My Problematic Promotion

The harder you work the less you get paid for it.  —my father

     Those of you who are regular readers of this blog, and thus are informed with regard to my life story, may know that I have been working for a year, almost, at a sheet metal shop in South Carolina. Now that I am no longer a member of the ordained leisure class I have to work for a living, and teaching Dhamma professionally has always been too sporadic and hand-to-mouth for a person not wearing a brown toga. (For a monk hand-to-mouth is the only really acceptable way of living, but now I have a woman, and bills to pay, and a credit rating, and thus also some extra responsibilities.)

     I have written elsewhere about how my decades as an ascetic monk helped to prepare me for a job at a sheet metal shop. For example, the doors are always open during working hours, and the doors are big, and the warehouse in which I work is pretty big too, so air conditioning is out of the question. Even fans are relatively few, so that I am often reminded of living in the blazing hot and sometimes humid wastelands of upper Myanmar. Being an ascetic has its advantages definitely, and so I can work under conditions that most pampered and spoiled westerners would find intolerable, or just too rough to seem worthwhile. But I was born to be an ascetic, to some degree anyway, and I really appreciate the hard work and even the heat, as it helps to strengthen me, or some such. As a monk I used to remember that scene in Apocalypse Now in which the protagonist says that whenever he is not on a mission he feels essentially like he is deteriorating, getting softer and weaker. I still feel that way to some degree: hard work and rough circumstances help to toughen me up.

     So I had some very mixed feelings when recently I was offered a new job position at work—not in the back running machines but up front, selling product instead of making it. The boss says I have the maturity and, ironically considering that I was a recluse for many years, a talent for dealing with people, that would make me a good sales representative. I am relatively intelligent (I get good brain thinkens), and so it does make sense that I would be encouraged to take a job that is less physical and more intellectual. Also the job would pay from one third to one half again as much as I am making now, running machines and fetching and toting sheet metal.

     My lovely mate, naturally, is very much in favor of my taking the job, as is her mother. The main issue is of course I’ll be making considerably more money, as I say, up to 50% more if I turn out to be a competent sales rep. One other argument that she and her mama have used to persuade me is that I’ll be sitting in a comfy air-conditioned room all day...which of course is not the best argument to use, though I have to admit not drenching in sweat all summer is somewhat of a consideration. Also, since I’ll have essentially a desk job, I won’t come home as exhausted as I often have over the past year. My first few months of fetching and toting bundles of metal (and sometimes big rolls of insulation) really had me worried that I might never fully adjust to the work, although I did, pretty much. I do admit that I often come home too exhausted to want to do much, which HAS reduced my energy for playing with my mate, and for teaching Dhamma and writing this here blog.

     The thing is, I really have enjoyed my year working in the hot and somewhat hazardous back of the shop. I like the other guys, and I am getting better and better at tricky jobs with a forklift. It is kind of a rush to pick up two-ton coils of metal or long bundles of it and maneuver them skillfully and successfully to some exact destined position. I’m getting better at running other machines too. I will miss that, and I hope my forklift certification certificate won’t be taken down from the manager’s office wall.

     Instead of working with a bunch of young guys, making raunchy jokes and being a member of a kind of macho men’s club, I’ll be sitting up front with mostly women—and listening to what kind of cereal their children like to eat, how much stuff costs at the store, and so on. Also, everyone up front except one is rather wide across the bottom and not in very buff physical shape.

     I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll see some guy around my age at a grocery store, say, and he’ll be paunchy and flabby and out of shape, even though he’s well dressed and clean and obviously making way more money than me, and I’ll be grateful that I work with my body and stay relatively fit. After taking this job I’ll have to do artificial exercise, which I don’t enjoy, in order not to become doughy and mottled. Or at least that’s the feeling I get.

     After I was offered this new job by the boss, I told him I’d have to think about it, and discuss it with my mate, and for the rest of the day I was in a state of mild gloom and sadness. I won’t be doing a man’s job but will be sitting on my butt in comfort with the women. The boss did explain to me, the following day, that in the back there are essentially no avenues for upward mobility; I might make a dollar or two more per hour the more machines I can run skillfully, but even a factory manager doesn’t get paid very much. Sitting up front dealing with customers and figures on a computer, on the other hand, opens the door to future promotions, like even management, with much higher pay than I would get as a master of the forklift and a roof panel-making machine. This has been very tough for me. I’ve spent more than half my life enduring discomfort and living in voluntary poverty, and now I will get more money and live in comfort—which some readers may consider perverse, that is my reluctance to take off a blue collar and put on a white one. But, as I keep saying, it pays more. Also I’m pushing sixty. Just walking around on a cement slab all day has taken its toll on my feet. And one more thing: working inside will cause my weird new tan lines, from wearing gloves and short sleeves outdoors, to disappear.

     The long and the short of it is, mainly out of considerations of family responsibility I am inclined to accept a job that I may not like as much as being a skilled manual laborer. But who knows, I may be good at it, and I may enjoy it, especially if I can tune out the feminine conversations about children’s tastes in breakfast cereals. And I’ll still have a beard, and will be dealing with contractors about the rather masculine topic of sheet metal usage, and I may even still have my forklift certificate on the wall, though I may never maneuver loads on one ever again after I move up front to the air conditioning.

     This whole situation has also reminded me of old socialist tropes, some of which were told me by my macho socialist father (yes, socialists used to be macho, or some of them anyway). The guys in the back work harder than the people up front, and have a rougher time of it, but get paid less and receive less consideration. For example the guys in back are supposed to be working pretty much constantly; if there is nothing obvious to do one picks up a broom. Up front if there is nothing pressing that needs to be done one sits there talking or gazing at one’s cell phone. And one gets paid more for it. Maybe as an ex-laborer up front I can represent and stand up for the guys in back a little. I dunno.

     One other consideration is that a friend of mine, who goes by the name of Humble Stature on our Spiritual Right videos, has been inspired to move here from Los Angeles and start up a meditation group, with me as a co-leader. I’m not sure how this will work out, and there will have to be some serious conversations and so forth, but I suppose I’ll be in better shape to teach Dharma and meditation if I am not exhausted from running machines and carrying insulation in sweltering heat all day. I’ll still be working forty hours a week though at my *real* job, so we’ll just have to see what is feasible.

     One last note: If any of my coworkers read this, I want you to know that I accept this job up front in the air conditioning willingly, for the practical reasons stated, and no regrets. I’m sure I’ll get used to it easily enough (I’m fairly adaptable), and I mean no disrespect to the people with largish behinds who sit up front at computer terminals. After all, you get paid better and don’t have to work as hard. And, unless the boss changes his mind, I’ll be up there in the comfy coolness myself soon. So it can’t be all bad.


NOTE: This does not accurately represent the situation at the sheet metal shop,

 as can be seen in the post above. Furthermore, my boss is a good guy.


  1. Ah, the joy of householder wallowing LOL!

  2. Congratulations and Happy Birthday.

    1. Good luck with your plump rump job 💯🤞

  3. Excellent try it out that new group sounds cool keep me posted your undercover Brother ex fitter welder machinist construction worker 👷‍♂️

  4. Since nothing is permanent, you might as well take the promotion, chow down, maybe make a baby and live to a ripe old age with your mate. I mean, what the fuck, right? Love, Mara


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