Joe Gardner is facing retirement with a bit of apprehension. After a lifetime of getting up at 5:00 AM and going out in the elements as a utility lineman, Joe is done with the weather and the physical requirements needed to handle heavy wire at life threatening elevations. After 40 years of frostbite, heatbite, and fright heights, Joe made it to the finish line. With his new company watch on his wrist and a shiny, aluminum coffee mug in his hand, Good Ole Joe walked away with his dough. A decade ago, as he was approaching the autumn of his working career, Mr. Gardner started watching his replacements coming up from the rank and files. They lacked a certain finesse and were being groomed by engineers and management from a generation 20 years younger. Instead of getting out of their trucks and assessing the damage themselves, they were now trained to sit and wait for supervisors to show up and tell them exactly what to do. After the head honcho showed up, he would then wait for a team of engineers to come out and join the party. With 12 people and 9 vehicles clogging the highway, a traffic engineer was now dispatched. When the orange cones and flag girls were in position, the most seasoned lineman would get in his bucket and reset the tripped breaker caused by a tree branch. Joe cringed at the overlapping work protocol that had emerged out of this new management’s operating regime. Safety is VERY important, however, so is getting the customer’s service up and running, so now everybody stands around until the top monkey says, “OK.” This is a result of every generation making it easier on their children than the previous one. The crews have group hugs, wait until the bosses show up, and then finish the job with Human Resource’s personnel handing out small prizes that they took from cereal boxes to give to the workers for a job well done. No one wants any hurt feelings, and God forbid that some poor soul goes home without ample, emotional reinforcement. 

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