February 17, 2016
Sometime over the last few months, a change has come to the atmosphere here in the Ashbury home. For the first time ever—and likely to stay that way until it happens—my beloved is beginning to long for retirement.
I’m really, really sorry for that, but not for the reasons you might think.
My husband has worked where he is currently employed, at a limestone quarry, for 38 years. The first couple of years the work was seasonal, involving a lay off over the winter months. But then the business boomed as the demand for stone increased, and he had steady work with no lay-offs. He began there when the company was a family owned-outfit, and his boss the third generation of that family to be in charge.
He knew almost immediately that he’d finally found his place. Over the years that the Gray family owned that quarry, my husband, David, went from doing whatever needed to be done (including breaking up, manually with a sledge hammer, dinner-table sized boulders that got stuck in the crusher) to being the Maintenance Chief. If a part was needed and could not be found, he made it. No, he had no engineering degree, but he could build screens and conveyors and whatever else was needed, weld like nobody’s business, and those fabrications held up well—I think they only replaced the last one he made in those early years, a few years ago.
He loved everything about his work, and he cared about the family he worked for.
Then, in 2003, in the face of increasing government regulations on the industry, Mr. Gray sold his company to a very large conglomerate. He gifted each of his employees an impressive sum of money based on the number of years they’d worked for him. He also saw to it that those employees who were most senior (my husband was one of two) and were receiving a vacation pay percentage that was in excess of what the new company would pay, continued to receive that higher rate. Yes, he had that written into the terms of sale—as well as guaranteeing every one of his people continued to have a job for a minimum of two years (barring any negligent act that compromised safety).
It was truly the hand of God when the very first new plant manager they got turned out to be a gem. He’d come to their smaller operation having been a plant manager at another, larger site, where the social structure was a very terse “us versus them”. This man immediately took to his new crew, and made working for a large company a good experience for my husband.
But, of course, that couldn’t last. One of the things bigger companies tend to do is move staff around. After a couple of years, they got a new boss. This one, much like the first, turned out to be a pretty good guy. It took him time, but he developed a great respect for the crew, and they for him. When he left, his next in command became the boss.
Unfortunately, that man wasn’t meant to be a boss, and the one after him only cared about earning the biggest bonus he could by cutting as many expenses as possible. He cut corners, trimmed hours, and yes, came in under budget which was good for his personal bottom line. But after a couple of years, the equipment began to break down, as did the morale.
That is the man who killed my husbands love of his job.
The plant manager he has now is pretty good, but sadly, David hasn’t gotten that love back. Now every day it’s work for him to get up and go out the door. He hates Mondays, lives for weekends and days off and vacation time, and is miserable five days a week.
Watching this change come over my beloved these last few years has broken my heart.
When the first big-company boss took over, he would shake his head and say to David, “we’re going to have to drag you out of here kicking and screaming, aren’t we?” And when he said those words, it was true.
Now David can’t wait until that day arrives—which is going to make the next year and a half seem like forever for him.