Working Dogs Revisited

I received an email over the weekend which asked me to re-open Comments to my Working Dogs post from way back (okay, February).  He asked me this because he wanted to add to the conversation, but couldn’t.

Well, I don’t want to do that (reopen Comments), but instead let’s just use this as an extension.

So go back and read the piece and the Comment section, and if you’re one of the original commenters and have something to add, or want to post a different thought, please do so.  And if you’re a “newcomer” and want to comment, please do so too.

This is not a topic I want to let slide.

Suits

Every man should have at least one. (I’ve spoken on this topic before, but it bears repeating.)

I can already hear the moans: “I never need to wear one! Why should I own a suit?” and “I hate them?!They’re uncomfortable!” and “I won’t work for a company which insists on men wearing a suit!” and so on, ad nauseam.

Don’t care. There’s something about wearing a decent suit which not only makes a man look good, but feel good — provided, of course, that you feel comfortable wearing one in the first place. (And if you don’t feel comfortable wearing a suit, you should become so, by wearing a decent suit until you do.)

“I never go anywhere that requires me to wear a suit!” Then it’s time you upgraded your choice of places to visit.

Here’s the thing: men look good in a well-tailored, stylish suit. It almost doesn’t matter if your body shape is not like a movie star’s, because if the suit is designed properly, it will hide your shortcomings better than any other type of clothing. (And if you don’t care what you look like, or subscribe to the idiot notion that looks shouldn’t matter, then you need to grow the fuck up — because appearance matters, and always has.)

Here’s another thing: women like a man in a suit. You only have to see the female reaction to Mad Men‘s Don Draper and Roger Sterling for proof. Another manifestation is when a women says, “Man! You sure clean up good!”, because believe me, that’s a statement of admiration despite the ungrammatical choice of words. (What it means, by the way, is that she’s looking at you with new eyes — and likes what she sees.) For better or worse, people will always take you more seriously when you’re well-dressed, and a good suit will always leave a favorable impression.

I won’t even go into the topic of the importance of wearing a suit when applying for a job, because that’s self-evident.

As for color, it’s simple: dark and muted, grey or blue (charcoal or navy-blue, for the uninitiated). And it should be fashionable. Men are blessed with the fact that suits’ fashions don’t change from year to year, but they do change from decade to decade, which is at least as often as you should buy a new one.

And lastly, there’s a very good reason to have at least one suit handy: there will come a time when you absolutely have to have one. It might be a funeral, a restaurant with a dress code (and spare me the gripe that you’ll never go to a place that has a dress code — once again, grow the fuck up), or maybe there’ll just be a time when you have to impress somebody.

Here’s a little scenario for you all to chew on. Imagine that you achieve something of importance: you saved someone’s life, you donated a large sum of money to a charity, you won a sporting competition, whatever. Let’s say that a consequence of this achievement is that you’re invited to the state capitol so that the Governor can shake your hand.

Let’s be clear about this: you can’t go in jeans and a fucking t-shirt, because that shows immense disrespect to the person who wants to honor you. You’ll need to wear a decent suit.

A suit is like a gun: you hardly ever need one, but when you do, you’ll need it really badly. So have that suit handy, and every so often, wear it out to dinner or some social event. You’ll be amazed at the reaction. The old truism still applies when it comes to going out:  men wear suits; boys wear casual clothes. (In an old Cary Grant movie, a flashback made the 40-year-old Grant look like a teenager just by dressing him in casual clothes; when coming back to the present day, he wore suits — and matured instantly.)

Oh, and one last thing: colored shirts, no matter what the fashion magazines say, are for pimps and parvenu yuppies. The proper shirt color is white, with maybe a tiny pinstripe if you’re adventurous. (I have a number of identical “dress” shirts, all with a red pinstripe, because I once saw a good deal at Marshall Field and snagged a dozen. Good, discreetly-tailored shirts never go out of fashion.) And have half a dozen decent ties — not from WalMart or Target — at your disposal; once again, discreet “rep” ties with diagonal stripes never go out of fashion, ditto monocolored silk ones. And FFS: get a decent pair of black lace-up shoes to go with your suit, and keep them polished.

Take a look at the pics below: there’s barely a woman alive who wouldn’t respond positively to a man dressed like that — and if she doesn’t, she probably isn’t worth bothering with.

And the Governor would be equally impressed.

Stickers

Here’s a special post for London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose response to the violent crime spree in his city is to ban knife carry.

No, I don’t own one of these lovely creatures, but I’m currently negotiating with a guy who might know how to make them. If I / he can get it to work, I might just sell them through this here website.

For the people for whom the above pic might cause fainting spells: these aren’t knives; they’re called “hammer drill bits”. It’s how you make a large hole in wood (with a hammer) when you don’t have an electric- or battery-powered drill handy. The coloring is purely cosmetic.

And if anyone knows where the originals came from (i.e. who makes them), let me know in Comments.

Flight Of Fancy

Back in the day when I played in a band, the various members had some rather interesting hobbies: Drummer Knob collected sports cars (and still does), Guitarists Kevin and Donald collected venomous snakes (the idiots), Keyboards Player Mike had his private pilot license (PPL), Guitarist Marty had his chopper pilot’s license, while Bassist Kim… well, I did a lot of testing of the effects of alcohol on the human body. (The band was my hobby.)

Anyway, Mike also had a two-seater ultralight aircraft, and I went up with him on several occasions. It was great fun, and it looked something like this: essentially, a wing with a”pusher” (rear-facing) motorcycle engine attached.

While I was looking at pics of old planes last week (for the RAF’s centenary), I happened upon something which made me stop and think: “I’d love to have one of those and fly it around.”

This is the Airco DH.2, designed by Geoffrey De Havilland himself (PBUH), and while it’s a little more aircraft than an ultralight (with two wings and a substantial tail assembly), the principle is the same: a “pusher” engine mounted behind the pilot.

I’d just use a modern engine (Honda Gold Wing?) in place of the old underpowered 100 hp Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engine, which had a rather disturbing tendency to lose its cylinders in flight. (And yes, I’d very much like to keep the Lewis machine gun too, thankyouverramush.)

I know the DH.2 is only a single-seater, but then if I wanted to go the extra step and carry a passenger as well, there’s always the Royal Aircraft Factory’s F.E.2b:

…also with the machine gun, of course.

I’m too old for this stuff now, more’s the pity; but let me tell you, given half the chance, I’d do it in a heartbeat anyway — in either aircraft, even without the guns.

Working Dogs

I read this link from Insty with open-jawed astonishment yesterday because while I was out earlier in the day, I’d already started to put together a similar essay on the topic.

Maria D. Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy J. Moore of the University of Melbourne said they analyzed the mortality rates in the U.S. and noticed that many older Americans – but disproportionally men who retire at 62 – are affected by sudden increased rates of death.
“A lot happens in our early 60s. Some change jobs, scale back working hours or retire. Our health-care coverage may shift. We may have fewer financial resources, or we may begin collecting Social Security,” Fitzpatrick told The Wall Street Journal. “About one-third of Americans immediately claim Social Security at 62. Ten percent of men retire in the month they turn 62.”
The numbers, according to the study, show that there is a two percent increase in male mortality at age 62 in the country. “Over the 34 years we studied, there were an additional 400 to 800 deaths per year beyond what we expected, or an additional 13,000 to 27,000 excess male deaths within 12 months of turning 62,” the professor said.
The researcher blames the increased mortality on the retirement as retirees tend to withdraw from life and no longer see the point in engaging.

Quite honestly, I think I have a better take on this than the study. Here’s why.

I took an older guy somewhere during my early-morning Uber shift, and we got to chatting about retirement. He was in his early sixties and was thinking about retirement in the next couple of years or so — he’d reached all the retirement “qualifications” in terms of his age, length of service, and so on — and when I asked him what he was going to do after retirement, he said quite simply, “I don’t know.” He had no outside interests other than his work, he said, and had no hobbies or anything to keep him occupied when he would quit working.

This set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, because I’d confronted the very same thoughts when I planned on retiring back in 2016 on reaching age 62 (which seems to be the “killer” age discovered by the researchers).

Worse than that, I either know men personally or have heard of many instances of men who have died soon — very soon — after retiring early. (When men retire at a later age, they paradoxically seem to live longer, as the study shows.) Sometimes, men die within six months of getting their gold watch, after many decades of working with little or even no time off for illness. Where I differ from the study is that I think I know the real reason why this happens.

We’re working dogs.

As long as men have work to do, we do fine. We have a purpose in life, we get up in the mornings with a day’s work ahead of ourselves, and this gives us a reason to live. It’s all tied up, I believe, in our inherent nature as providers and all that goes with it. When that activity stops earlier than expected — at 62, most of us have at least fifteen or even twenty more years to live — subconsciously we still feel that we are capable of working, providing and in short contributing to ourselves and others.

But when that ends, it’s as though a switch is turned off somewhere and our brains simply say, “Oh well, that’s it,” and we die. It may be that illness has been kept at bay through our industry and now given an empty playing field, so to speak, it takes over; or it may be that we do things that are more dangerous (the study mentions driving more as one activity), or perhaps we working dogs just feel useless and our existence, pointless.

It’s one of the reasons why I started blogging (i.e. writing) again after Connie passed away; all those years of caring for her had given me something to do, a purpose in life and now, faced with a life impossibly empty, I could well see why some cussed old fart would just say, “Ah, fuck it.” And die. Believe me, the thought of letting go crossed my mind often.

But this isn’t about me. This is about all men — and a couple of close friends withal — who are contemplating retirement, but without having any kind of backup work to do after they retire. And I’ll bet there are more than a few of my Readers who are looking down the barrel of this very gun, if not now, but soon. (My reader demographics skew towards cantankerous old farts because I am one, and we tend to seek each other out.)

And let me tell you, I fear for these men’s lives. We can’t handle boredom — not those men who have heretofore led active, fulfilling lives working.

Some men try to hold on, become consultants in their erstwhile fields, and either fail (because the market isn’t as great or as receptive as they thought), or they discover that consulting means selling yourself on a daily basis — and can’t bear the job because failure, in almost all cases, means (to them) that they are worthless. So instead of leaving the workplace as successes, they have to quit ignominiously as failures.

Even in our old age, we need a purpose in life, something that gets us out of the house and outside our own heads (the latter being a dark and unpleasant place, trust me on this) and something that will occupy our hands and minds. We are men: we are supposed to work.

And this is why, I believe, that men who retire at an older age are less likely to croak soon after retirement than the younger ones; their minds and bodies have finally said, “Enough!” — and they can let go, be inactive and just play with their grandchildren. But the younger ones are at risk, and they die, tragically in numbers disproportionate to the expectancy.

Some men just refuse to quit working and work until one day they keel over. Some men do charity work in their retirement, but others (e.g. myself) are just not cut out for that kind of thing. Some men take up hobbies which consume their time — just visit a model railroaders’ show and see the demographics of the stallholders — but I have to tell you that a hobby started late in life is seldom going to hold your attention for too long. Some men dream of adventure, and do stupid stuff like exploring the tropical rainforests — like hobbies, a lot of this stuff is best begun when you’re a young man — and sadly, what men discover is that even though they may have retired “young”, their bodies can’t do what a younger man’s can. More failure.

I don’t have an answer to this. I wish I did, but I just don’t. The sad fact of the matter is that without work, we die. And the younger we are when we quit work, the sooner we die.

I welcome any and all ideas, experiences, anecdotes and advice in Comments. It may all be for nothing; but what you say may save a life, and what you read may save yours. And if what you have to say is too personal, feel free to send me an email — I’ll anonymize the thing, take out all the personal details and post the distilled content later. Have at it… please.

This might be the most important post I’ve ever written.