Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Academia vs. Manual Labor

I was bemused by this article in the Chronicle:
In these pages, I have occasionally seen other articles by faculty members who find the academic life too stressful -- a point of view I find absurd.

As a college student, I worked five days a week in a factory in the summers and delivered parcels for the Postal Service at Christmas. That work was stressful. I also spent a full day down a coal mine, being choked by dust and trying to avoid having my legs gashed by the speeding conveyer belts. That was truly hell. Compared to lives in those jobs, academe is a good place to work.
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I am puzzled, therefore, by those who find the academic life to be so hard and so stressful. Perhaps they would have benefited from spending eight hours down a coal mine in their adolescence?
The same might apply to lawyers. I can't say that I've ever been in a coal mine, but I did spend one day (yes, one day) doing manual labor one summer while I was home from college. It was a one-day assignment that I got through a temp agency. It involved going to a dusty, dank warehouse, and helping another man unload an entire semi-truck full of giant packages of fiberglass insulation. When I say "giant," I mean too large for either of us to lift by ourselves -- probably 75 to 100 pounds, and nothing to grip with. We had to roll the packages off the truck, and then stack them 4 high (i.e., to a level of about 8 or 9 feet) in the warehouse. All the packages were covered in fiberglass dust, which ended up covering one's entire body and itched like crazy. Plus, it was probably about 110 degrees in the warehouse, which was unventilated.

It was the most miserable day of work that I've ever had to do. Compared to that one day, being a lawyer is almost like a cakewalk.


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