Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom and Jeff

Tom and Jeff own Shearwater Adventures, the store where I worked taking reservations all summer. I have worked for a lot of small business owners and I have to say that working for Tom and Jeff has been the best of those experiences. I say this because Tom and Jeff have figured out what they want out of life and those needs are very simple. As far as I can tell, they need just enough money to maintain their current lifestyles on the island and I would bet that they try to put some money away towards the future. But that's it. They are not constantly trying to always make even more money or trying to get out of debt they got into to grow the business. They built a business that would be successful enough. Therefore, they are not desperate, which would be the way that I would characterize every other small business owner that I've worked for (like the lady at the Green Planet, Philomena, and Jane, but now that I list them all, I realize that Bill and Ruth were pretty cool). The other people seemed to be frantic all the time that the business needed to be more. Since I was just there for the paycheck and they were there for their life's blood, conflict or at least tension sometimes arose. Even if it wasn't direct conflict with my boss, I had to spend hours of my life listening to them complain about how everything worked against them, since I was a captive audience. Tom and Jeff, though, are content. They've found their niche and the effort that would be involved in pursuing more money is not worth the compromises they would have to make out of their lives to accomodate that pursuit.

I love that mindset. It is the ideal. Part of what appeals to me about my homesteading fantasy is that the work that I would have to spend my days doing would be good work that is enjoyable in its actual completion and satisfying because its results directly benefitted my lifestyle (gardening, for example, is days spent outside working hard and food on the table). It is so easy to get disenchanted with working in a cubicle for money that can then be exchanged for lifestyle benefits only when one is not working. Tom and Jeff have found a way to avoid that trap without homesteading, which is a much more realistic goal to set for myself. They like kayaking and working with the guides each summer and fixing boats and the paperwork is not really terrible. So, the work itself is good and the money that they make is also good. Since they own the business, they can choose how many hours of life are worth sacrificing to work and they keep the balance sane.

Additionally, both of their personalities have been good to interact with. Jeff is a family man, but pretty conservative for the other families that have parents his age on the island. His children, Tika and Kyle, are interesting, which is strange to me, because kids around the 3rd to 5th grade are actually pretty abhorent to me. But they tell interesting stories and act like I imagine my brother and I act. Occasionally, Jeff can be coerced to tell stories from his childhood, which are like mine in that they contain no drugs or alcohol, but are unlike mine because he had somewhat criminal (but harmless) fun. Jeff's been a great role model for me for how to live that life that I've wanted of traditional family in a way that is not as stifling as it can so easily become.

Tom is a storehouse of knowledge. He fixes the boats in the partnership and is always looking for an excuse to step away from the paperwork that is his responsibility in order to talk about ideas and facts and phenomena. When not out on the water, he spends his leisure time reading non-fiction or listening to NPR. Then, he tells me all about whatever interests him. Currently, he knows a lot about parasites and diseases and has a lot to say about the inevitable pandemic of flu that will be as devastating as the 1918 flu. He's loaned me a book called Parasite Rex that I swear I will read, but I'm pretty sure that I'll wash the skin off of my hands with avoiding germs afterwards. Tom also likes to observe human interactions on the island (a pasttime for many of us) and can be a good source for information (i.e.-Are they actually dating?). His energy is usually upbeat and he seems genuinely amused and delighted by living. However, as you get him talking about ideas, his predictions for the future are pretty defeatist. He's just come to the conclusion logically that our socio-economic system cannot be fixed, our political system is entirely out of reach of the common man and women should pretty much plan on being single mothers at some point in their lives if they choose to have kids, no matter how secure the relationship seems right now. Like James, I really can't argue with his points logically. I can totally see how that could be the case. However, I just can't agree with him. I believe in the redeemability of people. Of course, I'm also pretty sure that the post-apocolyptic vistas envisioned by writers like Charles DeLint in Svaha and Octavia Butler in Parable of the Sower are bound to happen as our society falls apart as the gap between the Haves and the Have-nots widens. But people are redeemable. Tom thinks that the effort to try to make the world a better place is wasted. Very Naturalistic, like the story "To Build a Fire." However, his actions completely belie that truth that he's determined logically. He's an EMt and treats people with dignity and fairness. It's like he's decided that the only response he can live with after looking at the void is a personal code of conduct. I really like Tom.

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