There’s been a massive shift in our lifestyle over the past six weeks! We left a relatively quiet Welsh town and the typical 37.5 hour work week with five weeks of vacation each year. We walked almost everywhereâ€”to work, to the doctor’s office, to church, to the Chinese takeaway, and to local shopsâ€”and if we wanted to travel further, we often used public transportation (bus, taxi, or rail). You could literally not own an automobile in the UK and do quite well most of the time.
Now it seems like we’re back on the treadmill, staring at the possibility of 50-60 hours per week with two weeks vacation.Â I was offered employment back in February with the provision that I could start anytime within a six-month window. So three weeks ago I began my five weeks of training and then I’m looking at eight additional weeks before my probationary period ends: at that point I’m eligible for company benefits and a 28% pay raise. Great, huh? Unfortunately, most people never make it to the ninety-day mark. They either quit or get fired. Several long-term employees have admitted that very few people from their training class are still working for the company after twelve months. A senior manager told us yesterday that there’s a 100% turnover rate per year, meaning that our 1,200-person workforce will turnover once a year. I hope to be the exception to the rule.
Thankfully, I’m in a recession-proof businessâ€¦a massive call center that offers customer service and technical support for one of the largest wireless phone companies in the United States. Cell phones have become a necessity, especially the prepaid “throw-away” phones that require no deposits, no credit checks, and no personally identifiable information. If you want to activate your phone under the name “Bugs Bunny,” then it’s perfectly fine with us. We don’t want to know who you are or what you’re doing for a living as long as you pre-pay our company for the services we provide.
And once I complete the initial five weeks of training, the opportunities for overtime abound. I met a young man yesterday who’s working 80 hours a weekâ€”earning his regular pay for 40 hours and overtime for the other 40 hoursâ€”so he can work his way through university and complete his masters degree. HeÂ earned nearly $6,000 for the month of June. If you want to put in extra hours, there seems to be an unlimited supply for the taking. Since we have not received any income over the past six weeks, that looks like an excellent way to get caught up even if only for a couple of months, assuming I survive the training course and the probationary gauntlet.
But it’s this maddening pace of life that I dreaded most when we began talking about returning to the states. People here seem unable to slow down and enjoy life. One really dangerous outcome of this sad reality is the massive amount of car crashes, road rage incidents, deliberate disobedience concerning traffic lights and speed limits, and the downright rudeness of those who drive the streets and highways of our cities. We’re not very nice when we get behind the wheels of our automobiles, especially the big SUV’s with macho-sounding names like Armada, Nitro, Expedition, Commander, and Rogue. Six thousand pounds of machinery with 300â€“400 horsepower engines can do a lot of damage if the person driving is not having a good day.
I was hoping to bring a little Welsh serenity back to the states and share it with others. Hmmmmâ€¦ I’m not so sure it’s possible, especially if I get caught up in this frenetic pace along with everyone else. For those we left behind (and others living in idyllic towns and villages all over the UK and Ireland), I sincerely hope you appreciate what you have on a daily basis. It’s a precious thing, often not valued until it slips away.