House Painters

“Excuse me if I’m dreaming, please wake me if I’m dead”.…That is a line from one of my original songs, but it applies to me once again because that is exactly how I feel today…I am semi retired and I usually don’t get up till around 10-10:30 am these days….. I don’t want to sound too whiny but I was JOLTED awake this morning at 8 am sharp by house painters vigorously scraping away the paint from the bedroom windows of my apartment, a scant 5 feet away from my bed….OMG! Talk about a rude awakening!

I know, I know, most of you are jolted awake every day by your alarm clocks and are off on your way to work or school, I put in 45 years in work world doing the exact same thing….But I am off that particular treadmill, that road to nowhere, that highway to hell and have been deservedly sleeping in for the last 2 plus years…..

I gleefully threw away my alarm clock when I retired and was shocked to be so rudely awakened today….Oh yeah, I had gotten some vague notice from my apartment complex management a few days ago that painters were coming by, but like most people I had conveniently filed this information in the “I will deal with it when it happens part of my brain.” So I had stayed up till 130 am, as I always do, last night, and now I am dazed and confused…

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House painters have a rough job, and I don’t envy them their task….They have extremely hard labor physical jobs, repetitious, boring and messy, they have to deal with irate residents like me, they have to clamber up ladders high above the ground, where a fall would surely break their necks, and it is a constant, ceaseless round of job after job after job…They also have to inhale those noxious paint fumes all day long, both from the spray guns and from the actual paint brushes and rollers that are the tools of their trade….

I know that in San Francisco, certified union journeyman painters can make, counting in their total benefits, over $62/hr, and that is great money! But the reality is that most house painters are not in the union and are paid by the job, not the hour, so it becomes a lot less great when you look at it that way…My guess is that most house painters get paid more like $15/hour for their labors, if they are employed by a non union company….

In addition, there are a lot of free lance painters who scavenge for jobs and will accept a lot less money for a certain job….These are the ones who put up fliers on the telephone poles advertising they will paint 1 room in your house for $99….Of course if you have painters actually come INTO your home, you are responsible for clearing away all obstructions such as televisions, all the furniture like chairs and couches, wall hangings, tapestries, paintings etc they must all be pulled away from the wall so the cut rate painter can jump right in and start spreading his tarp and using his roller…Or you can do it yourself!

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For outside painters, like what is going on in my apartment complex right now, they have to chip and scrape away all the old paint before they can even start…If it is nice weather, like today, sunny and dry, (but too hot for me,) maybe mid 70’s, they have relatively easy work conditions…But if it rains, they can’t paint at all, and if there is a series of rain storms they have to sit it out and don’t get paid at all….So they are at the mercy of the weather in a way office workers in a corporate job will never comprehend….

Despite my grousing and the inconvenience these painters cause me, they do a great job under adverse circumstances…Of course, I will not lie and say I am sorry to see them go, in fact I will be very glad when the job is over, and I have to admit, the apartment complex does look better when it is all spruced up with a fresh coat of paint and I know this new paint job will last for at least 2-3 more years ….

There are many “dirty” jobs like this in our society, not fulfilling or mind enriching or pleasant at all, but rather mind numbing and thankless tasks and services that must be provided….I used to work as a truck driver, and unfortunately never was able to land a union job, so I know first hand how low paid and under appreciated people like painters and truck drivers really are, and the tremendous amount of back breaking, repetitious hard labor these kinds of jobs entail….

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So I will stagger and stumble through the next week or so, who knows, maybe even adjust by going to bed earlier, I am half dazed and sleepy right now but am one of those people cursed by the inability to grab a cat nap…Once I am up and awake, no matter how tired I am, I will not be able to sleep until night time rolls around…

I will have to alter my schedule and pray for no rain the next week so that these house painters can do their job and be gone, off to their next task, or risk another day like today, where the fatigue robs me of all creativity and joy of living… My eyeballs feel like they are being sandblasted from the inside out, and I am guzzling aspartame free diet Pepsi for it’s caffeine content just to stay upright in my chair…

(I am unfortunately allergic to coffee) and you could not pay me to take any of those so called rip off “energy drinks” like the 5 hour energy drink or the Red Bull type energizer drinks, because I learned a long time ago Sir Issac Newton was right….What goes up, MUST come down!

I know intellectually this newly imposed early morning reality will soon fade away, to be replaced by another reality, hopefully my normal routine…In the meantime, I am regaining a new respect for people like these house painters who perform, dangerous, uncomfortable, tedious and boring jobs for low wages because let’s face it…#1 They need the money and #2 Somebody has to do it….

I am just glad I am not one of them…Anymore….But as the Stones sang in “Salt of the Earth” :
“Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
Let’s drink to the two thousand million
Let’s think of the humble of birth”

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We can’t all be high rollers and white collar executives after all, and the blue collar workers do all the dirty work in our society, so let’s at least make sure they get a living wage for themselves and their families, and that we appreciate the necessary work that they do…And if they inadvertently inconvenience cranky people like me right now, that’s OK, because they will be gone soon, and my life can return to normal, but this IS their normal life...

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.That’s what life is all about anyway….

For more information on SF Union Painters Wage Scales, see:www.dc16iupat.org/wage-schedules.aspx?zone=Wage%20Schedules

For more blogs by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com

Just leave it like it is right now

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