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A Case of Do Or Die
It is said that Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. True. So are heart attacks.
Thirty years in a machine shop. I knew it was time to get out. I’d developed a nasty allergy to the coolant – ear aches and my skin sloughed off- nice, right?
Carpal tunnel, arthritis in my knees, deteriorated vertebrae in my neck, fallen arches; really all the stuff you’d expect from a life standing on concrete for thirty years, ten hours a day, making repetitive movements, and freezing in the winter and nearing heat stroke in the summer. Nothing surprising. Pretty much what happened to every other machinist I had known over the years. At least I still had all my fingers, and my hearing had not been shot yet.
Then two things happened. First, the company I had been working for began to systematically let go of its older workers, one at a time, and replaced them with kids out of high school or temps, sometimes ex-cons, ( but that blew up in their face a couple of times, so they quit that practice) and pay them 10 bucks an hour. It would be up to the rest of us old timers to train these new recruits, and then as soon as they were somewhat trained, another old-timer would be let go. It went this way for three months, and then it was my turn. Out the door I went. How did they put it? “We are severing our relationship with you.”
Relationship? I thought it was a job. What did I know.
Then the second thing happened. Heart attack. Seems like stress does kill, or at least it tries too.
Lucky for me, my cardiologist told me later, I have this freakishly long artery on the far side of my heart that wrapped around and fed the near side. This kept me alive while the near side artery (an artery with its own nickname – The Widow Maker – how charming) shut down on me.
But, they shoved a stent in there, and all is well. Change in diet, some great new meds, and I’m healthier than I’ve been in many years. Back in school to pick up my B.A. (nearly there now) and now it’s time to get back in the world. But not as a machinist. Not anymore.
Fortunately I have other skills.
1. I am a CNC Programmer with Mastercam experience. I freelance as a programmer on the side.
2. I’ve got thirty years of working in a manufacturing environment. I can work as a Quality Assurance person, a buyer, a scheduler, a planner.
3. I know a lot about computers. Went to an IT school a few years back and picked up my A+ and N+ and CNE certificates.
4. I have my Associates Degree in English and am a year away from my Bachelors. I have been steadily working on a separate career as a writer, and I’m ready to move into Technical Writing and Copy Writing as a full-time gig.
So, sky’s the limit, right? It has to be. I can’t go back to the shop floor. This is a case of do or die.