Monday, September 10, 2007

The obscene power of tradesmen


The rich think they hold the power.
Once it was so.
These days, it is the tradesmen who hold the power.
It does not matter how rich you are, if a tradesman refuses to come and install your airconditioner or hot water service, then you have to go without. Until they are ready to give you some of their time, you are at their mercy.
Tradesmen can decide if you are to be cool in the heatwave or if you are going to have mud instead of cement in the drive, if your leaky roof keeps dripping, if your dishwasher is fixable, if you are going to get sharp TV reception, a floor polished or a carpet laid, a window repaired or replaced, a door fitted...
It is all done on their time, not yours.
Forget waiting for a doctor's appointment.
Doctors are a joy of accessibility compared to tradesmen.

How did this all come about. How did the tables turn so that tradesmen are the most powerful members of society?

Once upon a time, they were something of a lowly class -"blue collar" or "working class".
The management classes and professionals were the smug middle with the dynastic wealth and highly educated scoring "upper". Of course, these classes still were dependent upon the tradesmen. But, if one recalls the past of one's youth, not to mention the past as recorded in literature, they were a cap-tipping deferential class which sought to please those who employed them.

This has changed.
They could not give a damn whether you are pleased or not. They are indifferent as to how long they keep you waiting. They treat those who seek to use their services with sublime contempt - sometimes not bothering to turn up at all.
Certainly they are indifferent to returning phone calls.
What they are calling is the tune.

Why is this?
Perhaps because tradesmen are now in short supply.
The old apprentice traditions fizzled somewhere along the way. Meanwhile, families in the trades wanted something better for their children - university educations.

Even in trade schools, the traditional trades are out of fashion. Kids would rather study computer programming than plumbing.
Who leaves school saying they want to follow their dad into plumbing? In a world where the class system has disintegrated, there is no longer a sense of fraternity in the trades.

The sort of people entering the trades are doing so perhaps grudgingly.
Hence their resentment of the people for whom they are then to work. Well, contempt really.
Tradesmen can name their price. On top of this, they can choose simply not to turn up to do the job.
They don't have to worry about losing business because they know that they are as rare as hen's teeth and they will never run out of work. There is a world of poeple prepared to pay whatever they ask, prepared to beg them to do a job, prepared to wait on their convenience...

Why am I pondering all this?
Well, I may have moved house over a month ago had it not been for the tradesmen who have not turned up, who have put off jobs, who have not been accountable...
I am still waiting. I am not moved.

Oh yes, instead of being angry, I am just a grovelling supplicant, like everyone else.
One can't afford to be impatient with a tradesman let alone rude. They are in control. They are masters of our destiny. They might not be the upper class but they have the upper hand.

4 comments:

Milly Moo said...

Hear Hear, Angry!

It used to be that the dunderheads left school at 15 to join the army (still do?) or become an apprentice, and, sadly, these folk now 'rule' our lives. I sometimes have to count to ten v-e-r-y slowly and remember that even though their trade is in demand, they do not necessarily have the mental capacity for business management or customer service.

Being a veteran bank manager during the 17.5% interest rates, I will patiently wait for the tide to turn. No, the rates will never get that high again, but soon people will put off doing any building or renovations and said Toffy Tradies' will be grovelling for work.

Karma baby, karma

ashleigh said...

Y'know what. Milly is right - most tradies were dunderheads. These days there is room for a bright spark to be a tradey.

But I've figured for a long time that brains can make up in a week or two what was learned by fouling up for years in an apprenticeship.

So I taught myself to lay bricks (y'know, with mortar), and pavers, and carpentry.

I can do all those things, and have, in the building of my house. I'm not as fast as a veteran tradey. But I can do them, and I'd get faster with practice. And in most cases because I go slow, and think about what I'm doing, I do a better job.

So there is hope: Think, and have a go yourself. Lot's of people won't, and that's their loss!

Anonymous said...

People LOVE to hate tradesmen because the violate the very code we've socially constructed: "get a university education and you're set."

Read: "get a university BA, have $40000 in student loans, and be happy if you get a shitty job that pays $3500 per year."

Tradesmen have it all figured out. They 'earn while they learn," are in a position that has been historically undervalued and therfore ignored, and now have options for self-employment, highly paid 'employeement' and carte blanche to work wherever they want.

I have a master's degree in social science and my husband--a tradesmen--makes 3 TIMES as much as I do--in a FAILING ECONOMY!

We all love to hate them for this and try to justify it by saying that the financial rewards are unsustainable and the work intellectually vacuous. But, when push comes to shove, they're in a much better position than any pretentious pseudo-intellectual armed with a university education.

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