The Best of Andy Rooney

There's a story in the newspaper that says a lot of people in Athens, Greece, are retiring when they're 50 years old, contributing to a massive debt crisis. The Greek government has determined that if you have a certain job which could have deleterious effects on your health, you have the right to retire at 50 with your full pension. The article mentions hairdressers, for example, who are exposed to many toxic chemicals.

You'll pardon me for saying so, but I'm glad I don't live in Greece because I'm well past 50 and have no more interest in retiring than I have in dying. I've been fortunate that I have a job that's not hazardous to my health.

I feel sorry for those Greek citizens who are retiring early because it must mean they didn't like their work or their work was dangerous. Work is what we do most of the time and if we don't like it or it could possibly hurt us, that's troubling. I think everyone should enjoy what they do safely. If that's not possible, they should find another line of work. The world is full of interesting things to do.

When I was growing up, my father, who graduated from Williams College in 1910, got a good job that sounds terrible. He traveled around the southern part of the United States selling wool felts to paper mills. The tiny fibers of wool blankets make it the only material that holds up to the mushy, wet pulp that's strung over hot rollers on the felt and made into paper. Felt is a funny thing to be an expert on but that's what my father was and he made a very good living at it. I don't think he had a dangerous job. The only time I think it was dangerous was when he was on business in Japan and there was an earthquake.

We were lucky in the 1930s because of my father's position at the felt company. We had a summer cottage on a lake, a good boat, a Packard, and my sister and I both went to private schools. I got a new suit every year at McManus and Reilly and we ate about once a month at Keeler's, the good, expensive restaurant in Albany, where we lived. We weren't rich -- just well off. I don't know where that phrase came from but that's what we were -- well off.

I'm a little reluctant to say this, but we had what was called a maid. This was during the worst part of the Depression and my mother paid the young woman $16 a week. My mother never worked outside the home.

My mother's father and mother lived with us after "the Gramp" (we called him "The Gramp) lost all his money during the Great Depression. He made close to a fortune at his foundry in Ballston Spa, N.Y., but then lost most of it.

Over the years, I've known a lot of people who had virtues I greatly admired. I admired my grandfather's work ethic, as well as his ability to sit and read great literature most of the night. I wish I could do it. He had no formal education but he should have had the education that was wasted on me.

We all need something to be proud of and I'm proud of my grandfather.

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