Growing up, my dad ran his own small company that delivered home heating oil and fixed oil burners. Every day, he came home tired and dirty. He’d use Boraxo soap to scrub the grit out of his hands each night before dinner, and then he wanted nothing but to rest, have a beer, and watch the Bruins after a hard day’s work.
My dad’s business also meant that he’d often be on call and available to get woken up in the middle of the night when someone ran out of oil. Growing up outside Boston, temperatures reach freezing lows in the winter, and you can’t run out of oil or your pipes will burst. Did my dad love getting out of bed and into the cold to answer a call in the middle of the night? Heck no! The 2am calls drove him crazy, but he always got up and took care of it — because there’s a sense of duty in his work. There’s a sense that simply persevering, doing what’s expected of you, isn’t just a part of the job. It’s the whole job.
We’re building WorkHands for the workers that get things done
My dad would often take me out in his truck, either to get me out of my mom’s hair, or just to help him out. Sometimes that meant I’d just be sitting there watching him fix or install an oil burner. I always marveled (i.e., got annoyed and impatient) as he spent the extra 20 minutes to make sure all of his pipes were perfectly straight with a level. Watching my dad spend that extra time to make it right was where I started to learn about what it meant to take pride in your work and, instead of just getting something done, getting it done right. Later, I’d ride in the truck and help him pull the oil hose through the snow, often soaked, cold, and uncomfortable. I’m sure my dad was too, but I never heard him complain. Again, persevering wasn’t part of the job. It was the job.
Before running this small company, my dad drove 16-wheeler / Mac trucks across the country. As a result, the ability to drive, and drive well, became something you have to get right in my family to earn respect. The first time I drove any vehicle, it was my dad’s heavy-duty, wide diesel pickup truck, with tool compartments lining the back bed. It was loud and hard to control, but it gave my dad a framework to teach me about the finer points of being a good driver. Line up the left corner of your hood to the left line on the road. Anchor your left arm on the door so you can steady the vehicle with one hand. If you see a truck driver trying to switch lanes near you on the highway, do ‘em a favor, slow down, flash your highs at them, and let them in. These were the sort of tips that don’t make it into your standard driver’s ed class, but that come from the experience of someone who takes pride in getting their job right.
My brother is a chip of my my dad’s block. In an era where most students are encouraged to go to college, my brother knew that wasn’t the right path for him. He’d always been great with his hands and happy to put in a few hard hours of work for the satisfaction of something done right. He didn’t want to spend years racking up debt in a classroom after struggling for years in school. Instead, he decided to go straight to getting his welding certificate, and now, he’s probably in the best financial position of anyone in my family.
He’s since joined my dad, who now runs the family’s traveling carnival business that my grandfather ran before him. My dad worked on the carnival every day after school as a kid but left to raise a family. It’s here that my dad got his real blue collar education and where my brother will, too. Their roles for this company span their entire experience. They have to drive large trucks to move the rides from place to place. They need to know some electrical work when a light shorts out on the ride. If a vehicle breaks down, they need to fix it themselves. During the winter, my brother re-welds parts of the rides that need repair or tuneups. When they’re not doing that, my brother and dad work for someone else’s oil burner service company during the winter, or they help plow roads.
The point of describing all of this, though, is to emphasize a few things. The kind of work my dad and my brother do, that millions of Americans like them do, is work that requires training and experience. It requires a dedication to working in all kinds of weather. It requires getting up at the crack of dawn or middle of the night because something’s gone wrong and needs to get done. It requires pride in what you do because at the end of the day, you can point to that house you built, that heating system you fixed, or those goods you hauled across the country. You can see those things. You can touch them. And they help people.
These workers don’t ask for a lot attention to this type of work; in fact, they kind of loathe it, but they couldn’t be more deserving of some support and recognition.
We’re building WorkHands for the workers that get things done because too many people don’t recognize the value of this work. We forget that there’d be no internet without the electricians who wire it into our homes and offices for us. We forget there’d be no houses or schools without the people who labored over their construction. We forget about the plumbing when it just works, but we benefit from the fact that someone meticulously made sure it would work right. We forget that this country rose from the ground and became great with a strong blue-collar workforce, and that’s no less true just because education’s skewed towards a college degree these days.
WorkHands is the soapbox upon which we’ll stand to announce to the rest of the country that this work continues with pride, and that the people who perform it are quiet heroes, even if they’ll never see themselves that way.