Friday, January 26, 2007
Warm, dry and comfortable
It's was a bitterly cold day yesterday, here in London, Ontario. As I drove to my office, I remembered a similarly cold day, back in 1966 or so. I was driving my battered 1957 Volkswagen that day, on my way to work on a construction site. The car heater and defroster didn't work properly, and I was already frozen stiff. It was still dark outside, about 6:30 in the morning, and I was about to start a shift working on something called a pondage dock for the Welland Canal in St. Catharines , Ontario. My job entailed grunt work: carrying materials, using a pick to smooth out the stone surfaces onto which we were about to pour concrete, etc. The job was horrible.
Most of the time on the job I wore hip-waders, because everything was always wet. We worked about 35 feet below ground level, in an area that would later be filled with water when construction was complete. I'm not really clear about the function of a pondage dock, but I imagine it might be where canal water would flow when the locks were opened or closed.
The best part of my job was when I got to direct cement trucks, as they backed down a long ramp to deposit their load. At the bottom, I would stand knee-deep in the warmed cement, giving hand signals to the drivers as truck after truck deposited cement for the floor of the dock. The warmed cement would in turn warm my body, and I would be momentarily comfortable.
I think of those days, and others not much better, on occasion. I do that to remind myself to be grateful every day. Many people, around the world, live truly dreadful lives, work at backbreaking and debilitating jobs, and have little hope of ever improving their situation. At least here, we are well rewarded for our efforts. I worked on that particular construction job because I was being paid about twice what I might have earned in another, less demanding job.
Many people in developing countries don't have the luxury of choice. It is work or die, or at least work or go hungry and have no place to live. And they often have no hope of bettering their position. Here, at least if we are prepared to work hard and be responsible with the money we earn, we can accomplish pretty much anything we might wish to do.
When I got to my office, sat down in my comfortable chair, turned on my computer, and sipped my morning coffee, I was aware, once again, that the journey, even with all the bumps and ruts along the way, had been worthwhile.
Here's to being warm, dry, and comfortable.