No need to ‘geez’ about workforce

By Larry Simoneaux

I give in.

After three years of retirement, I’d just about finished the “honey-do” list and puttering was becoming a habit.

I’d also done a bit of volunteer work, kept up my credentials as a hunting safety instructor, and taken up reloading. On that last, though, I’d recently made a simple calculation.

Over the past 37 years of hunting, I’ve found that I generally fire, given missed shots and whatever, three or four rounds per hunting trip. Even counting practice, I’ve now reloaded enough rounds to keep me shooting well past my expected “three score and ten” on this earth. So that doesn’t take up a lot of my time any more.

This led to cooking. And I don’t cook for light eaters. So the freezer rapidly filled with enough “leftovers” to feed an army.

My wife noticed all of above and started dropping subtle hints such as: “You need to find something to do.”

And so, while out one day, I happened to pass the small business where I’d worked after retiring from the sea. That business makes parts for racing cars. Stock cars, sprint cars, mini sprints, oval track, go-karts and what have you.

The business was started 25 years ago, has developed an outstanding reputation, and has now truly found its footing. I started with them when they were in a small shop that covered about 3,000-square-feet of space. Five years ago, it moved into 14,000, and it now occupies almost 30,000.

I hadn’t been in for a while, so I stopped to chat. This led to a conversation about what I was doing and, now, I’m back working part time — trying to help keep track of an ever-growing and fast-moving inventory. In short, I’m no longer bored and my wife is no longer dropping (not so subtle) hints.

All of which is a long introduction into what I really wanted to say.

That shop now has almost 40 young(er) workers. This is an order of magnitude more than when I first started. By far, most of them are in their 20s. A few are 30 and over and, then, there are three part-time dinosaurs in their late 60s — yours truly being a charter member of that group.

Like many my age, I spend a lot of time worrying and wondering (“geezing” as good friend, Larry Mordock, puts it) about what — as a country — we’re doing, where we’re headed, whether honesty, conviction and a solid work ethic are still common, etc.

Oldsters since the beginning of time have been doing this and, these days, it’s easy to fall into that frame of mind given what’s in the news every day. Now, however, I’m in the middle of a group of young men and women who are making a good business work and work well.

The process of manufacturing racing parts is complex and demanding. Metal is heavy and hands get dirty. Further, understanding and operating computer-controlled machines that have spindles cutting metal at several thousand RPMs isn’t for slackers. It requires knowledge, training, attention to detail and a willingness to stay ahead of the game. It requires people who see what needs doing, know how to do it and are willing to get it done — even if it’s outside of their formal job description.

It’s hard work, long hours and fast-paced. But, they do it and do it well. So much so that I’m not sure I can get all that grumpy about the generations coming up behind me any more. Sure, the reprobates, druggies, robbers, assorted felons and ne’er-do-wells that have been with us since we left the caves are still out there.

But, from what I can see in our shop (and many others around us), honesty, humor, hard work and great attitudes are as abundant around us as ever — as are absolutely good, young people. Solid people. The ones who have always made and, more importantly, will always make things work.

And that, gentle reader, is a good thing.

Even though we may sometimes lose sight of it all.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: