Unreal checks in with an outstanding older worker, dusts off our Commontary feature, catches up with an olfactorily obsessed blogger and solicits your cougar questions

Unreal knows (most of) you work hard for a living, and the more hamsters on the wheel, the better, right? Well, Sullivan resident Jean Hines is one old hamster. The 83-year-old was recently named Missouri's 2008 Outstanding Older Worker by Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that provides training and employment for "mature" members of the workforce.

Sullivan works as a finishing supervisor at Carden Machine Shop Inc., a small manufacturer involved in the building of badass aircraft such as the F-18 Hornet, the Osprey helicopter and the F-23 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. Sullivan was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to speak with Unreal.

Unreal: They call you the "Mean Jean Machine." Why?

Jean Hines: I've had that hung on me for a long time. I was a supervisor for a number of years. If you have someone who comes in late a few times a week or is sick, after two or three times you write it up and send them to the office. They know the rules and regulations.

Did you ever imagine that you would be working at 83?

No sir, I didn't. But I've been doing one thing or another all my life. My first job was milking cows and slopping hogs. I was a waitress when I was sixteen and that was back in the late '30s and early '40s.

What was it like to be named Outstanding Older Worker?

In September, we went to the event in Washington, D.C., and there was an elderly person from each state. The third night everyone got dressed up and we had dinner. The lady that won the big trophy was from Nebraska. She was 100 years old and still working 30 hours a week.

How did you stack up next to, say, Idaho?

I think most of them were in their late 70s or 80s. I was kinda middle-aged compared to those people.

I imagine your résumé is quite long at this point.

Oh, well, yeah! First I got married and had five children and stayed at home for seventeen years. Then I worked at a die-casting company for 36 years. Well, business was bad and they downsized. I came here to Carden in 2000. I was 76 and didn't think I'd get hired. I had a pretty good résumé, but I didn't look 76 so I don't think they looked at it very close. But I'm in good shape. And I haven't missed any work and haven't been late.

Do you mock your friends for being unemployed?

I don't visit much with anybody except my kids. My husband passed away at 76. After I do my laundry and my groceries and work 40 hours, my time is pretty much taken.

How much longer do you think you will keep working?

As long as I can get in my honest day's work. If I can't do it, then I can't. 

It's kinda taboo for an entrepreneur in a customer service-type business to be outspoken during a presidential campaign, but Cindy Brenneke, owner of IronWorks Fitness, did some serious public flexing of her muscles in support of John McCain at the gym, which is located inside the Metropolitan Square building downtown.

A true maverick, Brenneke went even further on October 27 when she published a memo to members entitled "Cindy's RANT," excerpts from which (edited to correct typos) constitute this week's Commontary:

I've had two Democrats quit the club because I went out on a limb to tell people what I thought. Because I CARE ABOUT MY COUNTRY, and I worry about the future of Americans. Even if it means others quitting, I will continue to share my thoughts, only because the success of the country and its people is more important to me than money in the bank.

My vote is NOT based on color, but qualifications. Had Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell ran [sic] for president, they would have gotten my vote.

I want more than a promise of "change." I need a move in the right direction. Many who support Obama can't give me one reason to change my vote. All I hear is "I want change." Sometimes I feel the same thing about my own life. If I lost a leg it would guarantee "change" to my life, but that's not the "change" I would want.

[...] I wouldn't support McCain if his list of friends included the leaders of white supremacy groups. Nor do I support anyone who is friends with terrorists. I would much rather have a leader who fought for our country.

[...] I don't want to see everyone on the same level. Obama wants to "spread the wealth," bring everyone to the same level. I thank GOD that there are others who have much more than I will ever dream of having. If everyone were at my level the US would be a very horrible place to live because I would not have the money to invest on improving neighborhoods or schools. I barely have enough to support me. WHY would I want to drag others down to this level? I'm not that stupid.

Next Page »