Slackers have the first and last laugh

Pity all the Yahoos out there. After a good stretch of living the illusion that life as an employee in a (formerly) trendy dot-com company is a beach, a “bitch” of a boss comes around and bursts their bubble. In a move that had since set “work-life balance” advocates abuzz with angry chatter, new Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has put an end to the dot-com relic’s work-from-home policy.

slackers_last_laughToo bad, kids. Looks like the techo rat-packers of the late 1990s are now experiencing some long-overdue adult supervision. Goes to show there really is nothing in life one can simply take for granted as there really is nothing in this world that is truly permanent. When times are good, employers tell their employees they are “empowered” to set their pace and chart their course. In bad times, all that changes. They show us who’s boss.

I guess it takes years before the guys who truly have the last laugh are revealed.

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I once dated a guy who drove a beat-up 1996 burgundy-colored Toyota he bought with his own savings. On our first date, I found it sweet that he’d take the trouble to open the passenger door for me — as in walk me to the passenger-side door, physically lift the latch, pull the door open, wait for me to step inside then shut the door — before walking around to the driver’s side of the car to get in. Well, turned out it was because his car lacked a central-locking system. Still, it was a lot more gentlemanly than getting into the car first and reaching across to the other side to unlock the passenger door for me to get in. And there was something charming about a car that did not send that obnoxious eek-yok sound echoing in an empty underground carpark when your date unlocked it.

The rustic charms of Dennis’s (not his real name) Corolla quickly wore thin after that first date.

I later I found out that Dennis also kept himself well-prepared for that unlikely (he liked to assure me) event of the Corolla’s cooling system springing a leak. I recall the first time he revealed the precariousness of the health of that vital automotive system to me when he detected the curious look I was giving the two large plastic containers filled with water I found in the trunk while we packed the car for our first long road trip together. Seeing that his demonstrated state of preparedness did nothing to erase the worried look that had slowly formed on my face as he explained all that, he continued, “Don’t worry, I also have some extra radiator hoses and there are a lot of service stations along the way in case it is the radiator itself that springs a leak.” By then I was standing resting on one leg with my arms akimbo, head tilted slightly to my right staring at him with a raised eyebrow. “That’s why I chose a Toyota.” he pressed on. “There’ll be no shortage of mechanics anywhere in Luzon… hey why are you taking your bags out of the trunk???”

After a rather longish discussion about how unpleasant a 600-kilometer road trip could be with that clear and present danger hanging over our heads, we decided to drive to my parents’ house to borrow my mom’s car for the trip. It was a relief as well in retrospect, considering I found out a few weeks after that the airconditioning in Dennis’s car was not that reliable either. But that’s another drama for another article…

Dennis sulked for perhaps the first half hour of our trip. My doing the driving did not help. But he quickly got over it. The prospect of a smooth quiet seven-hour airconditioned cruise equipped with a sound system hooked to a ten-CD changer works wonders on the male mind. Such simple creatures, men are.

To be fair to Dennis, he is one of those rare gems who does not take anything for granted. For one thing, he’s got an ethic of having stuff stashed for a rainy day; those two jugs of water and extra radiator hoses plus the fact that he was able to save up to buy a car with cash — in other words one that he could afford. Perhaps because he does not have much of a hangup about what kind of stuff you can load onto his car (muddy sneakers, a big old dusty TV I once bought second-hand, no problemo to him), what you do in his car (eat, sleep, put your feet up on the dash, etc.), or where he parks his car (he could leave it parked for the night next to a sari-sari store full of hard-drinking tambays and not once think about it after), I found his consistent non-inclination to sweat the small stuff quite refreshing.

I learned from Dennis that it is easy to lead a fulfilling and relatively worry-free life when you reserve your most acute mindfulness only for the truly important things. Too bad for me though. What I considered important at the time was finishing my Masters Degree and running along with the rest of the rats in that proverbial race. Dennis came across to me at the time as a slacker and a dreamer as his own dad probably thought (which is probably why back then he chose to drive his ratty Toyota than strut around in a flash daddy-funded car). He does his own thing now, earns a decent living as a self-employed trader and has since scraped together enough money to buy a modest late model mid-sized car (second-hand; he doesn’t believe in buying cars brand-new). Because he’s self-employed, he still buys with cash. His thinking is that when you’re self-employed, you don’t have the luxury of routinely assuming you will scrape together next month’s hulog on a car loan.

Funny, if you think about it, the future is not an issue for guys like Dennis. Such guys are “future-proof”. The amount of money he makes is determined by how hard he works. And because he minimizes, as a matter of personal policy, the amount of non-essential commitments he locks himself into, he can choose not to work that hard a lot more frequently than most of us are at liberty to — which means he’s got a broader range of types of futures (from bounty to adversity) that will suit his circumstances quite fine.

Dennis did pretty well. He built a career (or, more appropriately, a trade) that affords him the option to be a slacker. Not bad for a slacker who knew from the beginning that all he really wanted to do was his own thing; and for a brief and heady time in the past, me. 😉

7 Replies to “Slackers have the first and last laugh”

  1. Nice post.

    The thing is, he doesn’t strike me as a slacker. He’s simply made his choices but they are not self-destructive choices: he has an income and he can live within his means.

    1. Yeah, in the end I referred to “the option to be a slacker” which, if you think about it is an option not available to many hard-working people most of whom are doomed to work hard for the rest of their life. Dennis obviously made some good choices early in life.

  2. The thing that works for me is:

    1) Earn as much as you can
    2) Save as much as you can
    3) Invest, put money in things that earn more money.
    4) Contribute to improvements in your community

    Just scrimping and saving money isn’t going to make your rich or comfortable or make you a lot of friends.

  3. Only buy the best, (that you can afford),
    Only know the best, (people/mentors), and strive to become the best. ( in your chosen field).

    To be, and, to be seen to be, the best.

    Quality, style, and class shine through, not just in things, but also in people.

    and be a giver, not a taker and with hard work yio will end up a winner not a loser

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