(As posted to my Montreal Gazette blog)
“The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
A former colleague made that well-known quip — often attributed to Charles De Gaulle — shortly before he left The Gazette several years ago, after I told him he would be missed. Some readers may remember him: Garry Steckles was the Entertainment editor here for several years, and he was, and probably still is, a huge reggae music fan. He wrote about it and made sure we covered the scene here. And he was just a great journalist who put in far more hours than he was paid for, and an all-around nice guy. Yup, I do miss him . . . but The Gazette has rolled on, as you all know.
I’ve been thinking about Garry and some of the other people who have come and gone here. And about some of the people who are here now, including me. And about workers in general. So many people give a lot of their free time to companies, which are often owned by corporations that have no single owner, but instead a bunch of shareholders who are totally unaware of the individuals who work beyond the call of duty for them.
I mean, I own shares in some companies, but what do I know about the individuals working in those companies? Nothing. I don’t know who goes beyond the paid call of duty by putting in 12-hour days, who checks his or her office emails from the beach — and who has helped my stocks to rise in value.
So, where am I going with this post on this Friday morn?
Smiles . . .
Well, I made a resolution this week: I’m not checking my office emails from home anymore. I don’t really need to. But I’ve been like so many other people are these days: connected. Make that, overconnected. There’s really no good reason for me to be reading office emails from home — I’m not a manager on call 24/7. Nobody cares if I check my office emails or not. And if someone at the office really needs me when I am at home, they will phone me.
OK, there is a reason why I made the decision, which I won’t get into in detail here, except to say that responding with good intent to an office email blew up in my face and left me in tears, all while I was sitting in my housecoat in my bedroom.
Once bitten . . . You know what I’m sayin’.
Like, who needs that in one’s free time?
Still, there was a silver lining to the whole incident: I learned a lesson. And it reminded me of Garry and his quip, and inspired a period of reflection for me. It reminded me that work needs to be kept in its place — 7 hours a day or night in the office, where I should and do give the proverbial 100 percent effort.
It also reminded me that when my time — and everybody else’s time — comes to leave The Gazette, we will all be mostly forgotten in relatively little time at all. And that all our extra unpaid efforts will be forgotten, too. Few will care, least of all the unknowing shareholders.
True, some people put in extra unpaid hours because they get personal satisfaction from their work. I used to do it, too, when I was the editor of the TV Times magazine years ago . . . back in the days of typewriters . . . yes, the stone age in the composing room . . . My workweeks were typically 45 to 55 hours, with extra proofreading at home. I was paid for 35 hours . . . But we had the best TV magazine in the province in those days, and I was very proud of it.
But, in the long run, who cares, right?
Sobering thoughts on this Friday morning.
The moral of this story: Spend your time wisely, because it really is precious. Put your loved ones first. Cherish every moment you have with them. Don’t sacrifice time you should be spending with them. Because our lives pass by really fast, and when your time comes to leave this world, your loved ones may be the only people who will remember you, unless you have made an outstanding contribution to mankind as a whole — and even then, only a few are remembered . . .
As Kansas sang: “Dust in the wind . . . all we are is dust in the wind . . .”
Young man, as you perambulate down the pathway of life toward an unavoidable bald head bordered with gray hairs it would be well to bear in mind that the cemeteries are full of men this world could not get along without, and note the fact that things move along after each funeral procession at about the same gait they went before. It makes no difference how important you may be, don’t get the idea under your hat that this world can’t get along without you.”– Abilene Reporter, 1909