Whatever it Takes – #1linerWeds

Three nor’easters in a two week period has reminded me of an earlier two week period in my life. When I was in college, I worked several summers as an ‘89-Day-Wonder’ at the local branch of the US Post Office. If you worked 90 days, they had to treat you according to the union agreement. 89 days and they could treat you any way they wanted.

For example: Union employees could be made to work a split-shift (work for a while, go home, return and work for a while longer) but all portions of the shift had to be completed within a 12-hour period. In my case, I often worked from 3:00 AM until 6:00 AM and 3:00 PM until 9:00 PM.

I didn’t care, the pay was amazing. I was making over $7.00 an hour in 1974. I would do anything for that kind of money.

One summer, they didn’t need me to start right away after school was out. That was OK, but the start date they offered wouldn’t let me get 89 days in before school started. I was disappointed. The Assistant Postmaster looked at me and said: “Unless you want to work two weeks as a janitor.”

What did I care? Janitor? Sure, I’ll be a janitor. My other option was to work two weeks in a machine shop, making gun barrels for $2.25 an hour.

This Post Office had two janitors. The lead man, and another guy who was going to be on vacation for those two weeks. I was told to report Monday morning, 6:30 sharp.

The lead guy had me do every job that would ever have to be done. I washed the windows, inside and out. I cleaned the florescent fixtures, removing, wiping down and reinstalling each and every bulb, and cleaning the housing. I swept the floor every day, mopped it twice a week and stripped and waxed the floor over one weekend. I swept the loading dock and walks around the building, I dusted, washed, wiped and polished every fixture in the place, and I cut the grass. It was while I was cutting the grass that the Assistant Postmaster, a family friend whom I had known all my life, came out and said:

“You know, you’re being paid by the hour, not by the ton.”

He explained how my “boss” would take the entire day to cut the grass, and how both janitors spent several days cleaning the light fixtures, because one was always holding the portable staircase/work platform (even though it had huge locking casters).

I said it would be impossible to go so slow. He explained: “You check the gas and oil in the mower. Then you bring the mower out here, start it up and make one pass. Then return to the dock. Get the rake. Come back and rake your one pass’ worth of grass. Return to the dock. Get the barrel. Put the grass in the barrel. Return the barrel to the dock. Check the gas and oil and repeat the process until you’re done.”

We had a good laugh, and I continued working at relative Warp Speed for the rest of my two weeks. The two regulars had an easy summer, as I had completed all of their semi-annual jobs. But, I got paid overtime the weekend I stripped the floors.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join us. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.

The gallery has some pictures collected between nor’easters. There’s also a video for the Maddie lovers. It’s not the best quality, but…

62 thoughts on “Whatever it Takes – #1linerWeds

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  1. Love it Love it Love it! Not only your story but also the pictures! They are a true treat for me! There hasn’t been any snow here throughout the entire winter this year! can’t believe it! Thanks for the images! Maddie is cute as always! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great sun shot! I love the color reflection. Maddie and her snow…😀
    I am right there with you on work. I don’t know how to ride the clock, milk a shift or stretch the work out. I just know how to get the job done. Hey! One of my sons has just started a job with the post office. I am very excited for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cheryl – You even bring that work ethic to the bar on Saturdays :-)

      Good luck to your son. I hope it works well for him. My dad worked at the PO forever – same work ethic (that’s where I learned it).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Parents are good like that. Yours sounds like real gems. I’m hoping he loves it. Great benefits. Thanks. And It would be hard to slack at the bar. It’s so entertaining. 😉


  3. It appears you had a strong work ethic from day one, Dan. And Maddie has a strong play ethic when it comes to snow. It’s interesting that she was afraid when the storm began but loves what comes after. Happy Wednesday, Dan.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My dad drummed that work ethic into us very early, Mary. It didn’t matter what we were doing, he stressed that we do it well.

      We think it’s the changing air pressure that makes her scared. You can almost predict the weather by that dog. But, when you open the door and she sees that snow, she rises to the occasion. The yard went from a pristine white blanket to a giant mess in about five minute.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have never understood how some people work the system and get away with it. I was brought up with the same work ethic as you….whatever the job is, do it to the best of your ability. It’s a good feeling to know you ‘earn’ every penny you make.

    Great photos. Laughed when I saw Maddie’s ball packed with snow despite all the openings in it. She sure comes alive when she’s outside, doesn’t she? Got a kick out of the video.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment Ginger. My dad always said: “give them a good day’s work for a good day’s pay” and he always emphasized the work part. Working that split shift was enough to drive me crazy. At least as a janitor, I had two weeks of working days.

      That ball gets filled with this heavy wet snow, and the holes give Maddie the upper hand in hanging onto it. She loves when we throw it, but she also loves playing keep-away.


  5. Happy hump day, Dan. You seem to have had a good attitude about that job. I had one that required some split-shifts. About a 3 hour gap between… and my drive was 45 minutes each way… so I hated those shifts.
    I see our favorite redhead is happy to have the snow. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. That split shift drove me crazy, but it meant that at some point, I’d be getting overtime pay and that’s all I needed to hear with a tuition bill looming in the distance.

      I thought you were our favorite redhead ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, Dan. Slow speed. That was funny! Headed out to dig, dig, dig the 19”. Another snow day, and more snow next week. I need to have an up close and personal conversation with Mother Nature. Guess I’ll be doing that in between the shovelfuls of snow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jennie. I was supposed to be in Burlington, MA (Mon-Wed). We decided on Sunday to cancel the event – good thing, I’d still be looking for my car at the hotel. Tell “Mom” to let the spring flowers have a chance to see some sunshine.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Aw, Maddie!
    Great gray skies in those photos — nice depth!
    When I was in college, I dated a guy who sorted mail for the summer. He hated it, of course. Every day was a tale of incompetence and sheer laziness, very disappointing. But he made more than $16/hr and that was in the 90s, so you know, it was a good summer job.
    When I was in line at the post over the holidays, I heard a clerk say she could get ridiculous amounts of overtime the entire month of December. I thought “Oh how tiring!” but also, “Niiice!”
    I feel like I’ve read that mowing grass bit before.
    My son works as a janitor in a hospital while he’s in grad school. It keeps him fit and fed, but it kills his shoes and feet — I’m taking him out for new shoes today, hopefully that’ll help his feet because I can’t get him new feet…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmmm, I hope I’m not starting to repeat myself. Oh well, I can flash the age-card if I need to. I was actually worried that I had used these photos before – I’m glad you like them.

      That job sure paid well. I could get overtime in the summer because someone was assigned to work Sundays to deliver the “Special Delivery” mail (this was before overnight. I would always find that guy and offer to take his shift. The week started on Saturday, so it wasn’t overtime on Sunday (it was x1.5) but it meant that by Wednesday night, I’d have my 40 hours in.

      Good shoes are so important in those jobs. You can’t get new feet, but you can mess up the ones you have.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh….old school civil service, it brings back memories.

    There is a story about Milton Friedman that serves as a modern day parable. While in Germany during reconstruction, he observed a gang of worker digging a trench with shovels.

    “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to use an excavator,” he asked.
    “But that would cost jobs,” the site manager told him. “We are putting people to work.”
    “Then why give them shovels,” he replied, “why not spoons?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m surprised shovels was plural. The gang I worked with would have had one shovel to share. I think you added the joke about there not being enough shovels and guys having to lean on each other…

      My dad told me to just work as hard as I could and not worry about the others. He pointed out that the pay was going toward my tuition and, if that was successful, I wouldn’t have to push a broom.


  9. Nice catch, Maddie! I bet she’d do this until your arm fell off from throwing. :-) We has a foster dog that was the same way.

    As far as your post office story, I don’t doubt it at all, but I’m glad to read that a work ethic like this was around in the 70’s and that it wasn’t just for kids. I’m the oldest person by far (that’s not upper management) at the place where I work, but no one works harder than I do and quite a few work a LOT less. I try to lead by example or, when that fails (as I’m not a manager to be giving orders), to say something like “I’m going to do this. Would you take care of ______?” No one’s said they wouldn’t do it yet. :-) Bureaucracy tends to attract the sort of person you talk about (or maybe it creates them or at least allows them to indulge the habit of doing little for as long as possible). My husband worked for a government office in Cleveland and found the place populated with this sort of “work” ethic. The pay was pretty good, though, especially for doing almost nothing. And we wonder why there isn’t enough money and why things don’t get done well?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. Maddie hardly ever catches the ball. I was hoping to capture the way she grabs it on the ground and plows through the snow with it. She looked pretty agile, peeking over her shoulder (I wish the Steelers had a few more people capable of that).

      I spent a lot of time those summers doing stuff that other people didn’t want to do. My “route” was “Auxiliary” which was the heavy bits of every other route. Of course some guys would add sites to that definition on a daily basis.

      I just like to keep busy. I like the way you handle that “I’m not doing this” !

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Frank. I was surprised to see that they had cleared the sidewalk. Earlier in the winter, they had just roped it off like the road. That is the sunrise, the last one I’ll see on my way in until nature catches up with Daylight Saving Time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Dan – those were the days when we’d enthusiastically and thoroughly work our jobs. Hope that snow stays away and your winter springs into some warmer weather … it’s reasonable here! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. I’d be OK if this was our last snowstorm. There seems to be a possibility of snow next week, but it’s too early to tell.

      I think keeping busy at work makes the day go faster.


  11. LOL! Love that story! And that sunrise picture is OUTSTANDING. I’m glad Maddie is enjoying the snow. Our snowfalls have been light, and have melted by mid-morning. That’s the way I like ’em, if they come at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked this, Marian. I won’t see that sunrise again for a few weeks, but is was gorgeous. This will probably melt before we get another. At least that’s how it’s been going.


    1. Thanks Deborah. I think I was able to reply to the comments on the pictures. I love getting those, but half the time, WP won’t let me reply.

      Maddie loves to play in the snow. It’s been a strange winter. We’ve gone from sitting in the 70-degree sun to trudging through heavy wet snow.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I should be getting ready for work but you had snow so I had to stop by and check it out. Love that sunrise photo the best.
    $7/hr in 1974 sounds like a fortune. Heck, from what I read about wages in the US, $7/hr would be a fortune now for some people. Laughed at the work ethics of the regulars. Ah, the good old days. Government employees are the same the world over it seems. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. $7/hr in 1974 was huge. I was stunned. When I took the Civil Service exam, I was hoping for $3/hr. Part of the issue was there just wasn’t enough work for two people, but you couldn’t just have one. Still, this guy stretched it pretty far.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Working hard and always getting the job done also gets noticed. At least that’s what I was counting on. I had this job three summers, three Christmas breaks and two spring breaks.


  13. I love your postoffice stories. I was told by the regular carrier to slow down. He felt I would miss some deliveries if I didn’t take care. Taking care meant making a two-hour job last eight. Maddie makes me laugh when she plays in the snow. Almost like snow is there for her alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Am getting tired just reading what all you did!! Whatever it takes is a good motto for life. You’ll never be out of a job (but you may have a hard time “really” retiring when 65 comes).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I think about the ridiculous hours I worked (starting at 3:00am) and the jobs they piled on me, I wonder how I did it. Then I remember that I was able to ear my tuition payment in 89 days (something you certainly can’t do today) and I count my blessings.

      I think I’ll be able to retire, but I’m not sure I’ll stop working.


  15. Oh, I’ve never been able to work to someone else’s timetable or idea of one. I do what I need to do til I finish it and that’s that.
    Love the photos as ever – and Maddie’s wildness in the snow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Audrey. Maddie certainly has her happy moments. She drifts in between that and all kinds of other states, but when she’s happy, she’s really happy. We try to keep her in a good place.


  16. You and I had similar experiences working for the government. In my case it was the Ministry of Natural Resources and I spent a summer in their Accounts Payable department. I was told when I was hired that it was a busy, fast-paced environment.
    At the end of my first week, the supervisor suggested I needed to ‘take it easy’ because at the rate I was going, they would run out of work in another 2 weeks 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I really liked the article about your past jobs since I think it made you well rounded, in my opinion. It has made me much more open to a wider variety of people when I think back to some of the great everyday people who worked side by side in challenging jobs.
    I loved the last photo of your sunrise days before DST began! So gorgeous! I tend to gravitate to sky photos a lot. 🙂
    Maddie all wrapped up and head on your leg is a very sweet photograph, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robin. Maddie gets so scared when bad storms are coming. I think working in a variety of jobs has been good for me. Good people can be found everywhere. I think that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned.


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