Posted on January 11, 2019
by Steve Janowick
I love that antique photo.
We’ve all seen it. The one where a dozen or so construction workers are having their lunch while seated on a stand-alone beam that’s dangling 100 stories off the ground. Eating, smoking, reading and just hootin’ it up without a fleeting concern that one single wind gust or aggressive sneeze would mean certain death.
That photo is fascinating-on so many levels. I think the modern man who sees it is amazed, and even perplexed, at the sheer guts (or stupidity) these men possess. These weren’t hipster thrill seekers looking to get on the cover of Outdoor magazine. These were regular, every day, working stiffs trying to eke out enough of a living just to survive. Men who’d gotten so desensitized by harsh circumstances and dangerous conditions that enjoying a ham sandwich while suspended from a skyscraper girder is just ho-hum, another day at the office.
Today, if some Google techie stubs his toe at the corporate gym provided to all the employees, he’s had a rough day! Carpal tunnel acting up from all that keyboard pounding? Back a little stiff from excessive chair leaning? Just take a couple personal days or file a worker’s comp claim-it’s all good.
Look, I’m not saying today’s man is a total softie. The times and the technology dictate the economy and type of work we do. Hell, I’m sure there’s some prehistoric, cave-dwellers in some afterlife who think those dudes on the beam were total pussies! “Packed lunch? Really? Only way we ate lunch was if our stick was sharp and our aim true. And if we weren’t always looking over our shoulders while doing it, we became the lunch! You dudes on the beam have it easy, man!”
I get it. It’s all relative. But, again, the rate at which we are going up the bell curve is astounding. The change is suddenly exponential and feeding on itself. Growing out of control. And that old-time photo highlights a perfect juxtaposition between the 20th and 21st century worker. Sure, we still have some guys out there with calloused hands and bent backs killing it every day. But our advancements (if that’s what you want to call them) have taken many men, in such a short time, from hammering nails to getting their nails done.
And there’s no stopping this runaway ship. All aboard the SS Progress! Where the walls are made of marshmallows for your protection and we have 24 hour shrinks on board should you have any bad feelings that may suddenly manifest. Strap yourself in, because we are full steam ahead. Our next stop is at a port called Utopia. Where everything will be designed, produced and run by machines. You, the working stiff, will be obsolete and useless in this Utopia if you don’t accept and adapt. So, come on, get with the new age program-or else!
I’ll bet somewhere up in the heavens there’s a dozen dudes sitting on a beam having lunch-and I’ll also bet they all have their middle fingers up while looking down.
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