If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones. - John Steinbeck
I will miss them, these fuckin idiots I work with at the shop. They are always whistling at each other, sharp whistles that would make a dog heel. They call out, tap fists every time they pass, call your name and hold their fists up as they walk by, wordlessly. It's strange until you figure out that they're just saying what's up, and that's the way they do it. There is a strong sense of camraderie that pervades the place, as if they were going to war tomorrow instead of just fabricating metal parts.
He's a short, stocky guy with a thick Indian accent. He always adds an "S" to the end of my name; it might because of his serious lack of teeth. We are standing by the time clock waiting to punch out for lunch when one of the Mexicans comes up behind him, reaches around, and grabs his chest.
"Motherfucker! See Irishes, you gots to watch these motherfuckers, there a bunch of fuckin fags around here. Watch yourself Irishes. Especially this fuckin guy, he a fucking tinkerbell." He looks at the Mexican with disdain. "You motherfucker."
The Mexican gives a hearty laugh, and mumbles, "Pendejo"
He stands at a mighty 5'2", ironic because his name is Maximillion. He's older, and wears glasses when he's doing work that requires his close attention. English is not his forte, but when he talks to the other Hispanics he uses great swooping gestures and his voice rises and falls like the waves. Don't ever think that people who don't speak your language are dopey, for this guy is certainly as animated as anyone I've ever met. He is also quiet and watchful, and those qualities often belie a sharp mind.
Alicia Keys' No One reverbs through the shop, ringing off the metal machines and echoes off through the walls. When it gets to the "Oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhh" chorus section, he raises his arms and starts swaying, yelling out the words as he goes. He sees me laughing at him, and he looks at me and smiles, raising his arms in a shrug as you would if you were saying "I don't know"
"Who?" he asks me.
He answers himself definitively: "NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONEEEEEEEE!!"
He does this every time the song comes on, which comes out to about three times a day.
He strides through the garage door, a cigar blazing and his head bopping to my radio, and Biggie Smalls is halfway through Hypnotize when he catches the beat and starts smiling, bopping his head in the cloud of smoke that trails him and he's singing the words, "Biggie Biggie Biggie, can't you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me".... This is my tall black buddy, a genuinely intelligent man who is wasting his time working the grunt work that this shop provides. He married a Puerto Rican chick, and has a little daughter who I'm sure, like so many women of mixed heritage, will be a knockout one day. If she's anything like her father, then she will be smart as hell, too. It bothers me that he still works there- there is alot of things he could do using his mind instead of his hands... not to mention the world needs smart black men out there proving that the stereotypes are unequivocally wrong.
I picked up the phrase, "That's right pimpin" from him, and he's truly one of the coolest cats I've ever met.
I bought him American Gangster as a parting gift, and we start watching it at lunch. He gets antsy as Denzel owns the the screen and the tension builds like a glacier, but one where there's an avalanche at the end.
"Irish, you the fuckin man. Thanks man."
He's cool in the way that only an old black man can be. He's another short one, and ambles in the way that old men do. He's got a graying goatee that is often obscured in sweet smelling smoke from the pipe he always has, which he often smokes while simultaneously chewing tobacco and wearing a nicotine patch.
"I'm glad you leavin. Ain't no future here for you. I keep telling these other motherfuckers, "What the fuck you doin here? That tall motherfucker especially. He's bright, ain't no reason for him to work here. I mean, you get hurt and they don't give two shits about it. Look."
He takes the glove off his left hand, and shows me two deformed fingers that are, honestly, a mess. "I done got mashed up twice here. They don't care. You go to retire, ain't no pension. They give you a shit party and throw you out. I'd leave if I was younger, but I'm old, don't nobody want an old motherfucker like me. I'm glad you leavin'."
He's got a calender in his welding booth that has nearly naked women posing, and one shot is of a girl at the beach as the sunset. Her ass takes up most of the shot, and it is a fine ass at that. Apparently he thinks so too, because I haven't seen that calender change months since I've worked there. At one point he calls me "daddio", and it's the coolest damn thing I've ever heard.
He comes up before he leaves and shakes my hand. "It's been a pleasure working with you. I hope you make it. See you when I see you."
He's an oak tree of a man, with a black goatee and a black hat perched on his head. A tan flannel jacket covers his back. He's Hispanic of some type, and he diddy bops through the shop every day yelling out, "Ju liiike it? Ju like it? I looovvveeee it." He doesn't say this once in a while, or even often. He says it every time someone walks by him, or he walks by someone, or he's yelling it across the shop to someone. It got to the point where I really thought that's all he could say in English.
"Hey man! Hey man!"
"Ju like it? Ju like it?"
You answer back, "Hell yeah baby, I like it!"
He smiles, "OK baby, I fuckin' loooovvveee it"
You never let on that you have no idea what he's talking about.
He surprised me today, with perhaps the best thing I've ever heard from a person's lips. We're cleaning metal phalanges when he starts talking.
"Man, life is fucking beautiful man. I a poor old man, ju know? I sixty-four years old. I fuckin happy. I see these young guys, they walk around with lots of money, they miserable! Not happy! Fuck that man! I happy! I like it! I looooovveeee it! Is beautiful!"
This guy is talking about life. Regardless of the fact that he's old, and that I think his foot is rotting off, and he is barely at work because of it... he walks around saying every second "Life is beautiful, and I fucking love it".
Why I really will miss blue collar work is because of the characters. I'm sure there's people like this in the professional world, but there is one thing that seperates us from them, and this fella epitomizes it when, ten minutes after telling me this, he says how he wants to stab one of the other guys in the kidney twenty times because he's an asshole. He then acts out what the guy will look like when he falls, and even though he's serious I can't stop smiling.
I'm going to watch out for these motherfuckers, these crazy, beer drinking, life loving idiots. Management would rape them in a second if they could, and it's guys like me that have to watch their asses, and publicize it when someone tries to screw them. I'll be, like Steinbeck, a watchdog for the working classes, to make sure these hardworking fuckers get exactly what they deserve for doing the job that you don't want to do.
They'll teach you a lot, if you listen. But you have to listen.
I fuckin looooveee it too baby. I really do.