Lesson from a Roofer: “I just do my job”

I have learned some things while observing the roofers who worked on David’s and my roof for 4 months (that seemed like an eternity). I have written past posts about some of my observations, including my amazement at how happily the roofers perform their jobs. On the last day of the 14 day installation of the new roof tile, I thanked the one person, Sebastian, who had been present on almost all days for this part of the job. Other people who had been assigned to our job had quit, for various reasons (including it was too hot), but Sebastian kept working, sometimes by himself, to complete the tile installation. I told him how much I appreciated everything he did to help David and me and he responded, “I just do my job. It doesn’t matter to me if other people don’t do their job. I just keep working because I love what I do.” I happily exclaimed “Me too! That’s exactly what I do in my job. I just keep working, regardless of what the other people do, until my work is done. I love my job too!” Never, until having this brief conversation with Sebastian the roofer, did I consider that our two, very different, occupations are more similar than I realized. I have always had this philosophy about my job. When I worked in the linen department of a retail store, I learned how to fold towels. My supervisor was tough and she unfolded all poorly folded towels, requiring me to re-fold them until I got it right. I soon took pride in having beautifully folded towels; to this day, my linen closet is worthy of a photo shoot in a design magazine. When I lived on my cousins’ property during grad. school, I learned how to rake leaves. My cousin Asa, watched me sloppily raking leaves one day and he said, in his wonderful Wakulla County accent, “Girl, if you are going to rake leaves, don’t just rake some of them. Rake them all. Don’t leave any leaf on the grass. There’s no one else who is going to rake these leaves and they sure don’t rake themselves.” Needless to say, when I rake leaves, sweep the floor, or clean something, I take pride in my work. I rake all the leaves; I sweep all of the dirt and debris and I clean everything that needs to be cleaned. And, when I perform my work on behalf of Magnus’ clients, I strive for everything I do to be the best possible work that can be done. Other people may slack off, take shortcuts, or lack pride in their work, but I just keep on working until my work is done and my clients are happy.

Sebastian told me something similar when I told him it seemed unfair to make him work on a (dangerous) roof by himself.  He shrugged and said “It’s a job.”  He seemed indifferent to which roof, which tile, how many co-workers he had.  He just knew what needed to be done and went about it without complaint.  It reminded me of words I’d heard Jimmy Buffett sing in “It’s My Job” (written by Mac McAnally).

In the middle of late last night I was sittin’ on a curb

I didn’t know what about but I was feeling quite disturbed

A street sweeper came whistlin’ by

He was bouncin’ every step

It seemed strange how good he felt

So I asked him while he swept

He said “It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess

And that’s enough reason to go for me

It’s my job to be better than the rest

And that makes the day for me…”

This perspective shared by Sebastian, Melissa, and the street sweeper seem in short supply and contrast to what is heard from so many workers who complain about their jobs.  Maybe those are the squeaky wheels making noise.  But, like Melissa, my goal with whatever job I’ve taken on is to do the best job I can for my client or employer.  I’ve been “self employed” for most of my life.  That means having many bosses, instead of one, or a hierarchy.  Each client, as a photographer or trial consultant, has different expectations, demands, needs and time frames.  Juggling all of those is difficult.  And, we do complain, or at least lament, about some of the juggling we have to do in our work.  (Employees who have not shared our excitement to have work, to have clients, and to rise to the occasion to meet clients’ needs do not tend to stay employed long with us at Magnus!) But, reminder to self, it is a choice I made, we made, to do this job, not another one.  The energy which might be spent complaining is better spent doing the job for the client/boss.  Or spend the complaining time looking for a job when one can sing along with Jimmy Buffett.


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