When I was an aspiring journalist in college, one of the books that made the biggest impact on me was Working, by Studs Terkel.
The subtitle of the book, published in 1974, is: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
That was Terkel’s style, and it certainly came through in his book about “a search … for daily meaning, as well as daily bread.”
Terkel closes the book’s introduction with the words of a Brooklyn firefighter: “I can look back and say, ‘I helped put out a fire. I helped save somebody.’ It shows something I did on this earth.”
To be sure, we’re all about far more than what we do – or did – on the job. As the old quote often attributed to the late Senator Paul Tsongas goes, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”
But there’s no getting around the fact that people who work full-time typically spend more than 240 days a year at the office (whatever and wherever that “office” is), even with holidays and a few weeks of vacation thrown in. Multiply that times 30, 40, or even 50 years, and … you get the picture.
So, whether it’s through TV shows like Cops and Dirty Jobs, or a more sobering and introspective take like Terkel’s Working, it can be interesting and fun to explore how and why people do what they do for all of those hours and days.
It’s a topic Town&Gown has explored some in the past, but we’ll be putting more of a focus on it this year in an ongoing series of features we’re calling “On the Job.” We’ll offer behind-the-scenes peeks at some of the interesting jobs your neighbors are doing, how they do them, and in some cases, why.
If there’s a person or job you’d like to see featured, we’d love to hear about it. Please send ideas my way at the email address below.
This month, we profile some folks who work outdoors even – in some cases, especially – when it’s cold. It’s tough, even dangerous, but it has its good points, too.
As Kerry Booher, a commercial roofer for R.H. Marcon, tells writer Karen Walker, there is a “reward” – a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie in pushing through a cold day with co-workers.
And speaking of pushing through difficult days, 2020 is now behind us. Happy New Year!