Monday, June 20, 2011


The idea of real work has been lost by many in this country. Somehow, the people who tip shovels, run electrical wiring, and keep our plumbing in order are being demonized as a lesser class. It would seem any profession in which you break a sweat on a regular basis is considered to be the consolation prize of the ignorant or weak minded.

Fuck. That. The strongest men I’ve ever known woke up clean and came home dirty every day. They sharpened their wills and their wit on jobsites, on roofs, and in crawlspaces. They could stop at the end of the day, stare at the work they finished, and know that they accomplished something.

I used to be there. I worked as a plumber since I was 12. I learned what it meant to turn the earth, to lay the foundations of someone’s home, and to learn how tubes and fittings were pieced together. I could walk out of a house at the end of the day, covered in blood and grime, sweat and flux, knowing that I helped build someone’s home. There isn’t a single office job that has ever given me that satisfaction, and I doubt there ever will be.

We used to build things. We used to know how to change the flapper on our own damn toilets. We used to face challenges as they were presented to us, not delegate responsibility, or make an action item list to improve compliance with the standard operating procedures set by executive overlords.

Our destiny was whittled from life by our own scorched and bare hands. We were everything we could make for ourselves, not the byproduct of some new South Korean born electronics, and we certainly weren’t the numbers on a bank ledger. Wealth to a man of skills and labor isn’t just a paycheck (which is much more ample than most laymen know), it’s being able to assemble civilization. To create a sanitary world, and one that will always illuminate when you throw a switch.

Humankind may have only built a few structures that can be seen from the heavens, but the slow accumulation of our labor glows in the perfect outlines of our cities. The dark side of the globe isn’t so dark any longer. Remember that the next time you feel the need to disparage a young man working an honest living. I heard “You don’t want to grow up to be a plumber do you?” far too many times in my life. I’m sick to death of people mindlessly ignoring the tradesmen that make their civilized life possible; that look down on those who chose a life of labor over the air conditioned bliss of monotonous paperwork. An accountant doesn’t shit in the woods. Perhaps they should be a little more gracious to the people who made that possible.


  1. Tony,
    Bravo!!! People are people. Plain and simple to me - the way I was brought up. I do now know where our society went astray on this. It took me 20 years to get up the courage to "just be an artist" - artists have become "the flighty and lazy." - Uugh - when can we all just be people of value no matter what we do?
    I didn't know you had this blog - I look forward to following. - Jenna

  2. Thanks for stopping by Jenna, I appreciate the comments. This went a little bit more ranty than I wanted it too, but this is all very important to me. I might make a calmer follow up next week.

  3. We do our high school students a disservice when we tell them they should all have college as a goal. Many end up with a pile of debt and a useless degree.

    Skilled tradespeople can earn excellent incomes and provide valuable services to society. I am happy to count a carpenter and a plumber amongst my friends. They do things that bewilder me and have both saved me on many occasions.

  4. Hell to the yes! I like this post a LOT. I work a desk job now but I've had manual labor jobs in the past and I can tell you those folks, on balance, work very, very hard. They should be more appreciated.

    I felt the spirit of your post not too long ago when our A/C unit was making a weird noise. Instead of slipping the cover off to investigate myself, I foolishly called the maintenance person to come look at it. He slipped the cover off and there, blowing like a big inflatable middle finger, was a shopping bag that had gotten jammed up inside. I felt my manhood slink away as the maintenance guy gave me a look like, "Really?"

  5. @Matt I completely agree. I might have been a bit overzealous on discouraging college. We need a lot of smart people doing smart jobs, but there are far too many unnecessary majors. As far as wages, I really don't see an alternative that pays as well as being a tradesmen for non college attendees.

    @Chris I totally get that. I was working on our AC unit the other day, and could not figure out what was going on for the life of me. My Dad came over, and we figured out the problem in five minutes. I still have some of my old plumbing skills though.

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