Have a hard time

To “have a hard time” means to have difficulty with something.

Today's story: Labor shortage
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Have a hard time

Today’s expression is to “have a hard time.” This isn’t a hard one to learn, but it’s really important for you to know. When you have difficulty with something, when you’re trying to do something, but you just can’t seem to do it, you say you’re “having a hard time.”

We usually say “having a hard time” plus an -ing verb. And in fact that’s how you heard it earlier. I said that businesses in the hospitality industry are having a hard time filling jobs . They are having a hard time filling jobs: they’re trying, and some are succeeding, but in general companies in the hospitality industry are short-handed. They can’t seem to find enough workers. Or if they find workers, they suffer from a lot of turnover.

Having a hard time doesn’t necessarily mean something is impossible; it just means it’s a difficult problem to solve and you’re having trouble. Obviously some businesses have all the employees they need. And some businesses may be having a hard time filling positions, but they do manage to do it, for a while. When you hear, “having a hard time,” think “having trouble” or “having difficulty.”

I’m having a hard time getting the printer to work. One of the worst parts about office life is figuring out the printers and fixing paper jams. I’m having a hard time getting the printer to work—do you know how this thing works? I took one of the worst parts about office life and imported it into my own home office. I bought a small printer and scanner that I thought would be simple. And it did work for a while. But now I’m having a hard time getting it to work from some devices.

I’m having a hard time figuring this out. Can you help me? You might say this at work, in school, or at home. If you’re trying to solve a problem, but you can’t seem to resolve it, you can ask someone for help by saying, “I’m having a hard time figuring this out.”

Some more examples: I’m having a hard time logging in. I’m having a hard time finding trustworthy information. The soccer team is having a hard time scoring goals. I’m having a hard time dealing with stress.

Another way to use this expression is to say “having a hard time with,” plus a noun, usually a person. I’m having a hard time with my youngest son these days. That means your youngest son is giving you trouble, maybe misbehaving in school or not helping with household chores. I’m having a hard time with my boss. Or you might say, “I’m having a hard time with this new job.”

Your elderly parents or grandparents might be having a hard time with their new phones. If you own an old house, you might have a hard time with mice or other little critters that find their way into the walls. When I was growing up, we had a hard time with skunks. Not during my entire childhood, thank God, but for a season, we were having a hard time with skunks. They would get into the trash and obviously stink up the yard. Our dog got sprayed by a skunk and had to stay in the garage for a few days. She had a hard time sleeping outside, I’ll tell you that.

Quote of the Week

Today’s quote of the week is one I’m trying to keep in mind myself. I sometimes have a hard time relaxing because I just have too much flowing through my head. But I found this quote and I’m trying to keep it in mind. It’s from the author Anne Lamott: “Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

A couple days ago I was just overwhelmed with so much to do and I felt I could never take a break—I couldn’t even imagine when the work would go away. But I followed that advice, and unplugged for a few minutes, and got to work on the to-do list, one thing after another. I’ve still got a lot going on, but unplugging for a few minutes definitely helps. “Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you,” says the author Anne Lamott.

See you next time!

And that’s all for another Plain English. I want to acknowledge, as I so often do, that everyone’s experience with the vaccine and the economy is so different. Here in the US and in other parts of the world, demand is surging back and we have tons of jobs open. But I know in many, many other places—including where we have a lot of listeners—the vaccine is slow to roll out, and there are not enough jobs. And India is just coming off a brutal wave of Covid. So this is obviously not everyone’s experience—but hang in there, and I’m crossing my fingers that you can all get your vaccines and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Coming up on Thursday: scams on dating apps surged during the Covid lockdowns, and you will not believe what scammers are doing now. I was shocked. I’ll give you a hint: it could land the victim—the victim of the scam—in jail. That’s coming up on Thursday, see you then.

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Story: Labor shortage