Do you remember my post about the Canon EOS 20D and my first telezoom lens? I had a picture of what is called a brake shoe or chock. It was just there without much context.
This is how a chock is actually used to secure train cars from moving down an incline. Sure the cars have brakes but those might fail especially on old train cars like this one from an outdoor museum. But they were (and maybe still are) mostly used in rail yards to actually stop a train car. A worker would quickly throw the chock on the rail in front of the rail car and it would brake. This of course required fine timing and an almost instantaneous calculation when and where the chock had to be applied depending on the weight of the car. Nowadays there are mostly automatic braking systems build into the rail yard but this was a job that required a lot of skill.
Today in our knowledge economy we tend to dismiss these kinds of jobs because they don’t require much education or intellectual prowess. But just imagine running around between moving rail cars and throwing those metal chocks right in front of a multiple ton rolling box to make it stop at the right place. I find it impressive. The guy throwing these chocks was in part responsible for making sure, that valuable goods reached their destinations intact.
My point is that every kind of work is valuable and important. It should not be dismissed because it is simple or requires little formal education. Whenever I see someone sneer at a cashier or a loud garbage collector or behave like they are someone better around service people I feel disgusted. They are doing important jobs and not matter one’s own social and intellectual standing one can be respectful and friendly.
When I stayed late at work sometimes the cleaning staff would already come in and clean the offices. Some people would just ignore them and continue working. Some did not even greet them in the corridors on their way home. I never understood this. The least one could do is to say hello and goodbye.
In this sense hats up for the guys (and it was mostly guys) doing this dangerous and uncomfortable job alas it is one that is almost obsolete today.