Soul of Work is a self help book that focuses on assisting
its readers to find the right work. Louise Underdahl, PhD
is the researcher and author of this book. "Transcendent work"
is her term to describe motivating work, which results in
maximum job satisfaction for the employee.
According to Dr. Underdahl: "Personal
experience underscores the value and rewards of work. But, not all work is
equal. Only transcendent work lifts the spirit and gives meaning to the
vicissitudes and vagaries of life. This is, indeed, the soul of work."
The author was first introduced to the concept
of transcendent work by her family. Her father, an aeronautical engineer, never
lost his enthusiasm for working at McDonnell Douglas. Her mother took pride in
creating a beautiful and orderly home. Her grandparents espoused a simple creed:
"To rise each day and do one's work is God's greatest blessing."
She feels fortunate to have found opportunities
to utilize the academic training which took decades to complete:
BA (English Literature
MSLS (Library Science - USC)
MPA (Public Administration - USC)
PhD (Public Administration - USC)
Her present position as Risk Analyst in UCLA
Health System's Risk Management Department exemplifies transcendent work at its
About the Concept
Knowledge of Life
At 97, Arthur Winston has seen much
change in L.A.
But one constant has been his job: 70 years
cleaning buses -- with just one day's absence.
Kurt Streeter. Los
Angeles Times Los Angeles,
Calif.: Feb 13, 2004. pg. A.1
and sharp and bearing down on 100 years of living,
Arthur Winston has drawn a bead on what it takes to age
up the credit cards. They don't do nothing
more than bring about worry. Worry will kill you.
off the couch. Stop in one place too long, you
freeze up. Freeze up, you're done for.
as long and hard as you possibly can. Folks
retire, they end up on the front porch watching the
street go by. Despair sets in, you're good as gone."
probably older than you. If not, he has probably worked
longer. If not, he has probably seen and struggled
through more of society's changes, most of them
experienced from a single vantage point: a sprawling
South Los Angeles bus yard.
as Deke to some and Mr. Winston to most, he is walking
history and living parable. A 97-year-old black man who
turned the sting of racism into something sweet. A man
who plans on loving every bit of life until his very
last breath. A witness to the ways a city has changed,
for better and worse.
1924, at age 17, Mr. Winston started cleaning trolley
cars for the Los Angeles Railway Co., which morphed and
merged nearly half a dozen times and is now the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
that job for a spell, then went back Jan. 24, 1934.
never left. For 70 years and counting, Mr. Winston has
worked for the transit agency as a service attendant,
applying spit, polish and love to vehicles ranging from
the current fleet of buses to the trolley cars that once
made the Los Angeles transit system a marvel.
long as he has endured, he has been astonishingly
years, according to the MTA, Mr. Winston has missed just
a single day of work -- the day his wife died in 1988.
The records show that he has never been late, never left
early. He has never been so sick that a gulp of milk of
magnesia couldn't stave off illness and let him drive
down Arlington Avenue in the predawn darkness for yet
closest to him in seniority at the MTA has 25 fewer
years on the job, and weeks of absences. A spokesman for
the U.S. Department of Labor says he's never heard of
anyone like Mr. Winston. The American Public
Transportation Assn. searched and could not find anybody
like him in the transit industry.
Winston," says Donna Aggazio, a spokeswoman for the
association, "appears to be one of kind."
spot him easily if you saw him at the bus yard. There he
is, zigzagging in the oily air across acres of asphalt,
through scores of buses and dozens of co-workers, most
of them five and six decades younger.
walk is slow, but he can easily speed to a jog if he
sees a 15-ton bus coming his way. He is slight, 5 feet
7, with skin the color of a cigar leaf. He hears what he
wants to, has a straight back, a firm grip and keen,
South L.A., Mr. Winston is something of a celebrity --
the result of being around so long that he seems to know
just about everybody (or everybody's
great-grandparents). People fuss over him. The barber
refuses to take his money. Men in their 60s and 70s stop
to tell Mr. Winston they have been emulating him since
they were boys.
walks into soul food restaurants, where he feasts on
oxtail, collard greens and gumbo, heads turn, forks drop
and people whisper: "There's that man; they say he's
worked 70 years."
First African Methodist Episcopal Church -- one of
several churches he attends, depending on his mood --
the congregation rises and claps when they spot him.
From the pulpit: "We have a special guest, the oldest
employee at the MTA, 97 and still going! Mr. Winston,
raise your hands so everyone can see you!"
work, it is much the same. "We wouldn't know what to do
without him," says his boss, Alex DiNuzzo. "Once he
arrives, we sort of know everything is going to be all
Winston lives with his 26-year-old great-granddaughter
and 2- year-old great-great-grandson in a small,
well-kept home just south of the Santa Monica Freeway.
He wakes at 4:30 each weekday morning, cooks up his
Malt-O-Meal, takes time putting on his uniform, then
drives his 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass to the yard.
parks at a spot reserved for him. (Don't let anyone park
in Mr. Winston's space, for that person will surely hear
about it.) He clocks in. Then he sets about supervising
a crew of nine men and women who do the heavy lifting --
carrying tools up ladders, whooshing grime out of buses
with powerful hoses, lugging carts of ammonia, soap and
mops around the yard.
Sometimes Mr. Winston watches over the workers, just to
keep them moving. Sometimes he helps check in buses.
Sometimes he finds a dirty bus and starts working on it
himself. Almost always, it seems, he is standing and
ain't hard," says Mr. Winston, blowing into his hands to
keep warm on a recent morning. "Just keep moving. Keep
from freezing up."
Winston says he learned the value of work while growing
up in a dusty Oklahoma farm town, before the boll weevil
devoured the cotton crops in 1919 and the family took
the train to Los Angeles.
good enough, his daddy taught him while they plowed the
fields together, just to be "a working man."
men, Mr. Winston says, are simple and humble people.
They use the money they earn wisely. They do not rush.
They arrive 15 minutes before every shift. They keep
their uniforms crisp. They see to it, even if the boss
doesn't ask and the job doesn't call for it, that no bus
leaves with grimy rims. And they absolutely do not fuss
or mope or complain.
values, he says, have allowed him to survive.
one of his credos is that one should not spend too much
time dwelling on the past, Mr. Winston will tell you
that, when he started working at the bus and trolley
yard, the bosses would fire a black man in a flash.
Whites and blacks didn't mix then.
were separate bathrooms and separate lunch rooms. Mr.
Winston started out earning 41 cents an hour and made
that much for nearly his first 10 years. His white
co-workers got 51 cents and regular raises.
ugly," he says. "But there was nothing we could really
do about it. Not a thing."
Winston wanted to be a driver. Blacks weren't allowed to
drive. They weren't even allowed to be mechanics. They
were allowed to clean the buses and trolley cars.
time opportunity opened up and he could have trained to
be a driver, Mr. Winston was approaching middle age. His
wife, Frances, ran a seamstress shop. They were settled.
It was too late, he figured, to learn a new job.
stayed and he worked -- day by day by day. He also
watched things change.
mid-1950s the trolley cars were pretty much gone. The
companies that owned the rail routes were swapping
trains for buses, figuring they could make more money.
Mr. Winston sees it, the trolleys stopped running at
just the wrong moment. Just when the civil rights
movement was blossoming, with a new openness afoot, Los
Angeles lost its trains and became a city of distant,
L.A., he says, has not been on sure ground since. The
1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s were stormy, but he worked
the whole time, taking advantage of the fact that
service attendants didn't have a mandatory retirement
were low points. Riots. Rising crime. The death of his
wife and of his father, who lived 99 years until
"sickness got him," says Mr. Winston. "Thirty-three days
later, he was gone."
were high points too. The Olympics, when the city,
taking gridlock seriously for once, boosted its bus
system and Mr. Winston worked double shifts. The rebirth
of the commuter train in Los Angeles. (Mr. Winston is
adamant that if he were running the MTA, he'd build
monorail routes all over the city.)
highest point of all came in 1997, when the MTA decided
to name the bus yard after an elderly service attendant.
the agency has 15 bus and rail yards, also known as
"divisions." Most are identified by numbers -- Division
1 downtown, Division 15 in the San Fernando Valley. Only
one is named for a person: The Arthur Winston Bus
Division, off 54th Street and Van Ness Avenue.
guess, if you take things day by day, you live long
enough. And if you live long enough, you see things you
never thought you'd see," says Mr. Winston, walking
around the yard, looking for specks of dirt on
windshields. "That's sort of how it is with them naming
this place after me.... Of course, I'm not leaving just
because it's got my name on it. If I did, you'd probably
see me freeze up and get sick. If I got sick I'd
probably die ... in about 33 days."
later he hops inside MTA bus No. 4717. Something's
wrong. He can smell it. He eyes the floor. A passenger
has vomited on an early morning run, forcing the bus
back into the yard for a cleaning.
get this thing better, so it can get back out on the
road," he says, sloshing warm water and soap on the
floor. He stoops. He scrubs. He mops and polishes the
floor and vinyl seats. He gets down on his knees and
uses a metal putty knife.
Finished, he steps off the bus, smiling.
many times have I cleaned up something like that?" he
ponders. "Oh, thousands of times. Too many to count."