My song today is ‘Nine to Five’. This song was written and originally performed by American country music entertainer, Dolly Parton, for the 1980 comedy film of the same name. The song was released as a single in November 1980.
The song garnered Dolly Parton an ‘Academic Award’ nomination and four ‘Grammy Award’ nominations, winning her the awards for ‘Best Country Song’ and ‘Best Country Vocal Performance, Female’. For a time, the song became something of an anthem for office workers in the U.S., and in 2004.
During my life, I have never had a ‘9 to 5’ job. The closest I ever came to working an eight-hour day was my very first mill job in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. I was 15 years old, and the hours of my employment were 8:15 am to 4:15 pm. The early finish in the afternoon suited me as I would walk the two-mile journey home from my work, to save on bus fare.
My next job was in a West Yorkshire dyeworks in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, and witnessed me working a ten-hour day, Monday-Friday, plus Saturday mornings. I remained in this job until I emigrated to Canada at the age of 21 years.
I worked irregular hours in a Montreal Club as a professional singer, seven nights a week when I first lived in Canada. I would not start my evening work until 10:00 pm and would not end my shift before 2:OO am. Three club singers would alternate our twenty-minute singing spots and appear once hourly between 10:00pm and 2:00am. I gave up my singing career after a few months and took a job on the railway.
When I worked on the ‘Canadian Pacific Railway’, I served the train customers with food and refreshments, but the long-distance journeys enabled me to see the beautiful wild wilderness across Canada between Montreal and Winnipeg (approximately 2000 miles) at no travel cost. With a 12-hour rest period between the return on long journeys, I was able to get a taste of lots of places I would not otherwise have ever seen in the daylight. My hours of work any day on these long journeys would be 4 hours working, followed by 4 hours rest, followed by 4 hours working, followed by 4 hours rest, etc.
My last job in Canada was working in a hotel on the night shifts. When I returned to England, I worked ten-hour days as a textile foreman. I then worked as a mill manager on nights before training to enter the Probation Service as a probation officer.
I spent the last twenty-six years of my working life as a probation officer, prior to my early retirement (on the grounds of disability). During this period I still worked irregular hours and my wife and family would never know what time at the end of my day I might return home. There were days when I would work between 9-00 am and might not arrive home until 10:00 pm. I would work so long some days that I would take half of the next day off (in lieu) before going in at lunchtime. I do not think that I ever worked less than 60 hours in any week during my years in the West Yorkshire Probation Service. There were some Saturday mornings I would be required to work in the courts, and some weekends when I would give talks to different community organisations.
There was many a time when I wished I had a 9 to 5 job! How much easier my life could have been.
Even if one is fortunate enough to have a job today that pays you an average wage level, life is still hard for most workforces. Whatever employment most people are engaged in, the bottom line is that with the passing of each year, workers are expected to work more within the same allocation of time for less reward. There are so many people today who are in highly stressful jobs; and the fact that they have a job at all, any job, makes them one of the lucky ones.
I wonder when we get to our retirement and old age one day, will we think back to our earlier life and ask ourselves, “Was the stress and the pressure I endured worth it?” While we may have occupied well-paid, salary positions of employment that appear enviable to so many low-paid workers on zero contracts, and unemployed people, will we consider ourselves to have paid a too high price for the financial security our job offered? Most people who have always held down a job will have worked irregular hours, and all will have missed vital time and family occasions because of work commitments. We will have probably missed out on some experiences we can never recapture; occasions which can never be revisited like attending school assemblies and school sports days or reading bedtime stories with our children when they were young.
When we recollect the loyally and time we devoted to our employers at the expense of ‘quality time’ we missed spending with our partners and children, shall we conclude that it was worth it?
Often, when I have heard people complain about the pressures of their work, I have thought that they would have been far better lowering their standard of living and taking an easier job, especially if working in a ‘9 to 5’ job also lowered their stress levels. I have often thought that they would have got far more pleasure and satisfaction out of reading their young children a bedtime story, than perusing their bumper salary slip at the end of the month. I know that they would have been able to spend more time in their homes with their loved ones than still making that tired journey home at the end of a long day. Perhaps they might even have enjoyed a happier marriage more of the time?
If you had your time to live all over again, would you consider a 9 to 5 job a bad deal? Ask anyone today who is unable to get a job of any description and I’ll bet they will jump at the chance of obtaining such a job!
Love and peace Bill xxx