That's the musical question asked in the song "Workin' In A Coal Mine," and it seems appropriate to that particular trade. That question would be floating around in my head on a regular basis if I were swinging a pick in the dark and dusty tunnels hundreds of feet beneath the earth, waiting for the siren to sound or the canary to die. But that's not where I work. I'm a teacher in a classroom with four solid walls and lighting that continues to work, at a school that has at least three computers in each room and a roof that no longer leaks.
Could I find something to complain about? You bet I could. But that suggests that I would have to look just a little to begin with. I have a job. I have a house. I have an education. I can send my son to a public school for his. If I want a bag of chips with my foot-long sub, I can get it right along with my extra large Coca Cola. I know there are people living in my city who are sleeping outside. They're hoping that I don't finish that sandwich so they might snag it out of the dumpster. And yet, I'm miserable.
At least that's what I'm told. As the United States continues to teeter on the brink of being a less-than-super power, I keep hearing reports about how much we're all suffering. Not the ones sleeping in the park, mind you. The ones in the houses they probably can't afford. The ones who have invested in companies they read about in a magazine. The ones who drive cars that are good for the environment. People who are afraid to spend money because they don't know where it's coming from.
I get that. My beloved lawn mower sits in the garage in need of at least a hundred dollars worth of repairs. I continue to do my best with the push version of that same machine, and then it occurs to me, "You own two lawn mowers?" Well, one of them doesn't have a motor. Then it occurs to me that they've probably stopped worrying about the grass growing in East Africa. They're worried about anything growing.
Colin Quinn, in his one-man show "Long Story Short," suggested that we here in America have a while left on our Empire clock. He said that as long as he can stop by a newsstand and see magazines with articles promoting "How to lose that extra five pounds," we're okay. I would go one notch further and suggest that as long as we can support one-man shows about the demise of the American Empire, we're probably still good for another couple of years.