7 May 2008

Sawmill Worker Blues

Over the years I have worked with a wide assortment of men. Most of the guys have been alright. A few have been the kind of guys you would not mind going to war with; and sometimes we went to motherfucking war.

I have also worked with a few women. I liked working with the blondes the best. After the blondes I liked the brunettes. I never have worked with a red. A red would be ok.

Some of the men I have worked with were not alright. I have worked with every kind of criminal you can think of. Killers, rapists, bad drivers... None of them were worse human beings than managers.

Overheard this from Larry on the way out of the mill today. Larry lives across the street from a school where the kids wear uniforms. "What I really like is girls in school uniforms."


Jon said...

Actually, Larry is creeping me out.

This is a much older story. It's how I stopped being a weldor and went to college to become a punk.

I was working in a locomotive factory in Chicago. I was having sex with a girl who had made it clear that I was just standing in for her real boyfriend, who was in Detroit. At lunch every night, I could get from the time clock, to my car, to the bar, down seven beers, eat a sandwich, run out the door clutching an eighth beer, which I drank in the car, and make it back to the time clock in exactly thirty minutes. The beers would suddenly hit and my knees would become pleasantly rubbery just as I walked away from the time clock.

I hated my job, and fought with a succession of foremen who were sent into my department to get me fired. The old timers thought I was cute, in an asshole sort of way, so they would back me up in all of my beefs. I couldn't be fired. One time the union made the plant manager write me a personal apology. I tore it up and dropped it at his feet.

I worked six days a week because I didn't have anything else to do. I lived in a little house by a stinking polluted lake. My neighbors were in the Ku Klux Klan.

One night while drinking after work, I saw some guys throw a drunk out of the back of a pickup truck and run him over a couple of times. When the cops came, I tried to tell them what I saw. They told me to shut the fuck up and mind my own business or they'd arrest me. The guy died later that night.

I went back in the bar. The guy next to me at the bar had given first aid to the guy who got run over. We were both shaking so hard that we had to hold onto our beers with both hands. He kept saying, "I seen enough of that shit in Nam, man."

After closing time, I would take a six pack to go and sit up late listening to a radio show that was playing records by cool new bands like the Ramones, the Dead Boys and maybe even X Ray Spex.

One day, I got to work and found a new foreman. He was a young guy, not much older than me. He said, "Let's try and work together and see if we can get your production numbers a little higher." Most of the other foremen had said shit like, "I"m here to let you know who runs this place and it ain't you, asshole."

One day the new foreman said, "What I don't understand is why you're working at a job you hate."

I got all pissed off and told him that work was work and I was just doing what I had to do. He told me, "That's bullshit. I'm doing what I have to do. I have a wife, two daughters and a mortgage. You're young and single and you really don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing."

A while later, one of my friends said, "Jon, you know, we work at that job and live in this town because we got our girlfriends pregnant when we were in high school. You're not from around here and you've got no real reason to stay, but if you keep fuckin' around dating our sisters, you're going to get one of them pregnant and then you'll be stuck."

A while later, I went to New York City. I hung out with an old friend and we ended up sleeping together. She knew the Ramones and Debbie Harry and she shot dope on the Lower East Side. We went to a bar near her house and listened to Cheap Trick on the jukebox. It wasn't a very good jukebox. She came to Chicago, but that didn't work out, so she went back to New York a few weeks later. She didn't know the Ramones had made a record.

I went to Detroit to visit with friends. They said they'd take me out to hear all of the local punk bands. We went to the main punk club and there was a really good band. They played a punk version of an Al Green song and then they played a song about Astronauts burning up in outer space. I talked to them afterwards and told them they were great. They said they came from a college town in Southern Indiana.

I asked them if there was a good punk scene there. They said "no". They said that everybody there hated them and listened to bluegrass and they always got in fights when they played.

I said, "Fuck it. Sounds good to me."

When I got home I borrowed a type writer from my next door neighbor. He was a great guy, but he had been shot in the head in 'Nam, so he was a little crazy. I was his only friend and he said he'd miss me, but he helped me type out an essay applying to the college in Southern Indiana.

A few weeks later, I got a letter saying that I'd been accepted to college. I sold my car for a hundred dollars. My neighbor drove me down to the college and left me there. I didn't know anybody, but I had a phone number for the guys in that punk band. They all lived in one house, like the Monkees. I started college a week later.

That's how I stopped being a factory worker.

Long ass comment, but I couldn't sleep.

Long ass comment, but I couldn't sleep.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

There's creepy folks in every workplace.

As for me, I like industrial work. I do not feel right when a day shapes up as eight hours of doing fuck all. It's the Newfoundlander in me. It makes me feel good to look around and know everything around me, including my own sense of well-being, has been earned the old-fashioned way: honestly.

Jon said...

Yeah, college didn't last very long and I started driving for a living after that. A million and a half miles later I'd have to say that I found my calling. I don't like working indoors and I don't like seeing my boss, but I'm OK with work and I like machines, sometimes. I just finished twenty years at my current job and I like knowing that I've earned my place in that world. I like talking shit to fellow drivers and mechanics in the breakroom before sunrise. I like hearing the buses starting up. I even like greeting the first passenger of the day. I've got plenty of Newfoundlander in me too.

Man could I introduce you to some creepy bus drivers.

Beer, not to make too big a fuss over you, but now that I'm trying to do some more writing, I'm seeing what a good writer you are. Seriously, I've always liked your stuff. You keep it simple but I always know that you mean what you said. Good stuff.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Writing is a strange craft for an asshole poet to be at the controls of.