Posts Tagged ‘service industry’

How Time Becomes Money

January 30, 2013

So I’ve abandoned you all and dedicated my focus and attention to such mundane tasks as feeding the cruising kitty, so it can meow again and provide nourishment for future reporting about less mundane adventures. I do consider myself really fortunate when contemplating how little of my time has to be spent with the truly alienating activity of getting some hard currency coming our way. Living a simple life, where less is most often more, repair and reuse has subdued discard and replace, little is usually enough, healthy effort unsettles lazy comfort, yesterdays regrets and tomorrows uncertainties are welcome guests, and smiles and generosity has silenced guilt and greed, it makes each penny go a long way. A sturdy Swiss upbringing also helps to ease the itches and imaginary pains of the frugal regime. But when time comes to bite the bullet, there is no silver bullet for making it through the machinery of competitive economics and the silver lining is horrendously thin.

I apply my skills to provide a service to a fellow man in need and agree with him on a numerical value that service demands. He then digs into his pocket and extracts papers with numbers of commonly agreed abstract value. Once my service is complete he hands me those papers and we part with a handshake, both better off than before. Why does it all leave a strange mixed feeling behind, a long lingering aftertaste? I guess in the small, on the micro scale the economy of exchange, helping each other out, giving and receiving goods, using and providing services, feeding and cuddling each other is all healthy and good. Direct contact eliminates most trickery and pitfalls are obvious enough and easily avoided. As long as you don’t ask too many questions…

Then there’s the question of supply and demand. It certainly pays to be at the right place at the right time. The massive conglomeration of cruising boats in such a small place is mind-boggling. They have descended in drones into the higher latitudes, driven a little by reason and a lot by insurance mandates, escaping the treacherous tropics with their furious rotating storms but also in pit stop mode after having lurched for long across a big vast blue with little specs of land and frail to non-existent supply chains for all those parts. Those many parts that are needed to keep the complicated machinery in motion that grants the level of consumer comfort. Cold beer, satellite phones, radar domes, electric winches, frozen steaks, microwaves, ice cubes, water makers, backup generators, autopilots, computer screens, bread machines, internet hogs, sump pumps, ice cream sorbet, air conditioning, nifty navigation electronics, the list just self-replicates endlessly and continues on and on. Just figure all that can go wrong and you get an idea of the buzzing and bustling service industry the springs to life for six months of every year here at the upper end of the Veronica Channel.

Once it has grown to be an industry it is no longer a question of face-to-face deals and handshakes. Prices go up, tempers flare, expectations clash, stress builds, quality suffers, fairness fades, insurance rules, trust rots, payments default, credit swaps, deadlines loom and before you know it there’s my golden opportunity. Personal, friendly service, competitive price, let’s get it done attitude, immediate availability, cut through the crap efficiency, it’s all part of the marketing! So I’ve repaired water tanks, installed vents, patched gel coat, painted windlasses, oiled teak linings, fiberglassed broken life raft covers, reinstalled heads, closed stuck sea cocks, waxed topsides, designed a canoe sailing rig and many more little things.

Now the work seems to have tapered off and it might be time to head out and do some exploring of the many nooks and crannies of the coastline, watch the busy birds and lazy fish, count the rocks and climb the cliffs, listen to the siren’s song and take a peek at the mermaids basking under the midday sun on a slither of seaweed covered rock.