Opinion

Commentary: Not your father’s retirement watch

When I was in my 20s, my father gave me his retirement watch, a Hamilton, with a warm and elegant face. It was an early electric model and made symbolic sense since he retired from the power and light company.

Before the electric company, he worked for a dozen years in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal mines, with a World War II stint in the Navy sandwiched in. Family lore has it that my mother’s good sense prevailed to get him out of the mines even though he had to take a big pay cut.

The Hamilton was a hybrid with a balance wheel like watches have had for centuries, but instead of being powered by a main spring it used electric power from a battery. That Hamilton was a little like Dad, with one foot in the past and one stepping forward into an uncertain future.

I recently reached a milestone on my job: 28 years. No watch yet.

For a decade and a half after college, I changed jobs every few years. In the years after law school, I worked in legal aid jobs in southern West Virginia, Atlantic City, N.J., and then Camden, before finding my employment home in Philadelphia, where I would break Dad’s endurance record.

My work has not always been easy. But I have been lucky to have had the chance to do the work I chose.

My job is once again offering a buyout of sorts to encourage people to take a voluntary layoff in order to avoid involuntary ones. My employer made a similar offer a few years ago and now has sweetened that deal.

I cannot imagine my co-workers rushing to take the offer — unless they were planning to leave anyway. Or unless they were told they would be laid off — in which case it would probably make sense to pocket the money rather than leave with nothing.

I am not ready to take the deal and go, but I am sure Dad would be amused — especially if they threw in a watch.

Michael Carroll is a Philadelphia writer. He wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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