another largely superfluous aside, Davey truthfully and unequivocally asserts
hereby that today is actually February 3rd, or ‘third’ in common
parlance, so he freely admits, ‘fesses up, comes clean, kicks his own ass, and
grovels for pardon from the never diligent admins of this quixotic but
52 word sentences aside, as he was huffing on January 31st, Davey
had been tasked with excising a pretzel-twisted vertical support on a hopper
car’s rear end.
First order of business, get up to it. This meant either ladder or scaffold,
for the safety-minded. But not so on this day.
was out the window, well out of Davey’s frustratingly ham-fisted reach.
So he stood poised to make a stupid mistake.
The hopper car had been long since relieved of its wheels and as per common
accepted practice, was mounted on sturdy jack stands, which meant it sat a good
4 feet off the floor.
Davey clambered up and stood on the tail end of the car, hoisting the torch and
hose up after him.
Lighting the oxyacetylene torch while balancing precariously on the platform’s
edge, Davey grasped the upright with his left hand and started cutting with the
one-handed stuff, in and of itself was a big no-no – sort of like running a
chainsaw with one hand: you could do it, but if something went wrong, it was
Barely able to see the glowing kerfs through pockmarked burning goggles –
ostensibly shade 3, but glory be – Davey continued cutting, feeling an
unexpected surge of confidence that NOW, maybe, for once, something would go
Yet, no. In a flash, as the torch’s flame burst through the final bit of
material, it snapped with a loud “TONNGGGG!” (The only way to describe it)
Guess where Davey went.
can guess where Davey went;
so supine on his spine with energy spent.
His efforts thus far had been pretty lame;
good the fall from the car put out the flame.
’Flame’ in this case meant the 2000° oxyacetylene torch that had been searing through the metal upright
only seconds before.
Davey didn’t remember hitting said floor, and may well have been knocked out
for a short time; he does recall coming to with a soft hissing sound next to
That was a thankfully UN-lit mixture of 15:1 oxyacetylene – a ticket to
potential 3rd degree burns.
reading Davey’s absurd recollections may realize that this post is redundant.
Did Davey rail on about this railcar injury previously?
It’s hard to say.
His scrolling of prior publications is neat but organized in such a fashion
that makes search cumbersome. Ergo, ‘cumbersome’, in the strictest colloquial
and/or literary sense translates to ‘not worth pursuing’.So apologies to any
and all readers who may utter, “This friggin’ Davey’s a repetitive mutter.”
Anyway, as Davey was boo-hooing,the immediate aftermath of his fall
did not incur severe pain;
for after all,
was coursing through many a vein.
Now then. This
is NOW, that was THEN.
That then being the case, plumbing the depths of foggy memories shall hereby be
Nobody likes being laughed at, no matter how tough they think their hide is.
Moreover, most folks cannot hide their reaction to being the JOKE.
This time, the
joke was on Davey as he laid, stunned, on the gritty shop floor, torch still in
his outstretched palm.
Wendell “Tweed” Guernsey looked down at Davey and quipped, “hey, no layin’ down
on the job!”Davey felt like smacking him.
“Didn’t you see that?” Davey whined to Tweed.
Davey thought. That friggin’ joker didn’t see the fall; otherwise
it would be Davey’s sure-fire backup for submitting a worker’s
compensation claim.Slowly, achingly, Davey peeled himself up
off the floor and limped to the office, hoping to bend an
understanding ear.Describing the incident to Jim Campbell, Davey
pleaded for a doctor checkup, and Campbell agreed.Davey was
sore in more ways than one;and what was more, more had to be
done.On the walk home, he thought he could shirkbut still had
no phone, and needed to work.The joker-doctor’s office was
3 miles away.
with the passage of 35+ years, again Davey finds a gaping memory hole
– a not entirely unfamiliar proclivity..To wit, he isn't
certain whether he fired up the pimp-mobile or hoofed it.Chances
are it was the former,and not the latter,his ass a
seat-warmershould it then matter.Yes, he has a hunchthat
he'd not walk a bunchto hear how the doctor would chatter.Yet
what a big letdown it turned out to bethis time at the doc's
office spent;“nothing is wrong with you,” thus said hethough
over poor Davey was bent.
bristled with a combination of disbelief and simmering rage.Couldn't
this bozo see – with all his 8 or so years of collegiate and
medical education – that here was a clearly injured patient bent
over like a friggin' pretzel?The doctor explained, with a
brusque, thick accent, pointing to the neck and thoracic X-rays, that
“there is nothing wrong here,”But something g—damn well
WAS wrong, fercryinoutloud. Call it myofascial, ligament,
cartilage-related trauma and resultant dysfunction or what have you,
but Davey was in a seriously misshapen state. And here was a medical
professional not apparently worth his salt.
was a blow to Davey's sense of common sense. Yes, though he had
little. But it would be another 6 or 7 years before he knew of such
things as chiropractors.So in the interim, it was simple: suffer.
Live with it. Grow accustomed to the loss of height and nascent
stages of an unwanted Dowager's Hump. Harrrrumph!This
incident stayed front and center in Davey's decidedly battered brain
in the coming weeks while he struggled to maintain composure in the
workplace.Eventually, he got pissed off enough to call the
doctor's office and complain.It only seemed right.
this phone call thing presented obvious problems: as mentioned
previously, Davey had no phone. Also keep in mind that this was a
good 10 to 15 years before cellular communication via hand-held
microwave radiation-emitting devices became affordable, let alone
ubiquitous.So once Davey got to the nearest functional telephonic
apparatus, he looked up the doctor and dialed, feeling his heart
pumping with the fight or flight rush of adrenal hormonal
release.One ring, then two.With nothing to do.Waiting
for three,where could they be?A female voice answered:
“Doctor Waggerwall's office.”No “may I help you?”,
receptionist sounded like she was chewing gum.Davey once again
felt a surge of anxiety while preparing to speak.'Better face the
music.'So he pulled his tail from between his legs, hitched up
his trousers a bit, cleared his throat and bellowed into the
mouthpiece the following query, which was intended to be both
antipersonnel and firmly to the point:“Is the quack doctor
there?”The response surprised Davey:“Which one?”
Came the unexpected reply.Floored, Davey didn't know whether
to guffaw, fart,or piss his pants.Damn! A work of art!He
should give her a chance!
to be nonplussed, and again, if oft-faulty memory serves, Davey began
to unload on the receptionist. After all, she obviously had a GREAT
sense of humor and didn't mind slinging a barb at her bumbling
boss.“I mean, like, this guy [the doctor] didn't find
ANYTHING wrong with me – and here I'm still bent like a friggin'
banana!” Davey said.“What do you suggest I do?”“I
dunno, honey, But you didn't get any help here.”So
bent-assed Davey crawled back into his shell with more than a
smattering of resignation to live with this grinding, completely
whole incident smelled like 13 day old shad.Bad, bad, bad.What
a time he had.But no point in that jointto get interfriggin'hoppin'
mad.So this was to be Davey's first taste of the big time,
playin' with the big boys in the big shop with their big toys.More
money was invested in that enterprise than any of the operators cared
to lose, and keeping themselves out of imbroglios such as hurt
employees bringing lawsuits and such was paramount to continued
profitable operations.Hey, that's the way the monkeys danceat
least in working class parlance.
Or perhaps put another way, the worker, through a
carefully cultivated process of medical ignorance and intimidation,
would succumb and cease pursuit of any attempts at worker's
compensation claims.That being said, and all things being
unequal, Davey's biggest mistake had been getting hurt without
witnesses to clarify what had happened; then his claim to continued
care would have been justifiable.
the end, Davey knewhe had taken a fall;but what more could he
do?Had he then seen it all?Without any treatment,not
given a drug,he saw what defeat meantand gave it a
shrug.Anyway, on to bigger and not so much better things as
the days wore on amid the shop din, Davey with fetter could see
through the haze;with his nights he continued to
sin.Ethanol-laced beverages did indeed mollify the pain as
his back and neck slowly healed.He couldn't help thinking back to
that hilarious brief conversation with Waggerwall's receptionist.
the grand scheme of things, this denial incident was a tiny slice of
standard operating procedure at companies with workers routinely engaged in
hazardous occupations.For the insurance industry,
however, the workers' compensation pool represents a somewhat larger
slice of their giant cake: a highly profitable parasitic business
model written into law in their favor.Meanwhile, prey companies,
being required by law to buy workers' compensation insurance, cower
in fear of premiums being jacked to the stratosphere should
accidents requiring coverage occur.Granted, workers'
compensation pools ostensibly protect workers at such firms, and
fraudulent claims do occasionally get submitted.
is one way of looking at it, from the business man's perspective;
after all, workers are a LIABILITY when they fall into the category
of not only nonfunctional [as result of injuries sustained in the
workplace], but also if they try and pursue either a) claims against
the company for safety procedures not followed, b) time off due to
injury, or c) catastrophic medical care requiring large
expenditures.Yes, workers' comp is supposed to cover ALL
workers, even those in wimpy professions, yet hurt workers may have a
fight on their hands should they try and engage supposed coverage.
having railed,seeing what was entailed,dull Davey began to
smile;for that workers' comphad been so full of pomphe
forgot about work for a while.That being known,he was bad
to the bonewith duties he could no longer shirk;so he got off
his assfigured 'just let it pass',and headed thus on back to
work.Ironing out legal liabilities and procedural
difficulties were not Davey's stock in trade, though he smarted from
this rebuff.No, he had sh** to do, and big bolts to screw;to
'just do it' was never enough.
the many misadventures enjoyed by this diverse shop worker cadre
would be an obvious one: STRIKE. Many welcomed such a confrontational
interruption of daily mundane operations with its attendant bangin',
clangin', fume-producing madness. They could then hold signs and let
off steam, bangin' and clangin' to passing motorists.After all, a
trip to the “sh**house” would reveal workers' true intentions and
desires better than any meeting, arbitration or
conversation.Scrawled on any vertical flat surface, and
adorning white-painted plywood toilet stalls, could be found deeply
philosophical diatribes expounded forcefully in black felt-tip pens
such as the classic: “MORE MONEY”
of these working stiffs had been born yesterday. That was for sure.
But they seemed to adhere to some rather boneheaded nostrums that
trickled down through the ages via the much-ballyhooed and nostalgic
union brotherhood pipeline.One facet of this that stayed
front and center – and indeed seemed emblazoned on any shop
steward's forehead – was this:'This company has plenty of
money.They need to get up off it.When they do, they owe it to
US.After all, we bust ass, don't we?'Honorable mention
should be made to those who really did honestly bust ass within
This is not to in any way denigrate, writ-large,
the fraternal brotherhood of unionism as a paradigm whose necessity
was exemplified in the rough and tumble workplace of yesteryear, with
its robber-barons and such, but rather to perhaps poke fun at
unionist attempts as expressed in this motley gaggle of bodies.Thus
it should be construed as simply an objective observation made by one
stiff on the line sweating under the same roof and playing by the
same rules, either superimposed by rabble-rousers or company
staff.This game of cat and mouse had no doubt been played
from time immemorial.
The cat, of course,
being the big, bad company, usually engendered as a greedy moneybags
outfit; a commandeering network of overbearing, overly demanding
moguls hell bent on milking every last drop of sweat and of course,
production, from the groveling masses.And if ‘Nut’ had
his way, we would believe it.Nut – aptly named, if ever a
moniker was worth a thousand words – was a master rabble-rouser,
and not surprisingly, shop steward.If the squeakiest wheel
gets the most grease, the loudest mouth gets the longest lease.So
working britches could get their creaseand Nut’s non-wonders
would never cease.
Hardly anybody knew
Nut’s real name, which was Frank Gobalski. Funny, Davey was tempted
to ask Nut if he wasn’t actually Irish, due to his rabid temper.A
short, stocky man, Nut strutted as if much taller, hitching up his
ass at times, wearing considerable ego on his sleeve.No, he
wasn’t short on confidence.So when the time came to do the
actual walkout, Nut was front and center, organizing, barking orders
and making sure no SCABS would be manning the till during the
hoped-for strike.Nope, it was high time to exact revenge against
this F**in’ company, damnit!
Davey languished in a
state of obvious naiveté, not having ever experienced such a thing.
After all, six bucks an hour seemed a princely wage at a time when
not much in the way of meaningful remunerative work was otherwise
available.Why, then, would these idiots want to screw themselves
out of a week’s pay – or worse?If anyone had misgivings
about striking, they had better keep a lid on it; you couldn’t walk
out on the walkout. How ironic!It would be shift work, Nut
assured, with hastily assembled crews taking turns in useless
activities, waving signs and hollering.
This noting ventured,
nothing gained churning by intentionally churlish strikers – in the
possibly fruitless pursuit of more dollars – was most contrived,
and after a few days, it grew old for many, Davey included. But here
again, you didn’t dare cave to the urge to bolt, to just slide on
home and pop a few beers.No, my boy, this was solidarity.You
were in it for the long haul, or else.Davey the naďve welder
wannabe wasn’t prepared to discover what that ‘or else’
implied.Most townsfolk cruising by that decrepit part of town
could care less about our proceedings.
Oh, they got a few
honks;were they policy wonks?Maybe, possibly, perhapsbut
most folks gave two craps.By the end of the strikewould they
have what they like?Or, having thus struckbe sh** outta
luckor worse yet, then hit the pike?Luckily, finally,
tensions were mendedmurmurs and mentions of ends thus
portendeddistances kept, with not many befriended,and the
much-ballyhooed strike was ended.It was a hot and sweaty mess
in the street,that trampling over crumbling concrete, and now it
was timefor some work to completelet no non-union labor
Oh, how proudly the
bellicose Nutdid sing loudly his chest-thumping smut!Victory
sweet, yes, was best tasted cold;and Nut, so complete, was
feeling quite bold.But most of the crew went, hat in hand,their
energy spent from a week on the stand.Nothing much more you could
happily say‘cause they all lost a whole damn week’s
pay!Davey kept his inner mutterings to himself. But he was
pissed. Righteously pissed. In fact, he felt like stringing that
crazy-assed Nut up by his scrotal hairs and slapping him.This
harebrained scheme had been Nut’s idea, hadn’t it?