Over the past few days, I have encountered a voice from my past. The odd thing is that it is coming from the mouth of my lovely wife. My lovely and optimistic wife. My lovely and seemingly eternally optimistic wife. The words she has chosen to echo is a metaphor about a fist in a bucket of water. It was introduced to me by a former boss of mine. This guy ran an office furniture installation business, and he didn't expect to have long-term employees. Most of the guys who worked for him came from something else and were on their way to something new. Assembling cubicles for the local IBM phone support group was not a career move. It was a job. That's why our boss often referred to us individually as that metaphorical fist. The job was that bucket of water. When the fist came out, the water was still there, but try as you might you weren't going to take any of that water with you in that fist.
I held on to that image for many years, as it seemed to explain how I was able to move from job to job: a name tag here, a few paychecks there, but I never once attended a reunion of the night crew at Target. Even though I still send a Christmas card to a couple of the guys. I suppose that if I were on Facebook, I could keep up with the old gang from the book warehouse, but the fact remains that with the exception of Target, the rest of the businesses for which I worked in my youth have all disappeared. In this case, the fist remains, and the bucket has disappeared.
I know the appeal of the fist in the bucket of water to my wife. It's a very zen thing, and it is open to wide interpretation. For me, however, it will always mean that I am replaceable. Behind me is a long line of fists awaiting their turn in that bucket. The good news is that she hasn't applied it to me. Not yet, anyway.