America... ahhh you strange land of opportunity, robber of souls that swim in vaults of money like Scrooge McDuck.
Everyone is talking recession now. The stock market fell four thousand points when the word was first mentioned, and it didn't matter whether they were talking about receding economies or receding flood waters- you mention the word "Recede" and immediately the world's economy falls to pieces.
We hear about 2001, how it was a CEO's recovery after that short recession. Well let me ask you, my friends, how much did the CEO's lose? How could they recover what never left them? Strange, but the villainous swine who so often carry those three stained letters in their job titles normally make about 50 something times what a worker at their company makes. Good thing they recovered, eh? God knows what we would have done had they not come back from their tough losses; they might not have gotten a million dollar bonus that year! The horror!
So when we have a CEO's recovery this year, you can bet that we will be assured that the American market is strong and stable, and that we, the lowly workers, will eventually benefit because things trickle down. If by "trickle down" they mean, "the rich are pissing on you", then I think they're dead right.
Meanwhile, of course, I'm on the floor of a machine shop sweating my ass off hoping that I make it out of the day with all ten fingers and no stitches. There is no recession on this floor; we are so busy that for nearly 11 hours a day, someone is on this floor somewhere grinding, hammering, welding, cutting, or tacking something together.
"Roc boys in the buildin' tonight! Oh what a feelin I'm feelin life! "
Jay Z lays it down smooth out of the battered black radio adorned with Jets stickers, and my supervisor, a tall, cigar smoking version of Dave Chappelle, is breaking it down at his swivel chair where he's spot welding massive filter leafs together, head bopping to the beat.
We talk later on, ten minutes before he's supposed to punch out. "These mothafuckas talk about profit sharing- how come they gettin' more of a share than I get?"
He's asking the wrong guy. I could tell him that they really don't care all that much, as long as they make a profit, but he's been around the block; he's from the Bronx, born and raised. He knows. The question is, by far, rhetorical.
"That's how it goes man."
"Yea, well it shouldn't be that way. I'm the one out here getting burned and sliced and all, and they sit in the office all day and play solitaire and take home the most. I got seventeen stitches from slicing my leg on a piece of that sheet metal- almost made a Vietnam Vet puke. See that guy over there? His glove got caught in the band saw and dragged his finger in, cut it right up the middle."
My stomach is getting queasy. "Listen brother, I'm telling you right now, if I get sliced, I'm going to pass out. I can take beatings. I been beat with fists and bottles and knees and anything else... but I get cut and I'm out."
He's laughing and shaking his head.
It occurs to me that Marx is right- if you ever want the beginnings of a socialist revolution, go to wear men are making things and not getting their fair share. Hell, for all I know this guy might be getting a plenty fair share, but all he knows is that there's other people who get more. Me? I take my 10 bucks an hour and go home, and when I blow my nose it's actually shiny from the metal I inhale. My forearms are wobbly from running the hand grinder all day, but I'm getting used to it.
I don't want to get used to it. I applied to three other positions at various newspapers, and I'm going to call them on my lunch break tomorrow and harass the shit out of them for an interview. This place, it's not bad money for now, but what I truly want is a job that I can't lose a hand at. Recession or not, I've still got to make my own breaks. But I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I wasn't discouraged as hell.
After I leave, I go straight to the Dunkin Donuts on the highway. I catch my reflection in the mirror before I open the door: a backwards Red Sox hat, about five days' growth beard on my face, my red flannel jacket zipped all the way up, beat up jeans and work boots.
The welders were right. When I went in for the interview for that job, they said I looked scruffy, like one of them. That day, I went home, and immediately grabbed my mother and went straight to Kohls and bought all new clothes (she was there to make sure I wasn't picking out shit that would make me look worse). No more Wranglers for this scruffy guy; I got fancy jeans that have that pre-faded thing going on, and I bought a belt that screamed "Kid Rock" as soon as I saw it. Needless to say, when I go out on the weekends now, I look like a rock star.
If a welder calls you scruffy, can you imagine what women were saying about me? My mother said to find out what welder said that so she can send him a case of beer; all of the women in my life have tried to upgrade me, but what it really took was one off color comment from one guy in a welding booth to get me to look classier.
I think about this and smile while I'm on line for coffee. A fat blond woman stands in front of me clad in a massive fur coat that nearly reaches the floor. She has gold rings on her fat little fingers, and sunglasses on. I hate fur coats with a passion. It has nothing to do with animal rights, but more of a class thing; if you wear a fur coat, you're really showing that you think who the hell you are.
What a great country that America is, however, because she has to wait in line, huffing and puffing and impatient, behind a guy in a torn gray sweatshirt, paint stained jeans, and work boots that only cover half his feet. She gets her ice coffee, all the while yapping on a cell phone, then walks absentmindedly out to her Beamer, and I can't help but laugh.
I bet her husband is a CEO.