I had dinner last night with my cousin, Howard. I don't know exactly how Howard and I are related, it's some complex arrangement on my father's side, but we've known each other since we were in diapers, and through the years have grown closer and closer. Blood, as they say, is thicker than water.
The bar was too crowded and too noisy, but somehow, I guess the privilege of age, we got a small table in the back. We each got a beer, the special of the night. Howard ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with extra crispy bacon and fries. I opted for a lighter repast, a turkey burger with a side salad.
Both Howard and I followed in our father's footsteps. Howard is an executive for a luggage company as was his dad and I am a copywriter, as was mine. We each have been married a long time, Howard 31 years, me, nearing 30 and we each have two kids. Howard has boys. Me, girls.
We talked, mostly, about the kids, of course. Their emergent independence and their struggles with pursuing their callings and finding a mate. All four of our kids are doing quite well (with periodic upsets of course) thank you very much.
Then, as you might expect, our conversation turned to our careers.
We talked of the increasing lack of civility at work, how it's almost a badge of honor to treat people like crap. We are expected to do more, for less money, no appreciation and with fewer amenities. I told Howard I call this era "the low-bid economy." Everyone tries to do everything as cheaply as possible, then we all bark when it turns out like shit.
We stared into our sandwiches. We traded war stories. We laughed the laughter of two men who had seen a lot.
Howard summed it up best:
I tell my kids, "Save your money."
"Don't buy $129 sneakers, $49 knit caps, and $200 sunglasses," I added.
"Save your money," he repeated. "You know what job security is? It's having money in the bank so you know you can go in in the morning and say 'fuck you and your fucking job.'" He flipped his imaginary boss the double bird.
"That's right," I agreed.
"You might never do it," he continued. "But it's nice to think you could."