John Grindrod: Poking some fun at our occupations

On the eve of this Labor Day, a lot will be written about the jobs that have always been the backbone of this country, so I will join the rest of what in another era were called scribes who’ve penned their laborious passages.

At 71 and a full-time worker, while I enjoy my work as a quality auditor for Mid-American Cleaning Contractors, I also enjoy my leisure time. Whenever someone questions me as to why I’m still working at my age, I’ll list more than one reason. Among those reasons is from the time I began working 40-hour weeks, beginning during my teenage summers, there are few feelings more satisfying than the one I feel late Friday afternoons after a full week of productive work.

It’s been over 50 years since the day I received my first paycheck at 15 for my work thinning corn at an experimental Northrup-King farm in Wapak with my childhood bestie Greg Swick for $1.10 an hour, but that feeling remains a strong intoxicant.

Now, during my leisure time, I’ll tune in to one of my favorite TV networks. Like most guys, I’m quite interested in balls being kicked, carried, fumbled, thrown and batted, so one may deduce that my favorite network would be ESPN or FOX SPORTS, but he would be wrong. The network is TCM, that wonderfully nostalgic station that airs commercial-free classic movies.

Recently, I was watching The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, the eponymously entitled flick loosely based on the real Roy Bean, who, once upon a 19th century time in Val Verde County, Texas, proclaimed himself to be “The Only Law West of the Pecos.”

Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall the comedic talents of Paul Neuman as Bean. In one of my favorite scenes in the movie, Bean is in his saloon playing poker when a lawyer, Frank Gass, played by Roddy McDowell, comes in and interrupts the game by trying to get Bean to acknowledge the fact that he is not the legal owner of the saloon.

When Gass continues to bother him, Judge Roy rises, hauls Gass outside and shoves him into a cage with a trained bear. One of the bystanders points out to Bean that the bear may very well resort to his natural instincts and eat Gass, to which Bean responds by sighing and saying that he hopes not because the last time the bear ate a lawyer, he had the runs for 33 days.

It was that scene and that line that got me thinking about the jobs we choose and, in some cases, the jobs that choose us. And, while there is a serious side to our jobs, there’s also that lighter side.

Sometimes the humor can be adorned in its most sarcastic apparel, and other times it can be dressed more playfully, as in that one-liner about the optician who went to his convention and got so drunk he made a spectacle of himself.

When it comes to the more ridiculing type of humor, I can’t think of any occupations that take more jabs at lawyers. And, among the many lawyers I count both as friends and family, like my son-in-law, Hans Strayer, I don’t know any who spend any time fretting over those jabs.

While I’m sure there’s a lot of training that goes into an occupation of which we have an alarming shortage, airline pilots, there are those who will tell you that a pilot is someone who gets the credit for what the autopilot does.

How about those who retire from a career and then “do consulting work”? Well, I’ve heard that a consultant is someone who realizes there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

As for law enforcement, don’t get me started rolling out all those doughnut jokes.

As for my primary occupation, teaching, the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is the one credited with the following jab, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Many years later, Woody Allen extended Shaw’s joke by taking a shot at a specific type of teacher when he said, “Those who can’t, teach. And, those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

And so it goes throughout so many other occupations, the humor that lightly cuffs around those who grab either their literal or metaphorical lunch pails each morning and head out the door.

Happy Labor Day to all our workers, both retired and still active. Tomorrow is a day to grab that book you’ve been meaning to start and put your weary feet up and save those work worries until Tuesday.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]