Americans want work if it's not too much work

If Americans are truly desperate to find work, why are there now 200,000 job openings for long-haul truckers in the United States? Why are trucking companies so eager to fill those positions they offer incentives such as a $5000 signing bonus? Why aren't unemployed people jumping at the chance to work in an occupation with above-average pay, with some earning as much as $150,000?

Why? Evidently because Americans want work only if it is not too much work.

Long-haul truckers don't have it easy. They're often away from home, living in cramped quarters and sometimes sleeping odd hours.

At least they get to sleep—something I often couldn't do in the many years I spent training to become a doctor. I was then home so little that I didn't know about family reunions, vacations, and major life events. After beginning to work as a doc, my Mom pulled into my driveway one day with a car full of cousins I didn't remember; some I'd never seen, and some I knew only from the distant past when they were kids. I didn't recognize them, too. I was closer to my UPS driver and garbageman.

I was stunned. I'd worked the night before in the ER and hadn't showered or fully awakened when they popped in for an unannounced visit without calling first—something my spontaneous mother did on more than one occasion because she really didn't know me, either. I wasn't gone too much, I was gone way too much. Like many doctors, I paid a very high price to get MD after my name.

So truckers, I feel your pain. If not exactly parallel, then similar in many ways, and some years I would have been thrilled to earn $150,000.

I've had so many jobs in my life it would be difficult to list them all, but all had noxious aspects to them. One of my best jobs—mowing—baked me in the sun, gave lots of bug bites (one wasp sting in my ear canal!), exhaust fumes (much of it from smoky 2-cycle engines), and dust … ever think about what's in the dust you breathe when you mow? God or Mother Nature doesn't filter out all of the nasty stuff before it reaches your eyes, nose, sinuses, and lungs. Whatever is on the ground—animal feces and urine, pesticides and herbicides, toxic heavy metals from the soil itself—gets whipped into the air and onto and into you. One of my accounts was mowing a group of baseball fields with an adjacent park-like area that was littered every week with hundreds of used condoms—was baseball just foreplay that led to a mass orgy? That was before the AIDS era, but still—mowing over used condoms? Major yuck.

So let's talk about bad jobs. I know 'em, and you probably do, too Sitting in an air-conditioned truck and being paid big bucks to tour the country, seeing things most people never see … well, there are worse jobs. Far worse. Yet even in a recession some experts say is really a depression, 200,000 Americans now prefer to sit home and twiddle their thumbs than drive a truck and experience the freedom of the open road, which is preferable to the mind-numbing boredom of mowing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, like a trapped lab rat. The only nice scenery I had to gaze at was near one customer on Lake Sherwood whose neighbors—a mother and two daughters who attended my high school—had legs that most supermodels would envy. Other than that, it was just billions of blades of grass, clouds of dust, and used condoms.

I had jobs that made mowing seem like a walk in the park, so I don't understand the reluctance of Americans to work.

Or maybe I do. More about that later.

Update: As I finished this article, my mail lady pulled up my driveway to deliver a package. There she was, as always, giving her friendly greetings while flashing her gorgeous smile that most supermodels would envy. She's always smiling even though she has a tough job that's noxious in bad weather and always dangerous, making her a sitting duck for one of the many distracted (texting, eating, combing hair, shaving), intoxicated (booze, drugs), or drowsy drivers that could rear-end her any minute. In spite of it all, she keeps smiling—and working. Impressive.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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