BY Davey H

06/01 Direct Link

Jim 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 as such.

06/02 Direct Link

Davey 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.

06/03 Direct Link

Davey 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.

06/04 Direct Link

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 actually treasonous.
Punching out another worker's time card was highly suspicious.

06/05 Direct Link

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.

06/06 Direct Link

“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.

06/07 Direct Link

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 Davey's favor.
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.

06/08 Direct Link

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.

06/09 Direct Link

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:


06/10 Direct Link

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:

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']

06/11 Direct Link

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.”

06/12 Direct Link

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.

06/13 Direct Link

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.

06/14 Direct Link

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.

06/15 Direct Link

As a 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.

06/16 Direct Link
The big question that remained to be answered in this mini soap opera of a local yokel drama was whether the bigwigs that actually oversaw that place would concur. After all, 103 acres of aggregate land – held under the auspices of a bona fide 501 c-3 charitable organization – incurred no small amount of technicalities as regarded the receiving of funds for timber rendered.

Um, like, hey, it appears that they aren’t allowed to SELL anything; that would, um, like, mean the organization could be tottering on the bleak precipice of being classified as a business.

And that wouldn’t fly, guy.
06/17 Direct Link
Enough of that. Current events can wait.

Preen-while, back to the gnawing board:
Davey’s tenure at Smedco began on that queasy note of not being quite sure what to make of the shop. It was a lot of things, tempered with the grief of having just lost what was likely the best thing he ever had, gritty as it was.

In the somewhat less noisy Smedco shop, women were on one side, assembling completed pieces into workable units and most likely also preparing said units for shipping.

Davey took his place on the right side ‘south’ wall of the shop.
06/18 Direct Link

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.

06/19 Direct Link

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 for her/himself.

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.

06/20 Direct Link

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 facility.
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.

06/21 Direct Link
As was perhaps previously mentioned, this place presented a whole new set of learning opportunities along with many pitfalls and chances for non-advancement.
It was, as Davey rapidly discerned, an entirely different animal.
Working on SMALL steel objects and fist-sized castings was surely a far cry from boxcars.
And this crew – with Sour-ho’s surly stares and a notable dearth of lighthearted banter during the morning push to produce as many widgets as possible before lunch – left Davey with an empty crater in terms of potential friendship solidification.
Moe was okay in this regard, and it certainly helped ease the pain.
06/22 Direct Link
Davey took to taking lots of potty breaks – seemingly to get away from the whirring din of the drill press and its smelly cutting oil.
This behavior did not go unnoticed by Sour-ho, for sure, and it eventually caught the attention of the much less affable general manager, who called Davey in to the office on one or two occasions, the latter of which was most memorable.

This mildly grouchy poker-faced manager, who, for the purposes of this long-winded diatribe, we’ll call ‘Grundge’, sat back, presenting Davey with a small slip of paper which he snidely slid across the desk.
06/23 Direct Link

‘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 pieces.

06/24 Direct Link

“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 shake.

But no; a more likely scenario would see the worker going home exhausted, ears ringing, with tiny slivers of aluminum embedded in her fingers.

06/25 Direct Link

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.

06/26 Direct Link

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!

06/27 Direct Link

Davey 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 self-sufficiency.

06/28 Direct Link

Who needed a nanny-manager that hovered
and had at all times the bases well covered?
It would be uninviting
with work not exciting
and lots of new tasks undiscovered.

Despite grimy grimace of Sour-ho,
Davey still to work had to go,
though his common sense
at times just forbade it,
the need 4 recompense
meant 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.

06/29 Direct Link

Hell, 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!!


06/30 Direct Link

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 done.