Monday, August 04, 2014


I read an article in Harper's about people my age and older living in camper trailers and working in random jobs including Amazon warehouse work. The title and focus of the article is The End of Retirement. I also heard the writer on NPR and MSNBC. Her focus is important because it talks about how many people are working past what is thought of as retirement age. And working hard. Some of them had great jobs, made great money and lost everything in the crash. Some of them are people like me who worked hard but never really made enough to save.
Mom retired when she was 55. Her husband continued to work for a few more years and his money is the reason she lived as well as she did. Her frugality is another. And it is the reason I have a home and food in my refrigerator. The amount of money I have in savings and will get from Social Security wouldn't be enough to manage this. I am grateful and humbled and I also know that  I worked really hard in my life. Working really hard ought to add up to something. And I know that I would still be dragging myself to EA if they hadn't laid me off.
It's sad to say it that way because there are people who want to work at EA. Gamers are a culture and I was never really part of it. I still love my Sims. I am more of a gamer than most of the people I know but I was not gamer enough comparatively. The commute was brutal. The job was frustrating mostly because of the way things are there. I loved working on Sims2 but was so disappointed in Sims3.  And still I worked as hard as I could and I imagined I'd be there until I was in my seventies.
I've worked with older cooks and wait-people. Restaurant work is brutal. Physically, emotionally. And yet we all worked with as much humor and camaraderie as we could. I knew I couldn't do it much longer when I was in my forties. Hence college and the rest of that story.
Hard work. Education. It's supposed to add up. It shouldn't be so crazy hard to have a simple life.
The article talks about how relatively new retirement is and how it wasn't that long ago that people worked until they fell over. And there are more places in the world where people work well into old age than there are places where people retire. There are also people  who keep working because they love their work.The notorious RBG comes to mind. But the article is about the ideas we have and how they are not really true for so many people.
Harper's put a link to the article on their Facebook page and both there and on the NPR page it got a lot of push back. The article was talking about things from the perspective of how we imagine life in this country and what's real. The writer worries about what happens to people as they become too old to work. She worries about how they drive to Mexico to get dental work. But she also wrote about about the ways community built up among the people in their campers. And the ways in which living with less was freeing. Not enough for many of the people in the comment sections but it seemed to me she did.
I am a fan of tiny houses. I look at them all the time. I can't imagine not living here in the nest but I do often think about how I would design a house big enough for me and my books and still small. I imagine a piece of land big enough for a few of my friends and a garden and a greenhouse with a small lap pool. Swim and read and eat food from the garden. Yep. My paradise. I have most of that in the nest. I am that fortunate.
Younger people are choosing the tiny house lifestyle because it is affordable and it is stepping out side of the consumer lifestyle and enjoying living with much less. All of that is cool.
After I wrote about music yesterday and listened the new Chrissie Hynde six or seven more times (it's on right now) I wanted to own the disc. It reminded me of Veblen and the stacks of  sheet music on pianos in parlors where they were meant to display taste and culture. If I see a CD rack in your home I will look to see who you like. Same thing with books. Owning the disc is like claiming my cultural position. I imagine the fact that Facebook is letting everyone know who  I am listening to is the same thing.
There's an intersection of consumerism and working too hard to afford crap and loving things because they mean something and needing other people to know you like who you like and letting it all go. But letting it all go to be more Zen or less invested in being hip is different from working jobs that don't pay well and are hard on your body when you're older. In the article she talks about the trailer camps being decorated with bird houses and lawn ornaments. Some times stuff is just about making beauty.
Should we expect to be able to retire? Maybe not. Work is how we participate. I just come from an each according to his ability place. In Amazon warehouses someone my age is swallowing handfuls of Ibuprofen to get through the day of concrete floors and  repetitive motion. I was up to 20 pills a day when I left EA.


Fat Bastardo said...

It's the corporate criminal elite who have turned the American dread into a nightmare.

The average CEO makes 500 - 600 times more than the average worker and that's just the CEO and CEO's, CFO, and CIOs, COOs are merely the errand boys of the people above them.

Tish said...

I agree.