I’m a Glazier. Some of you may have heard the term. Some of you might know what we do even. But, for the rest, I install windows – frequently in your car; sometimes your house; occasionally in your business. Glazier is an archaic term; one befitting a trade that suffers similarly the strain of time whirring away. I still call myself a Glazier because it sounds so much more artistic than Glass Technician, or, perish the thought; Window Guy. The name seems to imply that some degree of artisanal talent might be necessary for one to be christened as such – almost as if some dusty East Coast university should have it as their mascot. The Chester University Glaziers.
It used to be quite a craft. There was a time when Glaziers (real ones anyhow) not only installed windows, they devised and fashioned them too. They would cut raw glass from mammoth stock-sheets; assemble the sash on-site; cut a hole in some wall; plumb the hole; and install the sash, glass and all. They also used to fabricate auto-glass. That was an art, indeed. The carving and shaping of safety glass is a part of the trade that has all but completely vanished. Machines make everything. Of course, as luck would have it, the singular facet of my trade that taps some vein of creativity, as a fairly young Glazier, goes largely unpracticed. And, in light of its obsolescence (perhaps in spite of it too), I may, in fact, be among the last of my contemporaries to retain the ability. I was taught the old-fashioned way; by a pooped old guy who hangs precariously to the eroding edge of nostalgia. A day ago I brought in, with my lunch, a handful of blackberries. My boss looked at them. Disconcerted, he asked where I’d found them, it being the dead of winter. I told him there was an enchanted portal in my basement leading to the Land of Eternal Summer – I picked some while I was sunning on the beach. That seems kind of mean now, but he’ll be fine – we’re a teasing bunch. You see, I work for a tiny little company, owned by my father. It has been operational since early in the 20th century, and a fair portion of those most antiquated practices and methods have been on life support in our puny, cobb-webbed shop for decades.
Obviously, my father was a Glazier. Now he is an office grump. His father was a commercial fisherman, and a scary old grizzly asshole. My mother’s father was a successful grocer. Family tradition has not the firmest grip on my loyalties where occupation is concerned. So I’m bagging it. I’m hanging up the lats (those are little rubber discs that real Glaziers used to lift raw stock-sheets – real Glaziers don’t wear gloves. Unfortunately, I can prove that.).
What then, at thirty-five years old with no formal education beyond high school, is he going to do, you ask? I’m going to live the new, modern, American dream. I am adding to the already daunting level of debt that I have been granted, several years-worth of school loans to get a Master’s Degree in English. That way I can call myself a Technical Writer. I know it doesn’t sound artisanal, but it does seem notably erudite; and I can live with that. Also, if I mumble the Technical part, people will think that I write novels, or poetry, or short fiction; and I hope that I can do that.
It’s an awfully nerve-racking thing, leaving a fairly lucrative, very stable career, for a vocation that almost always requires some phase of starving-artistry. But I love writing, and my mom tells me I’m an amazing writer, and that I’m handsome. Even more, I love reading; and the ironic thing about earning a degree for a writing career is that it requires much more reading than anything else – it’s right up my alley.
Technical writing, as I’m sure you know, involves translating English, into English that everyone can read; rehashing information that technologists, and scientists, and doctors, and aerospace engineers think regular people should already know; writing manuals that tell Assembly Technicians how to piece together control panels for jetliners, and the like. Sound boring? I’m boring. It sounds like a winner. I’d rather write the instructions for windshield replacement in a 2017 Ford Explorer, than read them; because reading them likely means that I will be using them to carry out that procedure, and then we’d be right back where we started.
I constantly second guess the decision to uproot, at my age, and start completely new. But a friend once told me that fortune favors the bold. He doesn’t seem wise enough to come up with that sentiment, so I’m sure he read it somewhere. Regardless, I have never been bold, nor decidedly fortunate, so I guess I’ll have to take his word for it – even if it was plagiarized.
My original aim was a degree in nursing. I wanted to help people; to give something back to society. After a year or so in school, I realized that was as much a lie as calling myself a Glazier. I don’t even like most people, much less have compassion for them. The thought of treating an overweight forty-five year old mother of nine while she has her second mild heart-attack, rather than berating her for filling herself, and her children, so consistently with McDonalds, and Camel lights, and Survivor, forces every cell of my body into an anger induced, living rigor mortis. The biological sciences are fascinating, and I would be a great Nurse, in a very practical, technical sense, but I’m an impatient, intense, overcritical jerk. Writing seems like a better fit. Stay in school.
Now I’m working much less, and learning much more, but learning is work of a different sort, and too expensive. So, where once my ends met snugly – forming a comfortable little financial circle; paying for my mortgage, my car, my organic broccoli and boneless skinless chicken breast – there is now a jagged little lightning bolt; tumultuous and unpredictable; unmet. Washington State signs some of my checks now. I then sign them over to the school bookstore in exchange for what must be the finest collection of classical prose any college professor has ever annotated. Next year, when the editors revise “to whom he is referring” to the debatably correct “he to whom the author refers”, I’ll get to buy the 19th edition.
“I’m sorry sir, but we can’t buy back the 18th edition, the department has superseded that one.”
“I know, that’s why I’m getting 19.” It’s worth a shot.
I’m broke. But I’m tired, stressed, and uncertain about my future – which is shorter than it used to be – so it’s all worth it.
Wait. That didn’t work.
If I say that again three years from now, I’m in big trouble.