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I am absolutely confounded, and yet I'm not the least bit surprised either. I just read an article on Yahoo! that states America ranks 42nd in life expectancy around the world. This is unbelievable. It would seem several people in the article think so too. "Something's wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries," said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

That to me is not the worst part - infant mortality in this country was most astonishing, especially as it pertains to African-Americans: The U.S. rate was 6.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births. It was 13.7 for Black Americans, the same as Saudi Arabia. So in this country, a black infant has no better conditions to survive than in the Middle East. I think that little factoid struck me most of all.

Another factor cited in the analysis was obesity. One college professor stated, "The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy. We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times." There are very few wage-earners in this country who wouldn't disagree with that statement.

I remember the time right after I graduated high school and both my mom and I had to go to work. This was because my dad, who was not tenured at the University, was forced to retire due to his age. He was 70 and like I said, not tenured. His retirement cut our family income in half. My mom and I went through a variety of factory jobs starting first at Hickory Farms in Maumee, Ohio, packing those famous, beef stick and cheese Christmas gift boxes with the little strawberry hard candies inside. We worked from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm, and then after the season ended we moved on to High Tech Packaging, which ironically was right around the corner from where my dad used to work. For the pittance pay we received - mind you, my mom was college-educated, although she never finished her degree, and I was coming from Maumee Valley Country Day School education - we had some pretty poor working conditions. I will never forget the people we worked with either. That's the thing, I don't think the people making and enforcing the rules realize those are real people working those jobs, real human beings with families, hopes and dreams, fears and bills to pay.

You, dear reader, might not believe what we had to do and under what conditions at High Tech Packaging. I still can't believe it, and I'm a long ways from that time in my life. It was a single-story building with the poorest lighting of any place I worked. We packaged Mopar auto parts for cars. I remember the important-looking, professionally-printed banners that hung over our heads near the entrance proclaiming our superiority in getting the job done. Those shiny, slick, pure white banners that looked so out of place in that dingy, dirty warehouse. Oh I will never forget how chokingly dirty that place was. No matter how much I try, I will never forget it. There were single, bare light bulbs hanging over our work stations, and not many of them. There were no windows at most of the work stations, and as I recall the ones we could see were far away, small, and blocked by stacks of empty pallets, or stacks of something. And did I mention how dirty the place was? We put parts into plastic bags and then put sticker-labels on the bags. There was also an area where we had to wind wires of varying lengths into figure-8 designs. We did this by placing wire coming off of a giant, industrial-size spool that sat on the floor next to our feet around two, metal round-shaped "pods" (for lack of a better word). Then we activated a pedal which made the pods spin on an axis making a twist at the loop ends, after which we snipped the wire with wire-cutters and placed the figure-eights into a pile. Not everyone could do the job because it required a bit of skill with controlling how fast the pods spin: the twists had to be just right otherwise they would break. We had to wear gloves because if you didn't you had terrible blisters on your hands after a couple of hours. If you got assigned to that position it meant standing in that one spot for 8 hours, with only a lunch break (I forget how long, I think we only got 30 minutes, but I honestly don't remember) and a couple of 15-minute "smoke" breaks. And believe me ... we smoked at High Tech Packaging. Not everyone did, but I did. There was also a commission if you made more figure-eights than the quota required that day. I don't remember what it was, like 15 cents each over the quota. It was laughable, but trust me, nobody was laughing.

They were rather militant about personal freedom there, as is usually the case at any factory job. From about 1991-1994 or '95 I bounced around from Hickory Farms to High Tech Packaging to Van Dyne Crotty which was a uniform and carpet laundering place. At Van Dyne Crotty I worked from 6:00 am to about 3:00 pm, mostly women worked there, and oh I will never forget the personalities I encountered. I don't remember everyone's names, but I do remember Sandy who was a red-headed firecracker of a personality, she and I would hang out after work sometimes. She was a lot of fun. And there was this blond whose name escapes me, she was obsessed with her teeth and was trying to get into the police force. Let me tell you, I don't know if she was successful or not, but if she was I bet there are very few men who would be disappointed they got a speeding ticket from her. Besides being a knockout she had a beautiful speaking voice that you just don't forget. There were strong personalities there and weaker ones.

Depending on what work station you got assigned to, you might be hanging wet clothes on a conveyor-powered assembly line or you might be pressing them on a dry cleaner, or you might simply be taking them out of a basket and laying them neatly in stacks of 10 or 20 (I forget) over another basket. It was the hottest, sweatiest, possibly most grueling and competitive work I've ever done for an hourly wage. If you were dry cleaning you would burn your fingers on the hot pressing plates and have your face stuck in hot steam all day, and ALL the jobs there required one to stand on one's feet for the duration of the shift, save for breaks. We punched a time clock. I don't think I lasted more than 2 years there. Van Dyne Crotty was where I began my sojourn into full-time college student status. From working those jobs, which I had no choice but to do at the time if I wanted to have any kind of comfortable lifestyle outside of work, I knew I would not last long from the physical labor. I wasn't thinking, oh I'll just work until I can go on disability ... I was thinking, I better get out of these jobs if I want to have anything worthwhile to contribute to society, because these jobs will kill me, between the sheer physical exertion involved and the smoking you will do in order to cope. There really is nothing healthy about those jobs, except perhaps the hours.

None of those jobs offered health benefits.

So yes, I completely appreciate what the statistics mean in that article I read today. I sincerely hope this wakes up our fearless politicians. I sincerely hope they review this data and extract their heads from their asses and start focusing more on our children and less on world dominance ... and less on personal dominance, too. Hey I can dream!

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
xsnehax
Aug. 16th, 2007 01:07 pm (UTC)
Wow, you went through some hard times. That's exactly what bugs me about the current lifestyles of most people. They're born into riches, no scratch that, luxury and are so unbelievably oblivious to the hardships that others face. It sickens me. Now, I'm not saying that you become some sort of saint, and spend all of your time contemplating the misery of those less fortunate than you, but the least you can do is not waste your life away.
The media doesn't help at all. Glamorizing these people and putting them upon some kind of pedestal is disgusting. Young children who are easily influenced, and, not knowing better, become miniature versions of them. It's a sad situation, and I try to be optimistic, but I can only see it getting worse.
ann15warsaw72
Aug. 19th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)
It never ceases to amaze me how wise you are for your years. ^.^ I always look forward to your thoughtful comments to some of my rants, lol. I totally agree with your statement about the media and how easily young children are influenced. I could go on and on about that, and I see the root of the problem being the extreme selfishness that is promoted so heavily in this country.

However, I don't see it getting worse. I mean, it's always going to be there in some form or another, but this up-and-coming generation is not so easily fooled, nor will they forget what their selfish parents subjected them to, namely neglect. Kids these days are quite smart; it's almost scary! Hee hee :)

I am definitely no saint. I just try to learn from and follow in the footsteps of the true saints, in this lifetime and beyond because they lived their lives as examples, good examples. I sincerely hope that people who might be where I found myself, as illustrated above, who might read what I wrote here, will see they don't have to settle for that lifestyle. They need to do like William Wallce's father taught his son in Braveheart: "I know you can fight. But it's our wits that make us men."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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