Straight out of high school, I went to work as a rodman for the state. The time? Set it as 1980. I had been working as an assistant surveyor for 24 years with never a day off for sick time or vacation. The legislature decided in their wisdom that accumulations of more than 4 months combined sick and vacation would be forfeit if the employee didn't start using the time before the beginning of the fiscal year 1981.
Several of my peers had retired with 26 years and used their accumulated time to fill out their 30 ... such had been my intention. Just two more years and I could have retired with 30 and still been a young man. Just 48 years old.
The accumulated vacation was four years of vacation and three days a month sick time equaled 864 days ... rounding up ... union man, don't you know... 2 years and five months ... six and a half years due and I'd lose it if I didn't start really soon.
When I started as a Rodman 1, the take home was 7,500.00 a year and I never saw it.
One of the benefits was 12.00 per-diem for days out of the office. Rodman is NEVER in the office. 120 bucks a week. I lived on that ... and non taxable.
If I never got a raise I would have one hundred eighty thousand bucks in the bank. But ... by 1980 I was in the 21,000 dollar after taxes bracket and 35 bucks per-diem.
Once a year, I would go to the Classified Ads and buy a thousand dollar car ... drive it for a year and sell it for five hundred ... without the gas tank.
Without the gas tank?
I put a nickel in the fuel filler spout for every gallon of gas I bought. The nickels and the five hundred paid for the next car. When I started the nickel deal gas was 15 cents. A nickel a gallon was no big deal. But ... by the end of the year, there wasn't an awful lot of room in the tank of gas ... lots of nickels.
I had to use my vacation ... I'd be damned if I'd let those assholes steal MY time!
State employees, as a part of our benefits got college tuition and books FREE.
I already had a duplex ... the rent for the other side made the payments ... and I'd had the place for 20 years ... it was almost mine. I lived in Ann Arbor ... University of Michigan is in Ann Arbor ... why not?
Why not, indeed. Vacation time was full pay ... and I kept getting raises. I didn't get the per-diem ... I wasn't on the job.
I had nearly 750 grand in the bank ... a house ... a car that befit my status as a student and I would be collecting a seventeen hundred fifty dollars a month pay check ... for six years.
I signed up ... informed Human Resources that I was taking my accumulated vacation ... they could continue direct deposit.
"Yes sir. How much of your vacation time will you be using?"
"All of it," I said ... grinning.
"But ... but ... but ... that's four years."
"Thank the legislature."
I took math ... surveyors math ... and the standard freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes.