“Society turns away from the aged worker as though he belonged to another species….Old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.”–Simone de Beauvoir


The first job that paid a regular paycheck to me was as a stock clerk at a supermarket.  I was just a kid starting out in the mysterious world of making a living.  As a newbie, I was assigned to the general grocery department.

The fellow in charge was Ory, a wiry, kind gentleman of 68 years of age.  Ory kept his hands busy with cleaning and filling his pipe with “Velvet” tobacco.  He could do that and open cartons full of canned goods.  He used a price stamper to mark the tops of canned and boxed merchandise.

Ory patiently taught me all the skills of working his department.  If I made an error, he set me straight in a kind, caring manner.  He was well liked by all the staff and customers in the supermarket.  He had been employed at the store most of his life.  Ory was able to perform any task that any employee could do.  In fact, he was the one who taught every new employee his or her tasks.

When I was promoted to produce manager, it was Ory who gave me little pointers as to how to trim and display the fruits and vegetables.  Ordering new produce was a tricky process because we had to guess what people wanted.  A bad guess, meant more waste or the opposite, running out of something that became popular for that week only.  I consulted with Ory often when seasonal produce was important.  Eventually, I was able to do a decent job of managing the department on my own.  Thanks to the competent instruction of Ory.

Nobody thought of Ory as anything other than a peer, well at least a peer you could go to whenever we’d get into a bind.  Once each week, we all pitched in to unload the semi-truck with the bulk of the merchandise.  Ory kept up with us college-age kids as he puffed away on his pipe.  We used to tease him by calling him a steam locomotive.  He’d laugh and laugh.

When it came time for my promotion to frozen foods manager, Ory was with me as I trained my replacement for the produce manager’s position and into my new job dealing with the walk-in freezer and display cases.  He was indispensable.

I got to thinking about Ory and how much the work environments have changed over the decades of my own life.  I’m not quite as old as Ory was when I first started work, but I’ve had to constantly upgrade my skill-set ever since the start of my working life.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with and befriending many older, senior co-workers wherever I’ve been.  I think of Larry Coward who put up with me during the carpooling for the commute to Hewlett Packard.  We collaborated on the job as well, as he patiently taught me some extra skills to make the work go more effortlessly.

There was Wayne at the radio station who turned out to be a Jack of all trades.  He managed to keep up as best as possible with the whirlwind pace of change in radio techniques and technology. He did show some understandable resistance to the new, but he eventually learned to work with new equipment, technology and fresh paradigms.  All of these adjustments were a challenge for even the youngest of us.

The cameras I use seem to represent many of the changes that have happened in my vocations and avocations.  The bigger SLR camera uses the increasingly obsolete emulsion based film of the past.  The results are pleasing and have some degree of permanence.  The smaller camera is more in line with today’s fast-paced world of digital media.  Both of the cameras greatly enhance my life.  The older camera, informs and inspires what I do with the newer unit.  Yet, the newer digital media can’t quite replace the traditional form of photography.

I’m now a member of the older age group.  I was downsized before I could share the more subtle benefits of my experience with my younger co-workers.  I’m not surprised, that’s simply the nature of small market broadcasting.  I am glad I was able to share some of my pointers with a few of the younger staffers before I went into what I euphemistically call “semi-retirement”.

I think people of my generation and I have plenty to offer to civilization yet today.  I think that will be true for those of other generations in years to come as they become elders in their communities.

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”–Madeleine L’Engle 


The Blue Jay of Happiness doesn’t mentally feel like the old bird that he is.


About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, cultural highlights, Friendship, Gadgets, Health, Hometown, Youth and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Obsolescent?

  1. Pingback: Tall, Tropical And Haeger …Floral Friday | bluejayblog

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