Bowen shouted above the din of cackling cronies the following stanza: “Hey,
Davey, I'm heading over to the credit union. Could you punch me out?.”
Now the beleaguered reader may be wondering about what at first blush appears
to be a masochistic chap requesting a painful influence involving a clenched
fist visited upon his person – to the point of knocking him unconscious. But
such is not the case.
So 'punching out' referred to Bowen's daily time card, and of course the credit
union, for this working class bunch, was a bit like a mini-bank, and indeed functioned
caught a glimpse of Bowen's curly locks exiting the scrum as he headed,
post-haste, to the credit union.Bowen's transaction could conceivably take up
to fifteen minutes, as the credit
union's base of operations was situated adjacent to the neighboring passenger
car complex nearly a city block away.
Therefore, Bowen surmised he could shave precious minutes from the punching out
process and still not have to spend one second more on site than he had to.After all, back home, a hot shower awaited; there was food to gnash, beer to
drink, and evening entertainment without having to think.
didn't think to look behind him as the line started to move, with men lightly
pushing and shoving their way to the clock. Finally Davey was at the front of
the line, where he grabbed both his and Bowen's time cards and summarily
punched them both out in the clock machine.
From the back of the line came a shout: “Hey! What did you just do there?”
Uh-oh. Shit of one kind or the other was fixin' to hit the fan.
That booming voice came from another boomer who just so happened to be of the
white hat persuasion.
Davey, feeling a strong sense of dread
could barely summon the muscle;
to turn his suddenly guilty-ass head
for fear of inciting a tussle.
It was not for curiosity's sake
that poor Davey had hesitated;
for he knew the chance he'd need to take
before this day had abated.
So what, perchance,was this chance, anyway?
Well, Davey wondered, and couldn't yet say.
But in the big picture
that time card a stricture
of malfeasance put into play.
In other words, prosaic rhapsodizing aside, this seemingly innocuous act was
Punching out another worker's time card was highly suspicious.
That ball of doom-fire was burning a hole in Davey's gut by
now, threatening to sear itself a new route and create an entirely heretofore
unforeseen alternative asshole.
The white hat muscled his way to the front of the line and buttonholed Davey,
snarling with a butt-ugly Hitlerian mustache that seemed pasted to his face.
Davey only faintly knew this guy – a chap named Larry, not normally a fixture
in the freight repair section.
Further questions were bounced off the increasingly nervous Davey's eardrums,
to which truthful answers were proffered.
“Why did you punch TWO cards just now?” Larry huffed.
“Hey, I was only punching Bowen out, 'cause he went over to
the Credit Union,” Davey shot back.
“Bullsh**,” Larry probably said – or something to that effect. This was
something you just didn't do. But hells bells, Davey didn't friggin' know that
– at least not yet.
What, pray tell, could be so cataclysmic about punching out another guy's card?
With the passage of time, Davey doesn't recall the precise unfolding of events,
but Larry the white hat did make a big fuss over it and Davey got written up.
His case would come before committee for review in one week.
Davey dutifully continued to show up for work, taking a bit
more care to actually WORK, sensing imminent negative reactions from management
forthcoming in his general direction. Thus, that adrenaline boost that
accompanies any given situation in which one's ass is in a sling and one
worries about, well, everything.
The much-feared confrontation with management arrived, and things didn't go in
To his foggy recollection, he would be FIRED for punching out Bowen's card!
A blast of hot gas was hence siphoned from Davey's simpering balloon that had
contained an admixture of dread and hope to this point.
Reentry into the shop was horrible that day. Guys could read
the defeat slathered all over Davey's face like a florescent billboard.
He found himself explaining his situation repeatedly; when a worker got 'called
in', it was usually a big deal. After all, it happened to Frank Mavis, who,
after getting caught red-handed stealing tools from the tool room, was fired,
only to get reinstated after initiating the process of arbitration.
One old timer – another Larry, though NOT a white hat – boasted of having taken
a half day off, thanks to his buddy punching him out.
'Gee, thanks,' Davey thought.
Now Larry had perhaps the second biggest cock in the
sh**house, and could have developed a turgid ego around that, but he carried a
gentle, workmanlike vibe on the job. So when he related that episode of
freeloading on the boss's nickel, Davey wasn't too offended.
Later on, of course, it burned.
In Larry's common sense assessment, for the company, “it's a matter of money.”
And as to the inevitable rhetorical query of “why me” – forged in the mounting
crucible of disbelief and self-pity – it would have an obvious “hey, no shit,
Sherlock” answer for Davey: YOU GOT CAUGHT, SUCKER!
Whether Davey had been scheming to get illegal paid time off
or not, all he would have had to do was reach down into what should have been a
deep satchel of common sense and pull out the placard that read:
LOOK BEFORE YOU PUNCH.
Now he was about to lose his lunch. So as rapidly fading memory swerves back to
that era, Davey recalls the sinking feeling of knowing the date had been set
for his termination.
It would be a solemn departure; no going away parties, no smiley faces and
beers after work [also known as 'beer o'clock']
If Davey looked deep
he surely would find
some strength he could keep
leaving this gig behind.
The company stood firm
and showed him the door;
and though he did squirm,
this had happened before.
Yup, he’d dropped this place
just like a fat turd;
so would he be faced
with the unemployed herd?
Well, that didn’t go well; Davey came face to face with the stark realization
that unemployment was for folks that had NOT been fired. At least that’s the
understanding he got during a brief visit to the unemployment office.
It seemed to say, “You’re a scumbag.”
Well, ‘twas no matter – at least not yet;
And Davey could patter; on that you can bet.
So he headed back down
like the clev’rest of scamps
in the heart of that town
to collect some food stamps.
Now THAT took some gall, eh? Davey could hardly be considered penurious, yet he
was able to finagle food stamps to the tune of $50.00, and then got a second
installment of the same amount some weeks later.
At least that’s what comes to mind in terms of chronological turning of events.
That being said, he did collect, feeling a bit guilty.
That was definitely a sh***y feeling, this food stamp thing.
Not good. And in those days, the oversight wasn’t as stiff as it is now, so
Davey kept up his malnourishment and suds-sopping routines unabated, at least
until the money ran out.
Next, he applied at Smedco, a restaurant equipment supply company, landing a
repetitive, perfunctory job as a drill press operator.
He recalls ever so fondly the management’s curiosity about his having been
fired from that previous position. Davey stated his case firmly that he had not
participated in monetary or wage theft by punching out Bowen’s time card.
In fact, he knew damn well Bowen had been there, in the
flesh, staying at the clock until about ten of. Davey had pleaded over and over
with management to hear him out, to no avail.
So much for that; it was now proverbial water over the proverbial damn. And as
Davey had now been hired by Smedco –
whilst teetering on the cusp of brokenness – at least he hadn’t floated up that
proverbial tributary with no prominent means of propulsion.
So the initial interview with an affable middle-aged Smedco manager went
reasonably well, and Davey would have a steady gig.
point of reference, this ongoing dialogue is running about ten days behind –
the prevailing Davey rational average. He just doesn't seem to have the 'get up
and go' that dictates his culling, collating, creating and composing his daily
100 word before heading out of the hovel and grabbing his proverbial shovel.
And two days ago, John E. had walked through the nearby forest with Christopher
the maintenance man, in an effort to convince Christopher in particular that
all the infected Tsuga Canadensis should come down.
That the Wooly Adelgid had infested the area thoroughly was not in question.
This south side, notably and utterly windowless, was where a
line of diverse drill presses awaited nimble hands.
Davey would be the third drill press operator, joining Moe, an
affable, capable black dude, and some grouchy long-haired fellow whose name
Davey doesn’t recall. So like Boffo, he’ll paste a moniker on the grouch-ball: ‘Sour-ho’.
Moe took to Davey initially, making his entry smoother; but Sour-ho, not so.
Sour-ho may have caught wind of Davey’s pay rate, which might have been a buck
an hour more – for doing the same work.
After all, Davey previously made nearly 7 bucks an hour.
Now seven dollars per hour certainly doesn’t seem like a
princely sum, and granted, in those days, the Carter years, it probably wasn’t.
In the grand scheme of things, in fact, the entire wage system was exploitive
to a degree, but if a worker was frugal and industrious, she/he could do okay
Sour-ho rarely gave Davey the time of day, and seemed to snarl whenever they
[unfortunately] made eye contact or came close to it.
This was a classic case of someone ‘having it in’ for Davey.
To wit – hey, no sh** – Davey wasn’t making $7.00 at Smedco.
When he first showed up, Davey had negotiated a pay rate
when he interviewed with the rapidly balding affable guy.
“Well, I certainly can’t match that,” the rapidly balding affable guy noted –
when Davey told him what the previous wage had been at the railcar repair
But the Smedco manager could do slightly better than $5.00 per hour to start
[and stay!], which suited Davey just fine.
After all, the burden would weigh,
because poor Davey had some bills to pay.
And, as per the old adage they say:
it all comes due at the end of the day.
‘Uh-oh’, Davey thought; ‘what the hell was this?’
Well, at least the paper wasn’t pink. That was mildly reassuring.
Grundge – an obviously stiff man who hailed from the “Greatest” generation –
bore down on Davey with a searing set of eyeballs and launched into a
surprisingly soft-spoken explanation of what that little slip of paper
entailed. It had a woman’s name and some numbers on it, which, according to
Grundge, showed just how many drill pressed widgets could be churned out by a
highly motivated worker.
The total for that one day, according to the slip, was an astonishing 275
“Here’s an example of what can be done,” Grundge said. Davey
could feel prickly heat of his blood starting to boil. He couldn’t help
thinking: ‘yeah, mister, and she did that for five bucks an hour?’ What a sham!
To digress further, should the lowly-remunerated individual have been fairly
compensated for that overproduction, say, paid a percentage for any and all piecework
exceeding the reasonably expected daily total, then it would have been a fair
But no; a more likely scenario would see the worker going
home exhausted, ears ringing, with tiny slivers of aluminum embedded in her
But rather than give Mr. Grundge a
piece of what he was REALLY thinking, Davey decided the best course of action
would be to schmooze. And that meant layin’ it on thick.
“Well, I guess that shows what is meant by ‘production’,” Davey quipped,
surprised to detect a glimmer of an inkling of a trace of a smile creeping
across the Grundgester’s face.
Leaving the office, Davey couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the
confrontation he had just weathered. Conflicting emotions and thoughts tussled
in his battered brain for the rest of the afternoon.
It would be a long one.
What if that piecework tally had been faked? Surely that
could have been the case, and easily done, at that.
Or maybe the stellar over-performance by the mystery champion worker was
prompted by methamphetamine or some other stimulant. Hell’s friggin’ ringin’-assed
bells, that was entirely possible, too.
So where was this super worker NOW? Davey wondered. Burned out long ago and
GONE. That’s where.
Heck, after turning in 275 widgets for the day and receiving not so much as a
pat on the back AND getting the same goddamn paycheck the next Friday, it was
‘no thanks; BYE BYE, Smedco!
had experienced the tiniest slivers of nascent inspiration from
Grundge’s dissertation, oddly enough, and it served as an ethereal
sort of caffeine boost during his subsequent drill press operations
that day.But it wouldn’t last, that’s for sure, as he'd
say.Soon, resentment took over, along with a growing loathing
for what Grundge represented: The hands-on authoritarian management
style that dictated milking workers for the most the firm could get
from them.This simmering resentment – however ill or
well-founded it may have been – was palpable, and inserted itself
as a running thread inside any worker who tended toward
needed a nanny-manager that hoveredand had at all times the
bases well covered?It would be uninvitingwith work not
excitingand lots of new tasks undiscovered.Despite grimy
grimace of Sour-ho,Davey still to work had to go,though his
common senseat times just forbade it,the need 4
recompensemeant that he even made it,mostly five days in a
row.Now Grundge – with his eagle eyes and equally keen
sense of how to milk a worker – could make the rounds undetected,
sniffing out any wisps of 'skating' behavior amongst his veritable
drill press robots.
maybe that was the reason the drill presses were aligned along the
wall with workers mindlessly and obediently facing said wall. No
worker would have eyes on the back of her/his head; Grundge had eyes
coming out his ass, it so seemed.One particularly dull and
dreary day – as if those were not so few and far between as to not
be the rule – Davey was at the Arboga-Maskiner press as usual,
drilling with a 3/8ths [or so] drill bit, zipping through an angle
cut on a not so typical aluminum casting when without warning, PAFF!!Then pa-TAK-ATAK-ATAK!!DAMN-IT!!
Oh, well, you get the
idea: the rapidly rotating bit got stuck on a jagged edge of the
piece, which began spinning with the bit, creating a sharply revolving
hazard. Luckily, Davey got his hand off the clacking
nightmare just in time.Killing the power switch quickly, feeling
stunned, and with tachycardia in attendance, Davey felt a flush of
dilettantish embarrassment at this latest blunder.Moe
sympathized with suddenly pink-faced Davey, noting that this wasn't
the first time such a thing had happened in this dingy shop.
Assuredly it wouldn't be the last.In the end run, no harm