We Fart In Your General Direction!

Man the Battlements

Man the Battlements

After next week, after five more work days, I’m off for the rest of the year. Also after next week, I will have worked for 35 years. Many years ago, when I first started working, a then old engineer advised me to use the stairs and avoid the elevator. He advised me, “If everyday you walk up the stairs, then one day you will walk out of here. However, if everyday you ride the elevator, then one day you will be carried out of here.” I was relating this story to my boss, as we were both huffing and puffing up the stairs. His put was a little different from mine. He wouldn’t have minded taking the elevator. He even joked about being carted out in an ambulance, “Turn on the lights! Turn on the siren! I’ve worked 35 years for this moment.”

2013 has been a pretty good business year and 2014 is looking pretty good for work too. I don’t have too many more years of work left to worry about. That is why this entire hubbub about the 777X has more the aspect of an academic interest than one of any personal ramifications. To encapsulate, Boeing and its main Seattle union have been trying to come to some sort of agreement. Boeing is offering the boatload of work that the 777X represents, but it wants concessions, in particular, it wants to phase out pensions for new hires. So far, the Seattle union has balked at this, while most of the company has already accepted it, including the Saint Louis union. As an old fart, my pension is grandfathered. When the Seattle labor negotiations took a twist, after the union rejected an offer, Boeing solicited proposals for relocating the 777X.

Missouri and Saint Louis politicians have been falling all over themselves by coming up with $3.5B in incentives for Boeing. I don’t know where that leaves us in the peloton, but 22 locales have submitted proposals. Meanwhile, the recently revitalized National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) remains looming in the shadows. The labor turmoil over the 777X is almost déjà vu the story of the second 787 line, the one that ended up in South Carolina. That one ended up in the NLRB’s lap, only to be whisked away at the last moment with a new labor agreement. Personally, I think that this site search is just kabuki and that the line will remain in Seattle, but the relatively high cost of Seattle labor is leading to a steady outflow of jobs. Earlier this year, the move of 600 IT positions to Saint Louis was announced. Today, another 300 R&D jobs were announced. Saint Louis is not alone in this largess, because Alabama is scheduled to get 500 new R&D jobs too. This is all public knowledge.

I mentioned that I have a pension, but because I have gone walk-about so much, my pension will amount to only a fraction of our retirement income. Most of our income will come from our IRA and 401K savings. Generous company matching and some self-discipline have created a nice nest egg. I think that the flexibility of these tax deferred savings plans offer a better path for young people than the traditional defined pension plan. That young man peering over the battlement had no idea of what lay ahead of him. I know, because I am he.

Oh, What a Bell

What a Bell

What a Bell

In this photograph, what is its most salient feature? I mean besides her. It is that stereotypical Bell helmet. Now it shouts dork, but back then it was on the cutting edge. There were no stylish lids back then. It was either this or go bare head naked. We were fearless back then in our matching bonny bonnets. We cruised our laden bicycles through the South, the East, Midwest and Northwest, all self supported. This was in 1982. There was no Internet, cell phones, or digital cameras. We used postcards to tweet our progress, occasionally called from a pay phone and wrote a journal instead of a blog. Our camera was of the 35mm film variety. We used mailers to send the film rolls off to be developed and didn’t see the results until after the trip. We met a woman in rural Louisiana who wanted to put our picture in the local paper, but she couldn’t locate the photographer. She was nice to us, but she thought that we were crazy.

Our journal makes for a nice window into an important part of our lives that is now many years in the past. Anne kept detailed financial records. We had budgeted $10K for a six-month tour of America, but only spent about half that. An anachronistic ledger item included, “expensive dinner” [for two]: $6.97. Other recurring expenses include, laundry: 50¢, motel: $24 and camp $6.

The journal had a daily form to fill out. Each page started with the housekeeping items, Title, Date, From and To points and the day’s Start, Finish and Totals for both Miles and Time. We used the mile markings from state road maps to gauge our mileage. There were no bike computers. The maps often left much to the imagination, which usually devolved into a spirited debate. I was always the more expansive one, while Anne was more conservative. Since she usually held the pen, her opinion always seemed to carry more weight than mine. We ended up with 5,000 miles or about 50 miles / day, if you count only riding day, which was about two-thirds of the total. On each page is space for descriptions of:

  • Road Surface / Terrain / Traffic
  • Map(s) / Guide
  • Weather
  • Flora / Fauna
  • Others in Group
  • Points of Interest.

The Roads section was usually just a listing of our path, but sometimes “paved, few shoulders, lots of traffic” meant four miles across the Atchafalaya Swamp, on a raised two lane causeway, with no shoulder, in rush-hour traffic. I think that later that same day a cop ordered us onto the sidewalk. Maps listed the maps that we used, which were usually state road maps, USGS topo maps and in Michigan, county maps. Weather paid most attention to wind and rain and less so to sun and temperature, unless there was no wind or rain. The last three sections pertained to wildlife, people and place and were more interesting and varied more from day-to-day. Afterall, our main objective for taking this trip was sightseeing. Here are some examples:

  • Paved, four mile causeway east of Krotz Spring, heavy traffic on 190
  • Louisiana State, USGS
  • Cool, sunny and hazy in AM, in PM rain slow at first, later heavy
  • Lizards doing it, Blue birds, Spanish moss, “star-flowers” (white) and red orchids? both in swampy areas
  • Talked to Mr. Dreyfuss of Dreyfuss’s Grocery in Krotz Springs for almost an hour and Mrs. Chauvin in Rosedale.
  • Some nice Ante Bellum homes around Maringouin and Rosedale

The Comments section is where the real story telling took place, but that will have to wait for another day. This was our ‘Great Adventure’. It took six months to live, it will probably take a life time to retell.