May 22, 2010

Ordinary People

[Note:The following is a fascinating comment written by "scory " in response to Side-Lines: Welcome to the Machine. I think it is well worth bring to the attention of a wider readership. I hope you agree. -- Gerard

As I age I find myself coming to different conclusions about the people I work with.

I supervise a group of 16 for a major cell phone company. The group is 80% female.

I have one Moslem woman who is the sole support of her family because her husband suffers from a heart condition. He had a transplant done a few years ago but experiences reoccurring problems with it and is in and out of the hospital at least 3 times a year. She works a lot of overtime and is trustworthy, loyal and does excellent work. She never complains about anything.

I have another lady who just went through a divorce from an abusive husband. She supports two young children. Her own mother is an alcoholic who lands in jail every so often for booze fueled infractions of traffic laws and/or disorderly conduct. My employee has to deal with that as well as the kids and the ex who, every now and then and just for fun, makes trouble for her. She is one of the most trusted workers in the department. She taught herself to become expert in certain aspects of the job and is now a go-to person for especially difficult issues. Higher management uses her to handle certain matters that are too complex or time-consuming for them to address directly.

I had another lady, since transferred, whose mother is a crack addict and who was raising young children without benefit of a husband. She would sometimes come to work a little worse for wear but always gave her best when here. She managed to control her emotional life and was a reliable and pleasant person to work with. She eventually married a man from Senegal in the hope of putting some stability into the lives of her children and to provide them with as close to a normal family life as she could. After she married she would sometimes come to work wearing traditional Senegalese dress (which can be quite colorful but is definitely outside of American norms). I think whe was a little unsure about the marriage but she did what she thought would be best for her and the kids. To my knowledge her new husband has never mistreated her and is acting as an honorable man.

I have another lady whose family has among its members a couple of inmates in a maximum security prison in this state. She divorced a husband who used to beat her up when the mood (and booze/drugs) suited him. She has raised two children into their late teens. Neither one is a problem child and both aspire to college. She is not highly educated and used to be something of a goof off but has come, in recent years, to make herself into a very competent individual who is asked, often, to unravel complex issues with our customers.

And so it goes.

What I find far more often than not is that people, ordinary people, are in fact often rather heroic. They face problems and situations that are damned tough and they cope as well as they can and they try to do their best. And often they succeed. They make bad decisions and deal with the consequences and go on with their lives. Just like the rest of us. So when someone has interests or hobbies that I think of as odd or even a bit crazy I don't much mind it. I am now old enough to recognize that I am just as much a goofball as anyone else on this benighted planet and I find that, except for extreme cases of depravity or idiocy, I am not prepared to dismiss my fellows as loons or cases of demonic possession.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 22, 2010 12:23 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Solomon didn't have as much wisdom as these folks.

Posted by: Jewel at May 22, 2010 1:05 AM

Ordinary people are the back bone of this country.

Posted by: Cilla Mitchell, Galveston Texas at May 22, 2010 2:01 AM

Prager uses this, but I think someone else said it first: the famous are seldom great and the great are seldom famous. Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to strive to exit it with your human dignity intact and to have allowed others their dignity in the process. If you can accomplish that - you're a hero.

Posted by: Western Chauvinist at May 22, 2010 5:44 AM

When I read this comment the other day I was struck by th thought that the person who wrote it is a thoughtful and compassionate leader. How many managers know the details of their workers lives like this and instead of puffing themselves up with contempt, see them as heroic. I'll bet they'd do just about anything for this person. That's the essence of true leadership, to inspire that yearning in people.
My America is full of individuals like that.

Posted by: teresa at May 22, 2010 5:45 AM

I also found myself chastened by the last line of this post. Live and learn and learn some more. I'm just an old chunk of coal...

Posted by: teresa at May 22, 2010 5:55 AM

Sympathetic shoe-leather mileage is all most people need to feel encouraged. . . or at least not quite so alone.

Abusive leaders get to where they are by having suffered the very same sort of abuse for the privilege of returning it in kind on down the line.

The commenter's estimation of his employees says more about how rare an individual he is.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at May 22, 2010 6:17 AM

This is such maudlin crap. We have been melted down by the treacle coated sensitive crowd that award gold stars, trophies and sugar free candy to everyone that puts their underwear on frontside out in the morning.

This is life! My parents and grand-parents lived struggled AND died in situations like these from the '00's thru the '50's in rural Vermont and across America.

It's only the snotty spawn of those given every chance by their parents' hard work and life that fail to see what life really is. What an error on their part!

What will you do when this great gimme debt comes due here and the GOP, the Jackasses and Obama/Bush/Clinton Triad tell you "I got mine sucka!"

Maudlin will be a fart in the wind.

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck at May 22, 2010 7:08 AM

We have changed from a people who expect that effort from others to one that slap hands after every foul shot.

Posted by: james wilson at May 22, 2010 7:19 AM

The heroism of ordinary people is exactly the premise of our constitutional republic in which, you will recall, the people are to be the ultimate masters of their fate, and the fate of society as a whole. In good hands, then. Except for those few who would take that freedom from them and replace it with the wisdom of the state.

Posted by: Everyman at May 22, 2010 7:24 AM

Life used to be nasty, brutish, and short but that's no reason to glamorize it.

I'm watching as my boss makes every advantage for his daughter's success in his business. He is coddling her to certain success, not holding her quite as accountable as I might, and is smoothing over the very rough realities of a brutal business. Will it make her a weak or lesser person?

All I know is that she is adorably wonderful, kind to everyone, naively unaware of her faults and infectiously fun to be with as well as a fun and fierce competitor in sports. I'd like to think the incredible kindness she exhibits, and the forbearance she proffers to others is a direct result of the kindness she has received.

May this sort of parental "abuse" increase.

I've worked for way too many "self-made" bosses who are bitter and angry at what life made them do to get where they are. . . and they pass that along down their line of progeny and employees.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at May 22, 2010 7:40 AM

I've said many times that one of the most accurate ways to judge someone's character is by observing how they treat the person who cleans the bathrooms.

Posted by: WWWebb at May 22, 2010 7:54 AM

So a conservative reads this and thinks "these are wonderful, hard working people and I wish them only the best."

A liberal reads this and thinks the boss is running a sweat shop, wants to organize an SEIU demonstration to shut him down and will rant and scream that we pass laws that no men shall own and manage businesses that only women have any authority or power.

Posted by: at May 22, 2010 8:07 AM

Scory is obviously a very kind and caring person - you know, a Good Guy. Good guys believe in people. They trust them. A sort of spiritual inspiration/transformation comes about when someone discovers that someone else believes in them and is willing to trust them. I've taught in public schools where it was evident that a principal's capacity for trust could create a Heaven or a Hell.

Posted by: Mizz E at May 22, 2010 2:06 PM

Sheesh!!! Woodchuck? Having a bad day? It is a GOOD kind of maudlin! Scat!

Posted by: John Hinds at May 22, 2010 5:30 PM

I read this and thought where are the men? Why are all the crap-outs male?

Posted by: Marie at May 22, 2010 7:20 PM

The continued existence of the world depends upon there being at least 36 righteous men in it at all times. For their sake, God stays his hand from destroying the world, even though the rest of mankind has declined into the lowest stages of degeneracy and barbarism.*

These holy people are hidden; nobody knows who they are, and they themselves may not know who they are. They practice humble vocations because their are humble men. One of them may be the Messiah, who is waiting for universal repentance before he reveals himself.*

Someone -- I am looking at you Hussein -- who thinks he is one of the righteous, most certainly is not. One of Scory's employees may be. It is among such people that they would be found.

*At Sodom, God promised Abraham that he would spare the city, if 10 righteous men could be found. Our odds are better, we only need 36 for the whole world.

*'Today, if you will hear his voice'" (Ps 95:7)

Jonah 3 [1] Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, [2] "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." ...

[6] When Johna's words reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. [7] And he made a proclamation published throughout Nineveh, "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, [8] but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. ...

[10] When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.

Posted by: Fat Man at May 22, 2010 9:25 PM

Re: why all females?

For historic reasons, a lot of phone-related industries are mostly women. Women were judged to be reliable, nimble-fingered, good at paying attention to the accuracy of name and number listings, and more willing to pretend to be nice to idiots. Also, they worked cheap.

So yeah, telcos and pubcos and CMRs tend to be heavily female, at least on the office side. (Not so much on the maintenance and engineering side.) Bosses try to hire more guys, and I know a company that actually went to parity on male restrooms despite the fact it's still only five or ten percent male employees. But it's still a woman's world in telco-land.

Posted by: Maureen at May 23, 2010 5:45 PM

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Posted by: Bruce in Kansas at May 24, 2010 9:55 AM

Welcome to real life. With all of our foibles and heavy baggage, we're still mostly well meaning people just trying to find a good way at the end of the day.

Posted by: Daphne at May 24, 2010 5:53 PM

Y'know, they've been predicting for years that "this" generation is going to be the one with the lower standard of living than their parents. They did it for mine. And as for timing, I graduated just a little too late to hit the dot-com boom (therefore few jobs), moved just in time to not get the job which was supposed to be there, had to work jobs that didn't even pay the rent, let alone feed me... and yet, I'm doing pretty well now. So for those poor benighted graduates, hang in there... and maybe you'll work a job that isn't great but which has a manger like Scory and coworkers that are plugging along too.

Best of luck to you and your employees, Scory.

Posted by: B. Durbin at May 24, 2010 9:57 PM
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