Mar 14 2012

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A short story by L.A. Steel


In the vast constant of industrial activity man becomes engrossed by the accumulation of wealth. Regardless of how insignificant the amount of money earned, it  is the foremost concern of an individual.  One dollar or one million dollars is the reward for someone’s ingenuity to accumulate or earn his expected compensation.   Oh, that I should be able to earn unlimited wealth without the toil of industry.  But that is impossible.  For every dime earned a dime’s worth of industry must be completed. It is the just and universal “Law of Compensation”, that directs the ebb and flow of commerce and industry.  We accept our just or unjust rewards as we accept our fate.   But there  is luck, and there do exist people who have defied fate and won.

A man or woman who is unfairly paid for their work either accepts their fate or fights against the injustice.  I have never been paid less than I was worth to my employer.  What ever  the compensation was I was generally glad to be paid.  Only once in my working career was I ever unjustly treated for the amount I was paid.  When I was Twenty years old I worked odd jobs for a temporary job service, I was attending college during the normal school year and finding work during the summers.  Every morning at 6 AM, I would have to be at the job service office to apply for a job, since the majority of jobs were one day only. Some could lead to a week or month depending on how well the assigned company liked you.  If you had a car it was a definite plus, however  on occasion I  was often asked to transport those who did not have transportation to the job site.  It was an odd crew of men and women , mostly men who applied for and received day jobs in construction or factory work.

I remember an older man named Henry, who had a  drinking problem, but managed to stay sober until lunch time. After lunch he was dangerous to work with.  Henry and I had gotten a temporary assignment for one week’s work at a metal recycling plant. Henry did not drive, and  did not have a license, I drove him to the job site each day.  The pay was one dollar an hour above minimum wage which at the time was $2.00 per hour.  $3.00 an hour was almost respectable.  Henry was very happy to get the assignment, and so was I.  A full week  or 40 hours at $3.00 an hour was enough to pay my rent for the month , buy food, gas and still have enough left over for a six pack or two of beer. This was great wealth for a 20 year old college student.  It was also great wealth for Henry who was a 60 year old indigent .

Each day I would pick up Henry at the job office and we would go to the recycling plant.   Henry had been assigned the job at the plant before and said it was a great job, with little supervision and the bosses left you alone as long as you did your work.  I wasn’t aware of exactly what type of work it was since the job was classified as Laborer.  Henry explained that it could be anything from crushing metal to sweeping floors, but he hoped it was the metal crushing job, because he enjoyed that.  I asked old Henry how he became in need of temporary work , to which he replied, “ Don’ t really know, just lost my real job one day and never got another full time one. “  I can remember his statement to this day, because of the grim tone in his voice and the sudden nod of his head as he seemed to try to shake the memory out of his head.

The first day on the job we arrived at the recycling plant before 7:00am. The job started at 7:00 and lasted until 3:30pm with a half hour lunch break and one 10 minute break  in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I remember walking into the recycling yard, seeing car frames old steel and girders and metal appliances strewn throughout he fenced in yard.  Henry led the way into the foreman’s office as we reported for work.  The foreman met us with an indifferent smirk and said  ,”Hello Henry , am I going to get a full day’s work out of you today?”  Henry smiled sheepishly and replied,” You always get a full day’s work from me.”  The foreman did not respond and handed us a form to fill out.  We filled them out as we leaned against his desk in the small office.  When we finished he led us into the metal yard and showed us a metal crushing machine designed to crush and compress  small to midsize metal objects.  Henry had worked it before however I had never seen a machine like it before, and reared back at the size of it, and the deepness of the opening of the crusher. Our job was to throw into the crusher all the metal we were supplied.  A bulldozer pushed the metal parts and pieces up into a large mount next to the crusher and it was our job to sort the pieces by size and type of metal, aluminum , steel, or tin.

Our first load was all aluminum cans.  Thousands of them.  I threw them into the crusher while Henry pushed the button and released the safety lever.   Henry would smile with glee each time he pressed the button and released the safety lever as we watched thousands of cans being crushed and formed onto a block of metal.  At 10:00 am we took our first break and sat on the platform leaning up against the railings. I had a thermos of coffee and Henry bought a Coke from a vending machine that stood outside the foreman’s office.  I was already tired  from loading tons of metal into the crusher, and Henry was staring silently at the deep opening of the crusher.   We said little  to each other except for an occasional nod of recognition, while we  both contemplated the seemingly endless amount of metal waiting to be crushed, as the bulldozer started up its engine when our break was over.  We both knew it was important to keep busy, and not look like we were slacking.  We both wanted to keep the job for the week, and we had already spent the money, in our minds.

I could tell Henry was worried, but he said nothing as we began to work again.  He swept in the loose aluminum cans and wiped his forehead with a dirty handkerchief.  He looked tired, but as soon as the crusher was full he released the safety and pushed the button and a smile came over his face as the last hour of work was crushed and compressed .  He gave a shout as the process completed as if he was releasing some inner beast, as he gazed over the completed crushing, like the world of his demons was destroyed and put in its place.  He was the Crusher King, the man of the minute, he stood back away from the opening and lit up a cigarette.  I joined him an lit one up as well. We had worked hard that morning, throwing the twisted  metal into the crusher. It seemed like tons of metal had been carried away that morning and we were both pleased that we had accomplished something worthwhile.   Henry said,”  That stuff is going to make more cans, and cars, and whatever else it can make.”  He had a sense of pride in his voice and stature.  He stood up straight for the first time that morning and looked at the sky as though he was victorious.  I couldn’t understand why he was so happy until the foreman came up to the platform and said,


”Great Job Henry , you are really putting up a head of steam today. This new kid is working out well with you.”

Henry looked down at the foreman, who was standing on the ground next to the base of the crusher.  He smiled at the foreman and said,

“Yep, the kid doesn’t talk much but he’s a steady worker.”

The foreman replied,

“ I’m glad we got him for the week. At the pace you guys are going we might clear this place out . Take a break you guys deserve it.”

I knew we were staying busy all morning, but I didn’t realize how busy we had been.  The forklift driver hadn’t returned yet for the next load, and we rested until he came back.  It was good to know I was likely to keep the job for the rest of the week, and Henry beamed as if he had been given a promotion. That was our first day, we had four more to go.  I told Henry to take it a little easier in the afternoon, because it was beginning to get hot, and it was going to reach into the high eighties.  Henry laughed and said ,

“We’ve done almost a whole day’s work and it ain’t even lunch yet. We’ll take it a little easier  this afternoon.”

I hadn’t realized how much we had accomplished.  As I worked  that morning throwing metal into the crusher, I was off in another world.  I was thinking about the previous weekend when I made 20 dollars doing pencil portraits of people in the park. I charged 5 dollars each with a cardboard matting.  I had only drawn 4 pictures all afternoon.  It was easier  than lifting metal, but business was only good on weekends, and several other artists were competing with me.  Another artist worked in pastels and charged 7 dollars a portrait.  He was also better than I was, but 7 dollars in those days was a lot of money, 5 dollars was a lot of money.  Each portrait took me 15 to 20 minutes. Few people could sit much longer , and children sitting had to be a very quick draw.  If it didn’t look quite right I’d charge $3.00 and threw in the mat.  It made them happy and gave them something to take home.  As I daydreamed about other ways of making money, my body was into auto pilot and I kept throwing metal into the crusher.  I didn’t realize then , that my body knew more about industry than my mind did.

As the afternoon progressed the heat began to rise and sweat poured off my forehead , my hair was wet, and my shirt was soaked.  Henry’s side of the crusher stayed shaded until mid afternoon, when the sun heated the metal platform and the heat reflected off the steel rails and metal floor.  It felt like 100 degrees on  the platform by 2:00pm.  Henry was showing signs of exhaustion, while I was about to give up , when the yard whistle blew for break time. There was a 5 minute wait in line at the vending machine to get a cold soda.   The yard workers were al l in tee shirts and sun burned, I kept my shirt on so as not to burn.  Henry never took his off either.  Another hour and a half before quitting time, and no one was sure they were going to make it through the rest of the day.  The foreman gave us all a few extra minutes after the whistle and stayed inside his air conditioned office for most of the afternoon.  Henry watched him as he went inside and said, “ Good Job boys, now get back to work.” It was then that I felt the futility of what I was doing.  It was impossible to continue the pace of the morning , and everyone in the metal yard was laying back.  If you didn’t get the hint and continued to work hard, you were a fool.  I was 20 years old, most of the men were over 35, and Henry was nearly 60.  I wasn’t going to pick up the slack, nor was I going to die of heat exhaustion.  I found a shaded spot under the crusher, and Henry joined me.  He said he couldn’t do much more in the heat but to watch for the foreman.    As the workers slowed down,  and the heat rose into the high eighties the yard had come to virtual stand still.  By 3:00pm no  one was working and several men were in the foreman’s air conditioned office waiting out their time.  Henry and I  were fortunate we had hustled in the morning, because the foreman didn’t bother us as we slowed  down to a snail’s pace.

We managed  to limp along until 3:30 as the whistle blew. Henry said we had to stop in the foreman’s office and get our paper work and ask him about us working the following day. As we entered the foreman’s office he told us to close the door and sit down.  He smiled at Henry and said, Henry I’m glad you’re back , this kid is working well with you. Then he looked at me and said,

“You did a good job today, I’m going to keep you on for the rest of the week if you want the job.”

I looked at him thankfully and replied;

“Yes, that would be great.”

Then he said,

“I think I’ll leave you with Henry tomorrow , and then put you on something else for the rest of the week.  One guy is out on comp this week and another guy had to take a leave.

Henry and I agreed and took our paperwork and returned to the Job Office. We told the secretary that they liked us and we had the job for the week. She said the company had called and requested the two of us for the week.  I patted Henry on the back and told him I would pick him up the following day, then went home.

The rest of the week went well and I was paid that Friday afternoon.  I was relieved that the job was over and could never see myself doing it for a living. The tedium and physical exhaustion , and insecurity were enough to make anyone drink, smoke, or overdose from boredom. I had done many menial labor jobs in the past, but I was determined it would never become my career.  All I wanted was to get through the summer with enough money to survive, until I went back to school in the fall.  I had a student aid job at the college and tutored Art and History. All I knew how to do was work for someone else, draw , and play the guitar. I couldn’t live as a starving artist, or starving musician, or starving student, and wondered if anyone could.  All my artist and musician friends were working other jobs or going to school.  For some reason we all existed on hopes and dreams, that kept our stomachs and wallets empty , but our minds and hearts full. Most of us were happy, and creatively productive, except when we worked our other jobs.

Everything that exists in commerce must be sold, or exchanged.  Without these essentials no money can be made. If we sell our work as artists or musicians we must become salesmen or hire salesmen to sell our work.  Salesmanship is the grease that keeps the wheels of industry moving.  Selling what someone wants or what someone needs.  Salesmanship and Industry work hand and hand, without a product a salesman has nothing to sell. Without a salesman no product can be sold.  This was my first revelation of industry, when I became a salesman.  Not a great salesmen, but a good one.  There were several other incidences of industry that I had to experience before I saw the light, but the one that brought me to the greatest understanding of human injustice and the need for labor rights and laws, was several weeks after working for the recycling plant.   I was still working day jobs and the job service was assigning me work everyday, because I was reliable and had transportation.  One day they had a construction job and needed three men, I was asked if I would drive the other two to the job site.  I agreed since we were all at the same place going to the same job.

The job was at a subdivision of houses whose grounds needed to be mulched.   I had never done this type of work before or operated a mulcher.  It was a large tractor like machine that mixed up dry mulch with water  that was sprayed onto the ground with a six inch diameter hose.  The two men I drove to the site were both middle aged, Joe was a black man in his late forties and Pepe was  Puerto Rican . Both had been working day jobs for several  years, neither had licenses or owned a car.  Pepe spoke broken English, and Joe was a humble man that life had treated harshly.   He smiled a lot for no apparent reason, while Pepe was very quiet.

When we arrived at the job site, we were met by another crew of men who were assigned to another section of the subdivision.   As we approached the company trailer we were met by a short husky man who said he was the supervisor for our crew.  He was very dark  Hispanic man , and later I was told by Joe that he was Cuban.  As we stood near the trailer as the Cuban man spoke in a heavy Spanish accent, as he pointed to a pickup truck  and said” Eby one git in truck.”  He pointed to  several lawn rakes laying together on the ground next to the trailer and said, “Take rake.” We each took a rake and climbed into the back of the pickup truck. As we drove to the house that needed to be mulched Joe said to Pepe and me,” Watch out for this guy, he’s a real ball buster.”    I asked what was wrong with him, to which Joe replied,  “I don’t know but he can be  mean, just do what he tells you to do.”

I asked him what set the guy off, and what did he do  that was mean.  He replied,” He likes to ride you. Just do what he says and don’t give him a reason to get on your ass.”

My reply to Joe was, “ No one has the right to ride my ass.”

I put out a fair days work, but no one was going to work me into the ground, on a dirt covered yard. Maybe I was too on my guard when the truck stopped, but I could tell immediately by the way he ordered Joe to get on the mulcher and spoke to Pepe in Spanish,  then gave me a dirty look and told me to “follow them.”   I had a bad feeling that I might be in for a very long day. As Pepe started up the tractor Joe got on the top of the Mulcher and told me to hand him a 50 lb bag of mulch that was laying on the ground next to the Mulcher and to pile the 10 other bags on the tail gate of the machine.  I lifted the bag up to him as he opened it and began to poor the mulch into the mulcher, then he told me to bring him the hose that was set up on the side of the house to pour water into the mulcher to mix the mulch.  I handed the hose to Joe after he poured the mulch into the machine. He mixed the mulch to a certain consistency and said,” Ok, you take the big hose and start to spray the yard evenly as Pepe drives the tractor back and forth along the yard. Then we rake the mulch evenly over the whole yard.”

I had never run a mulcher before , and didn’t think handling the six inch wide hose would be a problem. As  Pepe started the tractor and Joe started the mulcher,  I was standing behind the mulcher holding a six inch wide 10ft long hose , waiting for the mulch to pour out of it. As Pepe lined up the tractor into the first sweep Joe opened the spray duct and I held the hose as green slime forced its way out of the hose and onto the ground.  The flow was thick and slow at first but as the mulcher ground the mix with the water it loosened up and began to spray with greater force.  I had difficulty trying to hold  the hose as the Cuban was watching us.  He began to shout “ Hold it out and side to side!” Then he shouted at Pepe to drive the tractor faster, and for Joe to keep filling the mulcher, while I handled the hose.  The force of the mulch coming out of the hose was hard to handle and I could not keep it pouring in straight rows, until the Cuban ran over to me and started to curse at me in Spanish.  I had no idea what he was talking about and could not hear him over the noise of the tractor and mulcher, then I yelled at Joe to stop the mulcher .  Joe thought something was wrong and shut the mulcher down, until the Cuban began to yell at him not to stop the machine.  As I  put the hose on the ground to try and hear what he was saying, Joe started up the mulcher again and before I could pick up the hose from the ground a large flood of mulch was released directly at the Cuban, who was turned away from me waving his hands at Joe and Pepe telling them to keep going. As Pepe moved the tractor forward the hose jerked upwards and blasted the Cuban all over his back and head. I tried to pick up the hose and redirect it but the pressure was too great.  Joe saw what was happening and shut off the flow valve as the Cuban began to yell and scream at me at the top of his lungs.   “Stupid! Stupid! Idiot! Idiot !” As I saw his anger and his entire body covered in green mulch I began to laugh hysterically.  I couldn’t help laughing at him, then Joe and Pepe began to laugh, as the Cuban kept shouting at me in Spanish.

The Green mulch covered Cuban foreman, started to wave his hands up and down , while directing his anger  at me and continued to yell,

“Stupid, Idiot, you fired, go, now!!!”

I didn’t  know what to say except begin to laugh at how ridiculous he looked. His head and face, and entire body was covered in green slim.  He looked like the” Swamp Thing”.  I was still holding the hose and put it down.  I tried to apologize to him but he would not listen.  He then said , “Get out , you are fired!!!”

I turned to look at Joe and Pepe and said, “Can you guys get a ride home? If I’m fired guys I’m not staying here for the day to take you back. The green  guy  will have to drive you back.”

I had only been on the job site for an hour.  The foreman wouldn’t let me use the phone to call the job office, so I said goodbye to everyone and walked off the job.  As I walked away I heard Joe say, “Hey wait up, I’ll come with you. I ‘m not walking home.”

It would have been better for me to keep walking away, but I didn’t and turned around.  Then Joe jumped off the mulcher and told the slimed foreman that he didn’t have a ride home and he couldn’t stay unless he had a ride.  Pepe stopped the tractor and got off .  He waved at me and walked over to where we were all standing.  He spoke to the foreman in Spanish, then looked at me and said, “I come with you too.”

As Joe and I began to walk towards the street, where I had parked the car, Pepe followed us as the foreman shouted,

” You go now you not get paid.”

None of us cared , It was more important for Joe and Pepe to get a ride home than to work for the day. The subdivision was 15 miles from the Job Service office, and Joe and Pepe knew they couldn’t  trust  the Forman to drive them back.    When we did not turn around the foreman shouted,

“ OK none of you are fired.”

He realized he had no one left to work for him, and if everyone quit or was fired, the Job Service would not supply anyone else, and possibly discontinue the contract.  He was up the creek without a paddle and covered in green mulch.  Joe and Pepe looked at me and Joe said,

“You still gonna leave?”

I replied, “I don’t trust him, he could still screw me over before the day ends.”

Joe asked,

“This guy is jerk, but If we are willing to walk off the job, I think he will back off the rest of the day.”

Then the foreman said,

“Go to work or leave, I don’t care.”

I looked at Pepe who remained quiet, and said,

“Do you guys want to stay?”

Pepe said he would stay if I did, and Joe agreed.  I told them that I would stay, but if the bastard gave me any trouble I would leave.  They both agreed and we turned back towards the mulcher.   The foreman said nothing and walked back towards the house, as we went back to work. Pepe and Joe had done this work before and worked for the same foreman .  I didn’t want to lose a day’s wages nor did the others, and we thought the foreman would stay off our backs if we threatened to leave.  We went back to work and began to mulch the yard.  The lawn was over an acre, and needed to be completely seeded.  We finished the yard  just before lunch and only saw the foreman once. He left to change his clothes and stayed in the construction office most of the morning. After lunch he was back in full swing and insisted we took too long to do the first yard and had to have two more yards done before the end of the day.

By lunch Joe , Pepe and I had put in a hard morning’s work,  but we lost almost an hour of work time, because of the dispute, and a 15 minute break.  After lunch the foreman was in no better mood than he was that morning.  Now that we had worked half a day , he thought he could push us that afternoon.  He started by yelling at us to start.  I slowly got up off the ground where we were sitting when he said,
“You, smart guy, work faster. “

I gave him a dirty look and said, “What?”

He stared at me as though he were going to fire me again, but said nothing.  As Joe got up from the ground the foreman said to him,

“Go faster , need this done today.”

Joe didn’t respond and looked at me and grinned,  and whispered to me.

“Ignore the guy. We’ll work at our own pace.”

Pepe got back on the tractor as Joe climbed onto the mulcher.   I stood on the back of the mulcher as Pepe drove the tractor and us to the next yard.   As we began to mulch the mulcher became clogged and we had to shut it down to clean it out.  The foreman saw we had stopped and ran over to us shouting , “Get back to work! No breaks now!”   Joe shouted back at him,” The Mulcher is stuck, we need to clean it out.!”

Then the foreman replied, “More water! Put in more water!”  The next yard did not have a hose  and we had forgotten to bring the hose from the other house.   The foreman was angry that we had forgotten to take the hose and shouted at us, “Stupid, why didn’t take the hose?”  Joe was embarrassed for being called stupid and looked at me saying,

“Go back and get the hose from the other house, we need to refill the mulcher. I thought we had enough water in it , but it must of settled during lunch.  I’ll keep trying to free it up with this stick.”

Joe grabbed what he called the Mixing stick, and tried to break up the clog, as I went to the house next  door to get the hose . The subdivision consisted of 15 homes, all in different stages of completion.  Three were completed except for the lawn seeding and some minor landscaping.   Water was supplied to the three completed houses.  As I walked across the yard, the Foreman began walking towards me, He was waving his arms, and shouting,” Back to work, go back to work!” I shouted to him that I needed the hose connected to the other house. He then shouted” Stupid, you Stupid.”

I was getting annoyed at his calling Joe and I stupid and walked up to him and said,

“ Why are you calling me stupid?”

He looked at me and replied,” You are stupid. Why didn’t you take the hose with you before, or fill up the mulcher before you went to the next yard? “

I told him the mulch had settled during lunch and got clogged  and needed more water.  He began to wave his arms and shout,. “ This job must be done today! Must be done today.!”

I laughed at him and said, “You call us stupid and expect us to keep working for you?”

His face became flush  as he said,” You trouble, too much trouble, mister smart guy, no more you after today.”

I laughed at his flustered attempt to intimidate  me and replied” No more me today. I quit.”

I threw my work gloves at his feet and began to walk away, when I saw Joe running across the yard. He saw I was pissed off and leaving and didn’t want to be left behind.  The Foreman began to yell at Joe for leaving the mulcher, but Joe ignored him, and shouted, “Don’t leave without me!”

Then Pepe shut down the tractor and ran over to us saying “I go with you. “  It was about 1:00 pm and we had put in more than half a day’s work, but we all knew the foreman was going to bust our asses the rest of the day and it just wasn’t worth the aggravation.  I could see Joe was tired, as he wiped the sweat and mulch off his forehead. My shoes were covered with mulch and wet, and my pants were also wet from handling the hose.  I was ready to clear out of there and so was everyone else.  As I began to walk away towards the car Joe and Pepe followed .  Joe began to laugh at me and said, “Man no one has ever handled the Cuban the way you did. You are a hero.”   Pepe stayed silent for several moments until I asked him if he was Ok.  He looked at me sincerely and said, “I hate that guy. I need the money but I feel good we are leaving.”

We all walked down the sidewalk in front of the three houses until we got to where I had parked my car. We could hear the Cuban yelling at us “YOU FIRED, YOU NOT BE PAID!”  I stopped for a moment and turned around to look at him.  I yelled back, “YOU’RE FIRED, YOU WON’T BE PAID.  IF YOU DO NOT PAY ME I WILL SUE YOU AND YOUR COMPANY!!!”

With those words  the Cuban started to run down the sidewalk towards us waving his hands in the air shouting, “YOU FIRED, GET OUT , YOU TERRIBLE WORKER, GET OUT !!!!”   As  he began to run towards us Joe said “ Shit, let’s get out of here. I’ve never seen that guy so angry, he might hit you.”  I laughed and said,” I hope he does then I own the bastard.”

I unlocked the car door and Joe got in the passage side front seat as Pepe got in the back seat. I watched the Cuban for several  seconds waiting to see if he would keep running towards us , but he stopped when Joe and Pepe got into the car.  He knew we had all had enough , and he knew he was in trouble. He would have to explain to his boss how he lost 3 men and couldn’t finish the rush job.  He stood stupidly looking at me as I waved to him and got in the car.  As I sat in the seat Joe began to laugh as he looked at the Cuban standing on the sidewalk staring at us.  Joe then said, “ He’s fucked. We’re fucked too but he’s really fucked.”  I told Joe, we did the right thing. No one has the right to harass and fuck with us. “


As we drove away the Cuban stood still and watched us.  I was certain he would call the Temp office and complain. Joe said, “ What are we going to say when we get to the office?”  I replied that “We just tell them what happened.”  Pepe then said, “ They won’t like it. We worked there for many days and put up with him. Many times I wanted to leave, but I had no car.”  Joe said, “Yeah, he is a real prick, he even made us skip lunch one day and gave us one break. I’m glad you left him standing there, I’m glad I came with you. Fuck that Cuban bastard.  There are other  jobs.”

I apologized to Joe and Pepe for leaving , but I told them I had no other choice.  They told me that the guy I replaced didn’t come back after his first day. The Cuban ran him ragged, but he didn’t get angry like I did. They asked me why  I was doing day labor, and I explained that I was doing it during the summer and was going back to school full time in the Fall.  Joe looked at me and did not reply as Pepe said, “ That’s good, you never have to do this work again.”   I told him I didn’t mind working , I just refuse to work for someone who disrespects me and treats me like an animal.  Joe nodded  in agreement and said,” You’re right you know.  He was a bastard and had no right calling us stupid, and putting us down.  No one has to take that shit.”    Joe continued ,” I worked for a man once who kept me down so I wouldn’t ask  him for a raise or time off.  My X wife told me I was his slave, and to quit my job. I couldn’t quit cause I thought I had no where else to go.  I had been beaten down by him for 10 years, breaking my back with no insurance.  I guess I was stupid.”

I asked him why his marriage  broke up, to which he replied, “ She didn’t respect me anymore, and I didn’t respect myself enough to quit my job and do something else. I had a kid and a lot of bills.”  I asked him when did he finally leave his job, to which he replied,” After my wife left me. I  hit the bottle a lot back then and one day I couldn’t take her bringing me down anymore and hit her.  I had never hit her before, but she hit a nerve in me where I couldn’t go down any further.  I couldn’t  be disrespected like that by my own wife.  It was the last straw and she had it with me.  She left the same night and went  to stay with her mother and took the kid.  We never got back together after that, and she served papers on me at work.  My boss brought the sheriff over to me while I was working in the factory and smirked when the sheriff served me the divorce papers.  That fucker was laughing at me, like I was a fucking loser. I had been down so long I decided to finally climb out of the cellar and told him to fuck off.   He then told me to get my stuff and that I was fired. The motherfucker fired me  in front of the sheriff; after 10 years of hard , honest work, the same day I got served divorce papers.  What kind of a prick would do that?”

I asked Joe if the guy was still in business , Joe replied “Yeah he’s still there, but you know I’m glad I’m out of there but I wish I had enough guts to quit long before he fired me.  He took the last of my self respect when he did that.  He had to prove that he was the man.  He hated blacks and Hispanics but he hired them cause white men refuse to work for shit wages and bad treatment.  He had his brother working with him who was the foreman .  He was a prick too but not as bad as his brother.”

I asked Joe how long he had  been without a job. He replied,” Too long. I haven’t had a steady job since then. My wife took the car, and what little money I had saved, and I had child support so everything I make extra beyond rent and food goes to them.  She works, but it ain’t enough with the kid.”

He paused for a moment and started to grin.  Then he shook his head and began to laugh.  I asked him what was so funny, and he replied while still laughing. “I can’t get that picture of the Cuban covered in green slime out of my head.  That was the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen .  He was so damned mad I thought he was going to bust a vein. “   Pepe began to laugh too, when he said, “I tried not to laugh at him , but I laughed to myself all day thinking of him in green slime. I don’t think I will ever forget that.  It was so funny.”

As they were both laughing at the image of the Swamp Thing, I began to laugh with them.  The thought of the Cuban standing there covered in green slime was a hysterical sight . His jumping around and waving his hands while calling me and idiot was really very, very funny.  To this day over 35 years later the image is clearly fixed in my memory.  I never saw Joe or Pepe again after that day.   The job service sided with the company against us .  I felt responsible for getting Joe and Pepe in trouble and took the blame for walking off the job.  As it turned out the Cuban didn’t have a problem with Joe and Pepe walking, his complaint was specifically against me.  I tried to defend my position but to no avail.  The construction company was a big account for the Job service company and one day worker’s harassment complaint wasn’t worth the loss of a big contract.  The secretary patiently heard my defense and said she would tell the boss about it, and he would decide  what to do.   I knew I’d likely never get a job with the service again, but gratefully she did cut  me a check for half a days’ wages.   It was a wise move to pay me that day to avoid a complaint to the Labor Dept.


It was already late August and school was starting again in a week or so.  I had enough money to hold me over until my student aid tutoring job began in a few weeks.  I took the last 2 weeks off and enjoyed the remainder of the summer.  I was satisfied with myself that I had the stamina and courage to walk off that job.   That action was a definitive moment in my life, though  I didn’t realize it then. A few years later I saw the trait for what it was when I quit a corporate job.  Suit jobs or menial jobs are all the same regarding  bosses and your own self respect.  How much will you put up with? How much will you take? How much stress can you live with before it destroys you?   We can only take so much pain and punishment, so much stress until its weight crushes us, so much disrespect and lowly expectations that we are no longer human or humane.  This is what the masters of industry forget.  This is what governments forget . This is what slaves forget.  They all forget that every man, woman and child has their breaking point. That definitive moment in their lives when thy must make the decision to leave an abusive situation and take charge of their lives, or accept the emptiness and dread they feel as part of their life, and never expecting things to change or get better.  A person’s life long work can not effectively produce anything admirable or effective if it is produced by slavery.  Industry depends upon integrity of employers and employees.   Honest and fair dealings by both parties will always generate he most productive work environment.  This is why Google and other innovated companies take so much care and interest in their employees.  Their CEOs understand that a happy  employee is an asset to their company from a productive standpoint and a creative stand point providing new input in innovation in product and personal job enhancement.   I wonder if the Cuban ever learned this lesson.

L.A. Steel







Permanent link to this article: https://lasteelshow.org/main/?p=857



  1. Farah

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  3. Ariovanda

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  4. Ariana

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