rail-realm. All males, and I do mean all of them, no matter how old they get, like to play with toy trains. A guy who does not like toy trains needs psychiatric intervention.

To call it a “toy” is factually accurate but a little misleading. A lot of adults, maybe too many, take the hobby very seriously. They spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars constructing very realistic looking layouts. My brother is not so much of a purist. His train set is realistic enough, but he does not sweat the details. He’d rather spend time running his trains than fuss over whether the rivets on the locomotive are historically accurate.

He flipped a series of switches, turned a few dials, and his little world came to life. One steam engine chugging the main line, one diesel hauling freight, and a streetcar shuttling back and forth across town. A train set is quite noisy when everything is running, yet the rhythmic sound is alluring and has a soothing quality to it. If that noise came from anything else it would be annoying as hell. But trains have a certain something that calms your nerves.

I was quickly absorbed into the make believe. Job and family stresses, world events, and political vitriol all seem to melt away in train land. It puts one in a much better frame of mind to  face the real world when it’s time to come up from the basement. My brother has a tendency to freak out over any little thing and I think his train set, whether he realizes it or not, is his therapy.

And effective therapy it is! I don’t have my own train set so it was a real treat to run the engines around, work the horns and bells, relishing in what I have to admit is pointless as a practical activity but amazingly beneficial as a visceral escape. There is no bad day that cannot be made better by playing with a train set.

We cracked a few profoundly offensive & tasteless jokes (sorry, mom!), talked about our lives, and discussed ideas for expanding the layout. We would have kept going much longer but for a call from upstairs that dinner was ready. The hour or so we were down there seemed like mere moments. That was probably the longest time I’ve spent alone with my bother in decades.

There are certainly other pastimes that give their practitioners a lifetime of stress relief and fun, yet few hobbies are as universally appealing as train set and have an efficacy equal to or better than antidepressant medication. Both my brother and I were big into trains as kids but along the way to growing up it drifted away from me. I’m glad he stuck with it, for his own benefit and mine. I know I can’t always live in the idyllic world of a train set, but for a while it sure was nice to pretend.

winner 2016

Winners & Losers 2016.

By Chris Warren

Wow, so much happened in 2016! It was like the year that had three years’ worth of stuff happening. There’s a lot of recollections of the year gone by going around the internet, so I thought I’d put out my own list of winners and losers for 2016. In no particular order, here we go. Because this is the Thoughtful, Positive, Relevant  blog, I’ll do the 2016 winner first…

2016 WINNER: Twenty First Summer blogJanuary 1, 2017 is the third anniversary of TFS, and I’m very grateful to all the loyal readers who have pulled me this far. Some of you have been here since the beginning; others jumped on since then. I take all comers. While there have been some minor tweaks in the format and I no longer post every week because of a commitment to writing technical/engineering articles for another website, Twenty First Summer will be around for the foreseeable future. I’m truly flattered that my thoughts mean something to someone, and for me that can’t be anything other than a huge win. Thank you all so very much for being there for the last 156 posts.

2016 WINNER: Social media. While I have a low opinion of social media and have often mocked it on this blog, there is no denying that in 2016 social media asserted itself and for better or worse influenced the world in a way like nothing else did. Not long ago one would need to be a major newspaper mogul or own a broadcast network to speak to millions. Not anymore. Any average schmuck with an internet connection has a megaphone equal to anyone else’s. That’s not always good, but it’s how we roll in the Land of the Free and the Home of The Brave. Social media is the ultimate form of free speech, and freedom is always a winner.

2016 LOSER: The Democratic party. Wow, how can they not be losers? After the Democrats ended up on the wrong end of Presidential election flameout for the ages, they proceeded to blame pretty much everyone and everything except their preordained candidate, Hillary Clinton. In addition to screwing up what should have been an easy ride against a man that many members of his own party threw under the bus as an incompetent, obnoxious boob, during the last eight years Democrats took a net loss of over a thousand federal and state offices and numerous governorships to Republicans. The liberal analyst wizards are certainly free to offer convoluted excuses if that’s what makes them feel good, but there is no talking point logical enough to get around the ugly reality that Democrats go into 2017 with less than they’ve had in decades, and the jaw-dropping path of destruction leads directly back to Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.

2016 LOSER: Fans of art/music/entertainment/sports. Every year we lose a few celebrities, but 2016 seems to have been especially harsh. David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, Prince, and most recently Carrie Fisher, George Michael, and Debbie Reynolds (in the same week!). And there are many more. It’s regrettable that these legends pass with no up-and-coming generation to replace them. I can’t identify a single entertainer or artist under the age of 35 that is likely to be relevant three or four decades from now. It’s true that all legends start as nobodies, so maybe I’m assuming too much, but I’m not hopeful that the next David Bowie is out there somewhere playing in a bar. I fear we are entering what will be a long era of soulless, overproduced noise, with movies that are more memorable for computer-generated special effects than actual acting talent.

2016 WINNER: Consumers of technology. There’s so much technology available that it’s hard to take it all in. Tablet computers, smart phones, smart watches, the Amazon Echo, Google Home, internet connected lights, appliances, thermostats, and yes, even pets. It seems there isn’t anything that can’t be adapted to technology. Most of these things have been around for a while, but in 2016 they became mainstream as the technology improved and the prices came down. I admit I’ve been sucked into the vortex myself: I have a home automation system, a smartwatch, Apple TV, and a host of other technogoodies. I had my doubts about the “need” for a smartwatch until I got one. Now I’m a true believer. There is some frivolous crap, like the refrigerator with a camera on the inside, presumably so you can check to see if you have pickles without having to open the door and look. Tech for tech’s sake is pointless, but it’s now possible for anyone to afford technology that really works and makes life easy and fun. For us techno geeks, 2016 was an awesome win!

This list could be a lot longer, but these are my top choices for 2016 winner and losers. Every year brings something new. My hope is that we can learn from the good, discard the bad, and all become better for it.

Happy New Year from Twenty First Summer. May your 2017 be a big winner! 

christmas

Christmas 2016.

Author’s note: I’m taking the week off to enjoy Christmas. Here is a favorite reposted article from December 19, 2015. 

By Chris Warren

Christmas means different things to different people. For some, like me, it’s a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. For little kids, it’s a joyful time of toys and presents. For people employed in critical professions, Christmas is another day on the job.

Sadly, for many, the holidays are a very painful reminder of their loneliness and isolation. A battle with addiction. Homelessness. Unemployment. Estrangement from family. Thoughts of suicide.

Christmas is the seriously ill patient, grateful for having made it another year and nervously concerned that it might be their last.

Christmas is the old man sitting alone and forgotten, contemplating the lifetime of bad decisions that brought him to this time and place.

Christmas is the unemployed veteran who gave so much of himself to protect the liberty of others and was rewarded with broken promises.

Christmas is the struggling single mom and her kids who are squeaking by for now but have no idea what life will be like in another month.

Christmas is the oppressed and persecuted all over the world who cannot find even one moment’s peace or the simplest of freedoms.

We are commanded by God to watch over and care for the less fortunate. Non-believers will question and even mock this concept with statements along the lines of “if your god is so powerful and almighty, why does he let people suffer?” God does not want programmed robots working for Him. He gave all of us a free will. Doing good works is our way of showing others our love for Him, but He rigged it so we could decide for ourselves if we were going to answer the call. When the needs of the hungry and the poor and the sick go unaddressed, it’s not because God “let” it happen. It’s because we mortal sinners let it happen.

Yet all is not dreary and bleak. Christ himself  taught that there is always hope for those who believe. Christmas exists for the sole purpose of letting everyone know that through Him is the path to a better place, even if that “better place” is not on this physical Earth.

For sure, Christmas is a celebration and there is nothing wrong with partaking in parties and food and gifts, unless the only reason you’re into the holiday is because of parties and food and gifts. When the egg nog wears off and the sales are over and the decorations are put away, what, or who, do you truly care about? Are you hearing the message, or was it just a party?

Christmas is December 25. And January 17. And March 5. And July. 10. And October 8. And so on. You get the idea. God is real. Are you?

Merry Christmas and God Bless from Twenty First Summer. 

flag burning

The Reason We Shouldn’t Is Because We Can.

By Chris Warren

There are a lot of ways to identify a blubbering idiot.  The most common is when someone announces that they have the “right” to do or say something, then proceeds to make a big dramatic spectacle of doing it. At that point the odds are very good that they are in blubbering idiot territory.

Flag burning as a form of protest has seen something of a renaissance lately. The self absorbed, mostly millennial-aged activists represent a huge buffet of causes and think they are being edgy and progressive, but we of more vintage know that flag burning is an old trope that goes back to the Vietnam era. I presume one of the protesters’ goals is to convince others to join their cause; apparently they have not figured out that flag burning  is appealing to no one except those who were already on their side in the first place.

Burning the American flag is an offense far beyond any single cause because it is the symbol of all just causes. The average protester does not have enough brain cells to understand the irony of destroying the very symbol of what protects their freedom to protest, or that it reflects the protesters’ own weakness and lack of courage.

They don’t burn the flag to advance their cause. They burn the flag for the shock value and to be hurtful. That’s really what this is all about. They’re like a recalcitrant angry child screaming “Mommy I hate you!”. Their immaturity does not allow them to express themselves in any reasonable way, so they lash out with the only weapon they have–inflicting emotional pain.

When a protester is asked why they are protesting, the answer is almost always some nebulous statement about “rights,” either theirs or someone else’s. I do agree that burning the American flag is a Constitutionally protected First Amendment right, even as I personally find it deeply offensive. But my individual sensibilities are not a basis for a legal or moral system.

I’m sure the flag-burners are likewise offended that I exercise my Second Amendment rights by packing a gun everywhere I go. The difference of course is that I do not carry a gun for the sole purpose of upsetting anyone, although it does not bother me at all if someone is. No one has the right not to be offended, and that concept is a two way street. One could fill many gigabytes of computer memory discussing the contradictions and double-standards that revolve around the flag.

14449788_887015971433081_7878711121246051680_n

One sign of maturity and wisdom is the ability to accept an opinion you disagree with and not take it as a personal affront. The flip side to this is mature people do not deliberately inflict emotional pain as part of, or in many cases in lieu of, making their point.

The other day a television news channel featured a story about protesters protesting the recent US Presidential election by burning an American flag. Unfortunately for the protesters, the coverage was almost totally devoted to the flag burning. Barely any mention was made about what they were actually protesting against.

And so it is with such childish and disrespectful overtures. The flag burning becomes the issue and no one pays much attention to whatever the hell it is they are complaining about.

I suggest that the best response to flag burning is to be passive and let it go. I know it is difficult, but not all wrongdoing is worthy of intervention. Anti-flag burners do not want to descend into a state where they think everything that offends them should be eradicated from the Earth. If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s because we already have an entire generation of runny-nosed milquetoasts who need puppies and Play-Doh just to get through the “trauma” of an election that offended them, but apparently not enough for most of them to participate in.

Burning the American flag is Constitutionally acceptable (albeit offensive) free speech. Honorable men and women have fought and died for our rights, and that includes the right to be a blubbering flag-burning idiot. I have no confidence that someday the idiots will see their foolish former selves immortalized forever on YouTube and be embarrassed enough to join the ranks of we who understand that the reason you shouldn’t is because you can.

politics-pizza

Stale Bread vs. Burned Pizza

Have you ever opened the refrigerator, pulled out everything you need to make a great sandwich, only to discover the last two slices of bread are stale and dry and old? You make the sandwich anyway. It’s still reasonably edible, but only because you’re desperate and hungry.

And have you ever popped a frozen pizza in the oven, then got distracted by a phone call or something on TV, only to catch your oversight right before it turns into a flaming platter of charcoal? The pizza is a mess but not a total loss. You were soooo looking forward to it that you salvage what’s left and try to convince yourself that it really isn’t that bad.

Well wow, the election is over. The far right is gloating, the far left is crying, and the rest are just glad that the drama of a high-tension election has passed. That’s not to say there isn’t more drama coming; it just means the big banana question of who will be our next President has been answered. Buried in the mind numbing details is what will happen to the two major parties, and who will be steering the ship? We have drifted into a world of bizarro politics  where the only items on the menu are stale bread and burned pizza.

It will take historians of politics many years to determine how Hillary Clinton came to be so out of touch that she lost the working middle class vote –badly– to an old money billionaire who craps in gold plated toilets. I’ll offer a hint: Middle class America can’t relate to a pathologically dishonest stale bread candidate who, after thirty years in government, could not come up with any solutions more original than tax the rich and solar panels. I’m also willing to bet that trotting out all those pleading celebrities, smug university academics, and even a sitting President who possibly had more to lose than the candidate he was endorsing did not score even one single new vote for Clinton.

Proving that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the Democrats are about to re-elect Nancy Pelosi as their congressional minority leader. As someone who is more stale bread-ish than Hillary, Pelosi would be the de facto new-old face of the party and the highest ranking Democrat in the land. They inexplicably think that the San Francisco liberal who brought us transgender bathrooms and condoms for twelve year olds is the missing link needed to connect with farmer’s wives in Iowa and laid off steelworkers in Pennsylvania.

The same historians of politics who can’t figure out Clinton’s loss are likewise baffled over Donald Trump’s win. Admittedly, it’s hard to see how conservatives managed to elect a guy who spent his entire life as one of the east coast liberal elites Republicans love to deride, then at the age of 70 had a great epiphany that inspired his newfound love for Ronald Reagan and the Second Amendment.

Donald Trump’s penchant for choosing unnecessarily coarse words both in his past and in his politics came to a rolling boil just in time for the Republicans to come down with a case of moral amnesia. Suddenly, “locker room talk” was a catch-all excuse for every crude reference to female anatomy. Politics does odd things to people. I’m sure Bill Clinton was relieved that at last the conservatives were talking about someone else’s indiscretions.

No matter what Donald Trump may have done (real or perceived) to disqualify himself from politics, it didn’t seem to matter because he did after all win the election. One cannot argue with success. Republicans accept him as the the burned pizza candidate: Messy and imperfect, but lacking any better options, it will have to be acceptable.

It’s baffling that in the most powerful, most skilled, most promising nation that has ever existed, a land of so many brilliant minds, the best we could come up with is stale bread and burned pizza. My fellow Americans, can we order out next time?

fast fashion

Fast Fashion Discounts The Environment.

By Chris Warren.

My daily “uniform” is jeans and a t-shirt, unless it’s warm out, then it’s shorts and a t-shirt. Heck, I don’t even own a suit. I’ve never been a dress up guy. The closest I get to dressing up is some nice shirts and jeans picked out by someone with a better sense of style than myself. It saves me money, and my wardrobe does not turn over that often. I did not realize until recently that my non-participation in fast fashion had an environmental as well as practical benefit.

Fast fashion is an industry buzzword that means to churn out inexpensive, trendy clothes. Instead of new styles being introduced two or three times a year, clothing is continuous stream of new designs that flips every month or so. By speeding up the clothing design & production process and lowering the price, retailers calculate that there is more profit in selling several less expensive items than one big ticket item. Therefore, the faster a garment becomes obsolete, the sooner consumers can be sold something else.

If a shopper buys a $500 dress, they expect it to last a long time, both in style and physical wear. But if you can sell them a $50 dress that is essentially a clone of a prestigious brand, they don’t care so much if it is out of fashion after a few months or even if it is cheaply made. It’s not going to be around that long anyway. They will buy a new dress four, five, six times or more every year to keep up with fast fashion. By the way, this scheme is used on men’s clothing too.

That’s how fast fashion brings in the money, and shoppers are taking the bait. Six $50 dresses cost the consumer a lot less than one $500 dress, and the retailer makes at least as much if not more profit. There is an added bonus: Getting the customer in the store six or more times a year (as opposed to one or two) is more opportunities to upsell other products.

Very few plots to vacuum out consumers’ wallets have been as effective as fast fashion. As a marketing strategy, it’s brilliant. Normally I would leave this alone and let capitalism run its course. This time though, the environmental impact of fast fashion cannot be given a pass.

Cheaply made clothes that are discarded frequently and replaced with more cheaply made clothes equals lot of unwanted clothes, not to mention the energy, resources, and sweatshop labor needed to produce and transport them to market. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that the average American throws out 70 lbs. (31.75 kg) of clothing and other textiles every year…and that estimate is from 2009, well before fast fashion became fashionable!

Only a small percentage of this material is recycled, donated, or otherwise put to another useful purpose. What’s worse, the fabric is almost entirely synthetic and will last decades in a landfill. The unintended consequence of fast fashion is millions of tons of waste every year. The clothing industry is paying only vague attention to this issue, making token efforts to promote environmentally responsible practices.

Unfortunately, fast fashion is a marketing tactic that creates an artificial need for a what is essentially a throwaway product, without much regard for the impact that product has on the environment.

While many will (correctly) lay responsibility at the feet of the retailers and manufacturers, the consumer is a willing and equal party to cramming last month’s fashions into the landfills. I think I’ll hang onto my five year old  jeans and go about my very unstylish life. I may not look like the latest big thing, but the Earth will look better for not having so much of my old clothes buried in it.

hero

The Value Of A Hero.

With the political season nearing its denouement, there is a lot of hero worship from every campaign. The military and police are oft cited examples, and the hero label has been applied to everyone from generals to pizza delivery guys. It seems like the definition of hero can be stretched to include almost anyone, and that is quite bothersome.

What I’m left wondering is, what exactly is a hero anymore? There are obvious examples that are easy to quantify, such as the guy who risks his own safety to rescue someone from a car sinking in water, or a Congressional Medal Of Honor winner. But after that it’s not so clear cut.

Is someone a hero simply by being in a certain group, such as firefighters and the military? Or do they actually have to do something heroic? Suppose an ordinary guy who otherwise has never shown any proclivity for acts of bravery is suddenly thrust into a situation…such as child trapped in a burning building. If he places himself in great peril to rescue the child, is he a hero more, less, or equal to the retired Army sergeant who spent his entire career at a desk job and never did anything more hazardous than minimum required basic training?

By virtue of their enlistment, the military people have professed a willingness to place themselves in danger on behalf of others. The same could be said of police officers and firefighters. This willingness is not mere words. It is  verified by lengthy, difficult training intended in part to weed out the pretenders from those who really mean it. Is that enough to satisfy the nebulous “do something” requirement?

Whether or not they have ever actually done anything dangerously heroic is beside the point. Raising their hands and volunteering to imperil themselves in the service of complete strangers must count for something, and in my mind it makes them a hero on some level even if they are never called to perform these duties.

That brings us to the less obvious. Teachers, clergy, medical people, and a raft of others are often lifted to hero status. The missions they undertake are unarguably difficult, noble, and often done at great personal sacrifice. But here we go again…does mere inclusion in one of these respected groups by default make them a hero?

We admire teachers and clergy and the rest…I get it. Yet I cannot make an easy connection between someone who does something honorable and selfless, but not particularly risky, and someone who actually does take a big risk or accepts the potential of danger.

The problem I have with the modern hero is that, consistent with society’s attitude of “everyone gets a trophy,” and “let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings,” the concept of a hero has been diluted down to include pretty much everyone. And if everyone is a hero, then being a one isn’t such a big deal. Furthermore, the real heroes, those who clearly earned it, are having their rightful honor debased.

I do not consider myself a hero, but I’m sure if I was a lot more full of myself I could find a circuitous way to claim the title. Meh. I’ll watch with a little sadness while so many others abuse the term. When it’s all over, I’ll give up my spot on the pedestal for someone who really deserves it.

sandwich-race-relations

The Sandwich Solution.

By Chris Warren.

Recent events in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as other instances of black citizens being shot dead by the police have kept alive the ongoing and seemingly endless charges of institutional racism in the United States. I’m not here to make a lengthy commentary on the validity of the collective accusations, except to say that I believe neither side is totally right nor totally wrong.

What I am going to suggest is that race relations would improve if we followed the example of a sandwich. No, this is is not a gag or satire piece, and I am absolutely not trying to trivialize the immense emotional pain these deaths cause others. Twenty First Summer  is a serious blog and this is a serious discourse.

The individual contents of a sandwich are not particularly inviting. No one eats just a raw onion or a spoonful of mustard or a leaf of plain lettuce. And while a solo slice of cheese or meat is completely palatable, it’s not very exciting. But put it all together between two slices of bread and the end result is a symphony of delicious that no one refuses.

Go anywhere in the world, in any culture, and they have some version of a sandwich. It’s the universal food for an entire planet, possibly the only food that everyone eats.

Now compare all of humanity to the ingredients of a sandwich. Each ingredient has its own special qualities and is inherently valuable, but by itself can only be so much. When combined together they are something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The point is that people are better as a group than we are when wrapped up inside ourselves. We don’t have to always agree. We don’t have to hold hands and sing. Heck, we don’t even have to like each other! We simply have to live and let live respectfully.

That’s why we could learn a lot about race relations by looking at the example of the humble sandwich. Together, the ingredients of a sandwich accomplish something that they cannot achieve individually.

And so it is with people. We can stand alone and be just average, which is not horrible, but why settle for average? Or we can join together and be something stellar. It’s not lost on me that race relations are a complex topic with a high emotional payload and a lineage going back hundreds of years, but what the hell. Nothing else has worked; a “sandwich solution” is not any more a nutty idea than all the failures that came before it.

work shoes

The Story In A Workingman’s Shoes.

By Chris Warren.

I went out yesterday and bought a new pair of work shoes. I know it’s not exactly a profound life event, but when I looked at my old shoes it struck me that every beat up, worn out pair has a story to tell about a Workingman.

Most people have several pairs of shoes for everyday use, but the Workingman, a guy who doesn’t wear a fine suit, usually has only one pair. Those old shoes carried me through every moment of my career for several years. I wear them more than any other single article of clothing I own.

The photo above shows two pairs of my work shoes. Both are the exact same make, model, and size. One pair is three years old and well past the end of its useful life; the other is brand new, never worn. When compared side by side, it’s a bit startling to see what three years of honest hard work will do to a pair of shoes.

Those shoes were a silent witness to many great things that happened to me, and a few not so great things. They were there when the boss dressed me down over a mistake I made; they were also there when the same boss gave me a fat bonus and told me what a great employee I was. They’ve been to funerals and retirement parties. They’ve shoveled snow and walked through 100 degree heat.

Every scuff and crack and stain and scrape on those old shoes has a story behind it. Of course, I don’t remember the details of how and when every blemish occurred, but collectively they are the testimony of a guy who clearly does not spend much time sitting around.

Workingmen are not a complicated lot, which, by the way, should not be interpreted as being uneducated or simple-minded. Their skills are technical and complex and can take years, even decades, to master. The Workingman’s job requires advanced math and analytical abilities; many of the people in work shoes and hard hats hold college degrees and/or have completed vocational training that essentially equals or exceeds a college degree. They show up every day with lunchbox in hand and a can-do spirit in their heart and do what is needed to keep our modern world seamlessly running.

Building buildings, lighting up the cities, keeping cellphones on line, toilets flushing, and trucks and trains and airplanes moving are all part of the countless behind the scenes labors that no one sees but everyone would definitely notice if they did not get done correctly and on time. These are not skills any unmotivated dropout can learn. Workingmen are diverse in their advanced expertise but they have one thing in common: Their shoes do not stay pristine and new for very long.

I don’t know why, but there is something about getting a new pair of work shoes that boosts my mood. For that first few days, before they are fully broken in and start showing obvious signs of wear, I put my work shoes on in the morning and leave the house feeling like it’s going to be a good day. Like a blank sheet of paper they too will collect the story of my daily life and someday will be worn and spent.

That is where the Workingman is different from his shoes: The Workingman is never spent. He may return home tired at the end of each shift and dream of a well earned retirement, but the next morning he will put on the same pair of shoes and go out and make the world happen…again. During the course of his day his shoes will collect a few more scrapes and scuffs, each of which is a testimony to honest hard work. Show me a beat up old pair of work shoes, and I’ll show you a dignified Workingman who never failed to carry the pride of his skill and labor upon them.