In Praise of Productive Labor
By David Henderson
Yesterday afternoon, I came home from walking at Point Lobos Park with a colleague. We watched probably about a dozen large whales off the shore. It’s the most I’ve ever seen.
When I got home, I couldn’t park in front of my house because there were two Cal-Am Water trucks in front. The problem: a pipe underneath the pavement had broken and water was flowing up onto the street. The flow was so strong that it had pushed the pavement up about an inch.
There were four workers there, looking at a map and obviously trying to narrow down where the broken pipe was. I asked one, “Once you track it down, are they going to fix it?” “Not they. Us,” he said. They dug up the street in front of our driveway so they could track down the problem and make repairs. I went outside occasionally to see how progress was going. My wife was sick and it was my turn to make dinner, which is hard to do without running water. But I knew not to bug them. I did enjoy observing. At one point, when I went outside, they showed me a hard little one-inch diameter pipe with a big hole in it. That was the culprit. [They let me keep it and I took a picture to post here but couldn’t figure out how to do it.]
One worker told me that this was the 4th one of these they had to repair today. But although they didn’t look particularly happy, they didn’t whine. I think that when I thanked them for their effort, they didn’t quite know how to handle it. My guess is that most people would just ask, “When will you be done?”
They competently narrowed down the problem and, in about 2.5 hours, solved it. When they finished it was dark.
Think about that. Here they were, trying to make our and our neighbors’ lives easier–on a Sunday afternoon. They didn’t know us, and if they got to know us, they wouldn’t necessarily even like us. But they gave us their good efforts. Why? Because they cared about us? No. Because they cared about themselves and their families. And they had figured out, as most of us have, that the best way to take care of your family is to find something you do well that other people value. And boy did we value it.
Thanks, good workers.