Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

Hominy & Hash

by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.

Printable version of this story

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- We can "use" time, find time, save time, spend time, put in time and kill time - but, we can't waste time. There just isn't enough of it.

Time and weather are two elements in our life we'd like to harnass but haven't yet. We can protect ourselves against the weather, the ever-changing but quite predictable weather, but nothing can alter the fact of time - we can only rearrange it.

Time was when we would say "a week" and know it meant seven full 24-hour days. Now we hear "24/7" and know that it means a week - a week where every minute of every hour of every day is taken up with whatever we're talking about.

This morning a newscaster announced the military is patrolling the streets of Iraq "24/7." It used to be patrolled "around the clock."

You can always shop at Wal-Mart, it's open 24/7 - as are most of the Walgreen's Drug Stores, where you can literally buy anything anyone could use and fill a prescription at the same time, 24/7 - which simply means "all the time." There's no more time than that allotted to us unless you are a Buddhist and believe endess amounts of time can be encapsulated in a single second (I've lived through a few of those).

We've heard them say, "We'd like to continue this interview, but we're out of time." Or, a baseball player hits a ball high in the air with bases loaded in a two-out-and-tied game, and we think it's surely a ninth-inning home run. We watch as the outfielder stumbles backwards to catch it; the moments of time that elapse during the high arc of the ball in the sky as the guy on third scoots for home is called "hang time," and the interrupting "We pause now for station identification and a word from our sponsor" is called "Hang 'em all."

They were out of time. And, we've learned how powerless we become when we're out of time.

This is now or, "at this point in time," as too many prefer to say. But in my thus-far allotted span of time, I have seen the gradual changes from then until now, from that point in time to this one.

Once upon a time, men worked 80 hours a week. Although it was normal for fathers in all families to work those hours, the men were weary. They worked without complaint because they needed the jobs. There was someone waiting to replace them instantly if they were to quit.

Enter John L. Lewis, founder and head of the United Mineworkers Union (UMWA) who organized the industrial workers in this country and was president of the union from 1920 to 1960.

It was in the 1940's that I first heard his radio speeches campaigning for "Forty hours for the boys." As kids, we would mimic his Irish brogue, trilling the r's in "40" and putting a little tenderness in the word "boys" as he always did - usually talking about 40-year-olds, squinty-eyed and bent from the hours they were keeping.

That was a start. The work week became 40 hours and if "the boys" got it, so did the office staff, followed by everyone's office staff. There were five eight-hour days. It was often decided to end the day after seven and a half hours - taking only a half hour for lunch to make it actually an eight-hour day. Then, continuing the time play, Monday to Friday became only 35 hours, what with a half hour for lunch and two-and-a-half hours Saturday morning. Again, that's the full 40 hours.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Time worked after the 40 was accounted for became overtime - and the paycheck swelled by half again as much for each hour. During those years, working on a Sunday or Holiday, meant double time. The same job, in the same place, doing the same tasks, was worth more during one hour than another.

The men who wearied working 80 hours a week now clamored for just such an opportunity and they worked indefatigably, bright eyed, shoulders back, whistling all the way to the bank with their overtime checks.

The standard of living for millions of Americans was raised and salaries soared by over a billion dollars in those early years of the labor unions. Putting time to better use and making it pay was our answer. Colleges started offering "time management" courses. Managing time was almost as good as getting more of it. On-the-job training included hours spent in learning to use minutes more effectively.

Basically, the 40-hour work week is standard for most salaried employees, with overtime expected after that, no longer just within unions but throughout the American workforce. John L. Lewis made his mark - and it was about time.

We used to be a society paid for what we do. It appears more and more that today we are paid for what we know. What we can do usually requires our being in a workplace; what we know is something we keep with us. We know it early, we know it late, we can phone, fax or electronically serve our employers.

We can be on the job 24/7 and still have time for the family, an evening jog, a night out on the town, an early-morning workout, and time to ponder the better use of our time.

One thing is profoundly clear. Time is a little like a suitcase: It might allow you to cram more and more into it and still zip it shut. When we run out of space, we accept the inevitable: that it will burst at the seams. When it does, we have to start over, with another suitcase.

When we run out of time, we are out of time. There is no hitting the ball again once regular programming resumes. We'd do well to follow Rudyard Kipling's advice, and "Fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run."

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter