Gina Barreca: Getting The Job Done With Dignity, Respect

By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Gina Barreca takes a look at the subject of work, specifically how the idea/concept of a job has changed.

The Hartford Courant

If you’d told one of my grandparents, “What I really want from a job is relevance, flexibility and autonomy,” they wouldn’t have thought, “Let’s help her get some guidance from a professional counselor or a career coach.” They’d have made a sign of the cross, then sent for a priest and demanded an exorcist.

The very words “innovation, flexibility and autonomy” weren’t in their vocabularies, not even in their native tongues, and certainly wouldn’t have applied to any requirements they had for employment.

My grandparents did shift work. Always carefully pronounced, it was usually miserable. These unpleasant jobs were, not coincidentally, the most poorly paid.

But paid they were, and that was all anybody expected. Their children, a few rungs up the social ladder, learned to expect more. Not much, but some.

Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but they had better jobs than their parents. They were literate, numerate and, in their own ways, ambitious. When they were teenagers, my mother was a switchboard operator and my father was a radio operator on a B-24 Liberator bomber. Then my dad joined his brothers in a small factory sewing bedspreads and curtains.

He had the kind of job where he showered as soon as he got home; he always hoped my brother and I would be able to have the kind of jobs where you showered before you went to work.

And both of us do, now. It took a few years. The next generation of our particular tribe seems, knock wood, to be OK. If they’re running, it’s not from the cops, but in marathons. If they’re sleeping outside, it’s in a tent and on purpose.

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