Sunday, July 6, 2014

The last straw (from Two Guys from Garfield)

August 9, 1980
  Mr. Proudy gives more and more jobs to those of us that are working hard while the toads who kiss up to him do nothing. It makes me mad. I've quit two other jobs over this very issue of fairness in the work place. I know Proudy wants to look good for the corporate bosses whose office windows look out on our work area. Proudy has come in a dozen times screaming for us to work after phone calls told him some of us stood outside smoking cigarettes. But why does Proudy need to push us, when so many others in the company do nothing? Wouldn't he look that much better if we all pitched in?
 Perhaps he simply knows that other breed of worker too well to depend upon them for anything as important as this? They are a lazy lot by anybody's definition. Even Melissa, the loading dock manager calls them good for nothing slobs, souls hired to fill in the ranks of our depleted staff. Many of them will quit or get fired over some trivial matter, and to push them takes more effort than they're worth. Even when they do the work assigned, they do it wrong: putting sports wear in with women's undergarments and hair products in with the pets. But foul ups or not, they should be made to take some of the burden. But Proudy only dumps more on us, rushing in to tell us we have to have this order out by this afternoon, or a new shipment of shoes, unpacked, checked in and put away before the sale starts in the morning. If he were to order the others to do it, nothing would be ready to load for the order or out on display for the sale. And Proudy knows it. He knows we're the responsible fools, the ones who will grumble and complain about his orders, but will carry them out just the same, because we can't leave things untended like that. We need to know we've done good work, even if it is for an asshole like Proudy. He tells us to do something. We complain, then set out to do it, and -- unlike with the others who lounge around the store pretending to look busy when Proudy pops up -- we throw our hearts into the task until it is finished. If it wasn't for those louts, I think we would eventually cease to complain. But Proudy seems to have two sets of rules: one for us, who labor diligently despite our doubts, one for those louts who get paid just as much as we do and do thing. Watching them, with the sweat dripping down into our eyes, only makes our labor seem that much more difficult and unfair. Box by box, pallet by pallet, we grow more and more disturbed, grunting and cursing beneath our breath as one of the toads comes or goes from the warehouse. ``Mr. Proudy says we should bring out the shower curtains,'' one might tell us, his tone and stare so mocking we want to wrap him in a shower curtain and float him down the river with the rest of the trash. Perhaps we had already reached our limit on patience when Proudy came back and caught us smoking outside the door. We were on break and just too lazy to make the long walk across the store to the break room where we were supposed to do our smoking. We figured to get the smoking done here, then sit for the time we would otherwise have spent walking. Mr. Proudy didn't see it that way, and began screaming the moment he saw us. ``What the hell are you delinquents doing out here?'' he yelled, casting a nervous glance towards the towering wall of the corporate office with a questioning look in his eyes, asking some invisible third party if he was doing this correctly. ``We're on break,'' I said, rising from the old crate we used as a seat. ``Here? How many times have I told you not to smoke here?'' ``On duty,'' I said. ``You said we shouldn't stop for a smoke while we're working. But I told you, we're on break.'' Melissa came out of her office to see what the shouting was about, saw Mr. Proudy and heard enough of what he had to say, for her to turn around again and creep back into her shell of an office. She never stood up for us. I don't know why. I think she believed herself above her head in job as supervisor and didn't want anyone else to discover the fact and fire her. ``Put them out!'' Proudy shouted. ``You're both on report.'' ``For what?'' I screamed, counting off the other instances that were already marked up in his book, vaguely recalling the penalty of one day's suspension for three times on report in a month. This would be my third. ``For disobeying orders,'' he said. ``Fuck that!'' I said. He stared, his eyes bulging a little as if unable to believe the words, glancing painfully at the windows to see if he could spot a face there frowning, too. ``What was that?'' he asked, slowly getting control of himself as not to yell back. ``You've picked on us once too often,'' I said. ``Your toads smoke out front where the customers can see them all the time and you don't say anything to them. I'm sick of it, Proudy. I'm smoking my cigarettes here. If you don't like it, you can drop dead.'' And then, I sat, drawing stares at first from my co-workers, and then, gradually, like the slap of water flowing faster and faster out of a breaking dam, they applauded. Proudy glared at me, and then at them, his mouth opening to say something, but no words came out. He knew there were too many of us. He knew he couldn't fire me on the spot without everybody walking out, leaving the order undone and corporate management in a thither about how badly he handled the situation. After another sputter or two, he threw up his hands and retreated back into the warehouse, scowling at his toads as he ran to answer the telephone which was sure to be ringing just then in his office.

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