Steve Denniston, 10/13/2014

Current Occupation: Classroom assistant at an elementary school
Former Occupation: Wildland firefighter
Contact Information: If Steve had a tattoo it would say, ‘Born to Write. Forced to Work.’ He lives and works in Portland, Oregon, and can be found in coffee shops, brew pubs, and on Twitter @SteveDenniston.

#

Even With Sharon Being the Way She Is

 

    I make keys at the hardware store.  All kinds of keys.  House keys scream the loudest when I make them.  There is the screech of metal grinding off that everyone hears and I feel another sound underneath that one.  I know keys don’t really scream, it’s just what I hear.

    When there aren’t any keys to be made I go to the back and Sharon tells me what to do and I do it.  Sometimes I unpack boxes.  Sometimes I tear down boxes.  Sometimes I count things.  Counting is good.  Knowing how much there is of something, coming up with a real number, that means something.  I can touch that number when I’m done and I know I’ve done a good job.  I don’t mind the other work, but counting is my favorite.  I’m good at that.

    That’s what I’m doing when Rodger comes into the back.  “Hey lobotomy bro,” he says, “customer needs a key.”  He throws a key on the table in front of me.

    “Shut up Rodger.”  Sharon walks in behind him.  He needs to tell me when a customer needs a key made so she shouldn’t tell him to shut up.  She’s always angry when she talks to Rodger.  When they argue I want to be somewhere else.  I pick up the key.  It’s a car key.  A Toyota.  I go to where the machine is and make the key.

    Sharon tells me Rodger is not my friend.  Rodger laughs a lot when he talks to me.  I don’t say much.  Laughing means someone is happy.

    My case worker’s name is Ted.  He’s not my friend.  We have a professional relationship.  It’s his job to help me.  He’s nice and says he understands when it’s tough for me, but that we know each other professionally.  That’s different from friendship.

    I go to Subway for lunch after I make the Toyota key.  Usually I make a lunch at home but on Thursdays I don’t.  There is a line at Subway.  Five people in front of me and another three behind me.  Sometimes you have to wait in line.  The line will move and you’ll get your turn, but you have to wait.

    There is a baby too.  Maybe I should have counted the baby so it’s six people in front of me.  The baby is crying.  Louder and louder.  This is a real scream.  Everyone can hear it but no one is doing anything.  When someone cries it means they’re hurt.  When someone is hurt you should help them.  “The baby is crying,” I say to the people around me.  No one does anything.  I say louder, “The baby is crying.”

    “Hey Dustin,” Meagan says to me.  Meagan is at the cash register today.  Her hair is very short but she’s a girl.  “Are you waiting in line?”

    “I am,” I say and point to the baby, “it’s crying.”

    “It’s okay,” Meagan says.

    The woman with the baby turns to me.  “His teeth hurt.  That’s all.  He’s getting new teeth.”  She turns around again.

    “Sometimes it’s okay to cry,” Meagan says.

    I nod my head.  “It’s okay to cry,” I say to the baby.

    I know Meagan.  Before you can be someone’s friend you need to know them.  To get to know them you have to be friendly.  Being friendly is different from being friends.  It’s possible to be too friendly.  This makes people nervous.

    To be nervous is a kind of uncomfortableness.  Ted talks to me a lot about understanding what makes people nervous.  He wants to know what makes me nervous too.  We read stories about it together.  He calls them social stories.  They’re about how people feel.  Sometimes the stories make me nervous.  I don’t tell Ted that because he smiles when we read them together.

    Back at work Rodger asks if I want to do some videos with him again.  He videos me on his phone.  I turn my head from side to side, then I turn all the way around.  When I watch the video I can see the sides of my head and the back of myself.  Sometimes Rodger tells me things to say when we’re doing video.  The words don’t make any sense but I say them anyway and Rodger laughs.  It’s funny seeing myself on his phone.  Both of us laugh a lot.

    Sharon asks what I was doing with Rodger.  She’s angry and keeps asking what he tells me to say but she’ll only shout louder no matter what I tell her so I don’t say anything.  Finally she leaves and I go back to counting.  It’s a shipment day so there is a lot more to count.

    There are twenty-five EcoSmart Soft White Lightbulbs 14-Watt.  It matches the inventory sheet and I write my number down next to the twenty-five printed on the invoice.  I touch both numbers.  I really want today to be a good day, even with Sharon being the way she is.

    Rodger brings me another key at the end of the day.  “Think you’re up to it, bro?”    Sharon is watching.  I nod my head.  “I can do it.”  It’s a house key.

    Rodger says “What?” to Sharon and she says to him, “Michael wants to talk to you.  In his office.”  Rodger says, “This is bullshit.”  That’s a red word, not a green word.  You shouldn’t say red words.  He goes back to the office and I go to the machine.

    I select the right key for the copy, put both of them into the machine and turn it on.  I have to keep my hand on the machine, pushing the button so it runs.  Sharon comes over and says, “Rodger won’t bother you any more.  I thought you’d want to know.”  She puts her hand on my arm when she says this and leans close to my ear.

    “All right,” I say because I want her to move away and not touch me.  Later I can ask Rodger what she means.  She gives me a little hug and leaves.  The machine is loud and the key is only halfway done.  The sound travels through the machine, up my arm, and into me.  “It’s okay,” I say, “sometimes it’s okay to cry.”

 

Ed Nichols, 10/6/2014

Current Occupation: Management Consultant and Author
Former Occupation: Human Resources Manager and Consultant
Contact Information: Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia. He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia. He is a short story award winner from Southeastern Writers Association. He has had short stories published, and/or scheduled for publication in: Every Writer’s Resource, Fiction On The Web, Short-Stories.me, Vending Machine Press, Floyd County Moonshine Review, Beorh Quarterly, Page and Spine, and Belle Reve Literary Review.

 

#

LEON’S CHILI

    Driving home from work Friday afternoon, Leon Henson was more worried than he had ever been in his entire life.  He’d gone through a lot in his fifty years, but now things were looking really bleak.  Tonight, he was going to have to tell Pat, his wife, what was going to happen to the garment plant, and his job.  He’d told her before that it wouldn’t surprise him if Mr. Sorrells sold the plant, or moved it overseas.  Now it was definite.  It was moving to China.  Mr. Sorrells called Leon in his office right at five o’clock and gave him the news.  He swore Leon to secrecy, since it wouldn’t be announced to the other employees until Monday morning.  And Monday morning, he needed an answer from Leon; if he was interested in going to China to help start up the new plant.  Twenty-two years he’d worked for Mr. Sorrells.  One of the last garment plants producing men’s dress shirts in Georgia, probably in the whole country, Leon figured.  Now the shirts would be produced thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, by people with no experience, and shipped by boat across the ocean—and Leon still couldn’t understand how this would be better, or cheaper, than the way they made shirts.

    He parked his pickup in the front yard, went inside his house and got a cold beer out of the fridge and went out to the back porch.  He stood for a while, sipping the beer and staring at the small pond on the edge of his pasture.  He sat in his rocker and closed his eyes for a moment.  God, he thought.  I’ve worked my ass off for years at that plant.  He remembered Pat reading a book not long ago, something about, Bad Things That Happen to Good People.  He wondered.  He’d always tried to do right in everything.  “Be honest and never lie,” his daddy had told him many times.  Leon knew that he’d tried to live an honest life.  He’d always put his heart and soul into everything he did.  Even in Vietnam.  He could’ve done some bad things over there, but he didn’t.  Then he remembered his daddy telling him, “Everything runs in cycles, son.  There’ll be good times and bad times.  You got to just ride the bad times out.”

    Later that afternoon, Pat came home and Leon told her.  And since she operated her shop on Saturdays, and knowing how gossip swirls around her shop, he told her not to say a word tomorrow about the plant closing, no matter who she was talking to.  Then he told her about Mr. Sorrells offer for him to help start up the plant in China.

    “Wow,” Pat said.  “That’s says a lot about how much he respects your ability and experience.”

    “Yea.  But, I’m not going.”

    “I don’t want you to go, either,” Pat said.  “But…it would be something, wouldn’t it?”

    “I was close to China once—in the army—and I don’t have any desire to go back to that part of the world.”

    “I understand,” Pat said.  “What did Mr. Sorrells say—six months in China?”

    “Yea.  Probably about six months to get it up and running.  Lot depends how fast they learn, I guess.”  Leon rubbed his eyes, and then said, “Let’s go get a bite somewhere.”

    “Okay,” Pat said.

    Leon and Pat liked to eat fish on Fridays, so they went to Trader Jack’s Seafood restaurant on the square in Clarkesville.  The catfish was fresh and very good.  Leon enjoyed the meal, and being in the restaurant with Pat lifted his spirits somewhat.  Back home, they sat on the porch and talked until the sun went down.  Leon drank a couple of beers and Pat sipped a glass of white wine.  He had just turned fifty, and here he was, soon to be unemployed.  He’d said earlier to Pat, “Who the hell is going to hire a fifty-year-old sewing machine mechanic?”  Then he’d said, with angry in his voice, “Damn the Chinese!”

    She’d told him to take it easy.  They would get by.  Something good would come out of it.  

——

    On Saturday afternoon, Leon decided to cook some chili, so Pat wouldn’t have to do anything when she got home.  Saturday’s were usually hectic at her shop.  Plus, cooking chili had always been good therapy for him.  He’d been over to visit his daughter at her trailer earlier in the day, and he needed to get his mind off that; and with all that was going to happen at the plant on Monday, he was pretty stressed out.   He loved his daughter and two grandchildren, but she’d created a hard life for herself, and he blamed himself, somewhat.  She married way too young, to a real weirdo.  Had kids way too soon, divorced, and had a hell of a time keeping a job and making ends meet.  He stirred ground chuck in the skillet and added chili powder as the meat cooked and turned golden brown.  Making chili was something he had always enjoyed—and he was good at it, at least everyone who’d ever eaten it always told him it was really good.  He had a special way of doing it, combining the various ingredients.  How much you added to the mix, and at what point you added them, was his secret, he thought.  As he was spooning the meat into his large boiler, he heard the front door open and close.  “That you?” he said.

    “It’s me,” his wife said.  She walked in the kitchen, sniffed loud, and said, “Chili?”

    “Yea.  You smell it?”

    “Uh-huh,” she said.  “I’m glad, too, cause I’m starved.  Had four perms today so I didn’t even stop for lunch.”

    “Go get comfortable,” he said.  “It’ll be a little while before it’s ready.”

    Leaving the kitchen, she asked, “You visit Clarice today?”

    He anticipated her next questions, and said, “She’s okay.  The new job at Piggly Wiggly seems to be good, for right now at least.  And the kids are doing well, she says.”

    He added chopped onions and bell peppers to the boiler, stirred hard, and then poured in diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, tomato paste, corn, and a bottle of beer.  He stirred steady with his left hand as he gradually added all the spices, which he had mixed earlier in the afternoon.  While the chili simmered, he made a pan of cornbread.  Glancing out the kitchen window, he watched a flock of geese glide toward the pond.  Just as the geese swooped low, a gust of wind whipped across the lake, bending the apple trees and shrubs on the edge of the lake, causing the geese to angle sideways and land abruptly.  He said aloud, “Almost crash-landed, didn’t you?  Just like what’s gonna happen to me.”  

    Forty-five minutes later, he called to Pat, and she came to the kitchen in her robe and bedroom shoes.  “I went ahead and took a hot bath,” she said.

    “Good.  Got rid of that perm smell, huh?”

    “Yes,” she said.  “But it smells like money, doesn’t it?”

    “Hey.  Have I ever complained?” he said, motioning to the breakfast table.

    She kissed him and sat down.  He fixed two glasses of iced tea and spooned out two bowls of chili and put the plate of cornbread in the middle of the table.  She ate more chili than he did, but that was due to the fact that he had continuously sampled the chili, with his big wooden spoon.  After eating and clearing the table, he poured two glasses of wine and they went to the living room to watch television.  They sat together on the sofa.  “You know, Leon,” she said, “if you had a restaurant, I really believe you could do well.”

    He laughed.  “You’ve said that before.  But I couldn’t serve chili every day.”

    “No.  Of course not.  You’d have to have a menu.  Sandwiches, hamburgers and fries and such.”  She paused and put her hand on his thigh.  “But, one or two days a week you could have a

special on your chili.  I think it would really draw folks into the restaurant.”

    He laughed again.  “I appreciate your confidence in my expertise as a chef.”

    “I’m serious, Honey,” she said.  “Besides, you’ve already said there were absolutely no jobs for a sewing machine mechanic.”

    He leaned over and kissed her.  “You’re nut’s, you know that?”

    “Something to think about, with what’s going to happen Monday,” she said.

    He leaned his head back on the sofa.  “Damn, Chinese!”  

——

    Sunday morning, Leon drove downtown and bought a newspaper.  He and Pat sat on the sofa and read it.  She folded the classified section and laid it on the coffee table.  With a red pen she circled two restaurants: one for lease and one for sale.  Leon was studying the want ads when she smiled and motioned for him to look at what she had circled in red.

    Leon laughed, and then saw that she was serious.  “God, Pat,” he said.  “I don’t know… about this restaurant idea.”

    “Hey, we’ve got a little saved up, and you figure Mr. Sorrells will give you some severance pay, right?”

    “Yes, but—“

    She reached over, pulled on his arm and stood up.  “Let’s go for a ride,” she said.

    “Okay,” he said, laughing, and feeling something different.  A vision, or scene, flashed across his mind, and he started thinking of his chili recipe.  Then when they stopped at the restaurant that was for lease and both held their hands beside their eyes like blinders, looking through the closed glass doors, he became aware of a new sense of freedom.  He could suddenly see a real up-cycle in their lives.  At that moment, he began to visualize the sign he would have made for the restaurant.  

 

Gargi Mehra, 9/29/2014

Current Occupation: Project Manager at a Software Company
Former Occupation: Programmer at a Software Company
Contact Information: Gargi Mehra is a software professional by day and a writer by night. She writes fiction and humor in a determined effort to unite the two sides of the brain in cerebral harmony. Her work has appeared in Page & Spine, Tincture Journal, GlassFire, Bartleby Snopes and Liquid Imagination among other online avenues. She blogs at http://gargimehra.wordpress.com/
 

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Poetic Cyber-war

The other day I committed a crime – the crime of sending Grace a joke she had read earlier. The following conversation ensued:

 

From: Grace
To: Nina
Cc: Ravi; Sheila

Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Been there, seen that…send something new!!

Yawn …. 🙂

Regards,

Grace

 

From: Nina
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 2:30 PM
To: Grace
Cc: Ravi; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Apparently I have nothing to send to people who have “been everywhere, seen everything”.

Go back to sleep, Grace. That’s what you do best.

Regards,

Nina

 

From: Grace
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 2:41 PM
To: Nina
Cc: Ravi; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Your tone is accusatory, your words demeaning

I am wide awake, while you were sleeping

Not only had you slept, but loudly you had snored

Now I shall erase your limericks off my board

Though style be lacking, my meaning is plain

The war is on, bring on your best game!

Regards,

Grace

 

From: Nina
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 2:50 PM
To: Grace
Cc: Ravi; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Your poem is pointless,

Your words are stale,

All you are doing,

Is clogging the mail

Erase my words from the board,

But they’ll stay in your mind,

What you really need is,

A big whack on the behind

Empty may be the board,

But my words have made their mark,

Try as you may,

From your mind they won’t depart.

If this is war,

And Ravi is on your side,

Tell me one thing,

Why is he forced to hide?

(Has he gone off

to commit suicide?

– addition by Sheila)

Regards,

Nina

 

From: Grace
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 3:32 PM
To: Nina
Cc: Ravi; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Dear Nina and Sheila,

Ravi is busy with work

A word from which ‘others’ shirk

Obviously you have none

Since you have time for all this fun

Don’t point any fingers at me

I am as busy as can be

I am just obliging you

With a poem or two

Regards,

Grace

From: Ravi
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 3:42 PM
To: Nina
Cc: Grace; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

I do not hide

Or "commit" suicide

A meeting was in my duty

You do not understand – what a pity!

 

I take a side

By rules I do not abide

You think you are sitting pretty

Wait till I am free beyond six- thirty!

 

The war is wide

With Grace I shall guide

Poetic bullets in multiples of fifty

And laugh all along – hale and hearty!

 

Cheerio!!!!

Ravi

(Fear not Grace… help is just a click away)

From: Nina
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 4:04 PM
To: Ravi
Cc: Grace; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

To Grace:

My dearest busy bee

I’ve already had time to see

That what you claim as work

Brings to my face a mere smirk

Pointing fingers

Is not my task

Try to be yourself

Do not wear a mask.

In the end I ask of you,

Please stop obliging me,

With one poem,

Or even three!

To Ravi:

You do not hide,

You do not by rules abide,

You do not even commit suicide,

It seems that only with Grace you side!

Be brave and face it,

A rhyme isn’t your cup of tea

Because rhyming ‘pretty’ and ‘thirty’

Is even worse than ‘duty’ and ‘pity’

A spine you have none,

For else you would know,

The war has already been won,

But we (Sheila and I) are too modest to let our victory show!!

Regards,

Nina

 

From: Ravi
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 4:55 PM
To: Nina
Cc: Grace; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Using volume of words you cannot win

Quality and not Quantity is the right spin

Bowling googlies and copying verse

Don’t you have a better way- something terse??

 

From: Nina
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2013 5:04 PM
To: Ravi
Cc: Grace; Sheila
Subject: RE: Man walks into bar

Finally, Ravi, you did it,

You wrote some real rhymes,

As you can see from this verse,

I can be terse sometimes

Regards,

Nina

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks Winchell, 9/22/2014

Current Occupation: Student Support Services Coordinator/ Adjunct Lecturer
Former Occupation: Adjunct Lecturer
Contact Information: Brooks Winchell received his MFA from Lesley University in poetry, but since then, he has primarily been writing fiction and non-fiction, much of which grapples with issues in higher education, and some of which has been published elsewhere.  He has been involved in the industry for 9 years, first as an Adjunct Lecturer, and currently as a Student Support Services Coordinator.

 

#

    Adjunctopia: A paradise of isolation awaits you!

I am an adjunct, literally an extra, and not all together incidentally, I am lonely. I am alone all day, except when I am in class, but that doesn’t really count because students aren’t that important.  I mean they are important in the way that they “are the future” and how they “hold intellectual potential,” etc. but as human beings I can relate to, they are of only mild consequence. I mean I can’t, like, tell them how fucking annoying my kids were yesterday or how absolutely idiotic the department chair was for making so-and-so decision, or how intensely throbbing my headache is after last night’s Percocet binge. We can, of course, connect on vague pleasantries like the weather or some interesting bit of current news, but on the whole, we are entirely disparate since they don’t really want me in their world any more than I want them in mine, which brings me back to my initial point – I am a lonely fucking adjunct.

    Even to the faculty, I’m like “that weird dude in there using the photocopier” or the shadow that slinks thorough the office during an important meeting to grab a few blue books.  Transient.  I am not of much consequence, you see, as evidenced by my salary. And, of course, I don’t really do much to correct this “misconception” (if that is truly the case) since I stopped wearing regular pants a long time ago and show up to the University exclusively in sweatpants, tee shirts, and Red Sox hats. Plus, my hygiene isn’t really all that good, and I have given up completely on non-contract-mandated meetings, particularly the ethereal, bullshitty departmental ones on “theoretical frameworks” or “pedagogical approaches” since I have only a rudimentary understanding of either of those phrases.  It doesn’t matter much besides because my entire livelihood is subject to the whims of budget cuts and class sizes, and my presence reminds every one of the low tensile strength of a university career and the entire university system in general.   

In these senses, I can’t really blame my colleagues for turning the other way when they see me in the halls or hushing up quickly when I interrupt a lively exchange on the subjective nature of assessment in order to droll extra-slowly through to check my empty mailbox.  The truth is that the actual, useful half-life of an adjunct is 3 years, and after that it begins to degrade like spent plutonium. I know it myself, having seen my share of haggard, 20 year adjuncts who have blown out their own brains with gin and tonics and can barely remember what classes they teach (not that it matters as long as a warm body shows up). And I am well on my way there, have adjuncted now for 7 years and never once, in all that time, worn a bowtie. I don’t even own any bowties and probably wouldn’t even understand a sarcastic bowtie if I saw one.  I am terribly ill-humored, as you may have guessed, and completely unrefined in almost every way.  I don’t even read the texts for my own classes anymore so much as drag them around by their hair uttering senseless gutturals.

It would probably help if I attended even one fucking holiday party or signed even one extra-large birthday card, but it is hard to give a shit when I work at like 18 schools, and hard too, for them I imagine, to invite me when I all I do is mope around in my uncombed hair and slippers as if on extended residency at the asylum (where I am sure to end up some day).  So I accept my lonely fucking adjunct life and even, perhaps, perpetuate it in some ways, like yesterday, when I encountered that preeminent scholar taking a whiz in basement urinal and sidled up next to him to his absolute dismay.  It could have been the perfect opportunity to discuss my freshest critical insights into his latest book, seeing how he had no option to disappear (being mid-stream and all).  But even then, alone with my hostage captive for a full thirty seconds, there was nothing but crickets and the intermittent spritzing of porcelain.  It was not at all like I imagined in my own mind – both of us sitting fireside, pondering life and literature with a scotch in hand.  The reality was I froze and couldn’t even utter the meekest sound, except to say: “It’s cold outside.”

“It sure is” he said, “plus, there’s that news story.”

“Right,” I said zipping up and slinking back into my quiet life of travelling around from here to there, class to class, temporal and temperate like some god-forsaken volcanic Island, “nothing but cold and news.”

 

Debra McQueen, 9/15/2014

Current Occupation: Special Education Teacher
Former Occupation:  Legal Secretary
Contact Information: Debra McQueen teaches young children with learning disabilities and autism, and travels adventurously in her free time. Her articles on sailing a sloop 10,000 miles appeared in Sail and Cruising World. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in The Art of Medicine in Metaphors, The Legendary, and she has 3 poems forthcoming in Neon. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, she currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina and is working on a chapbook called Born to Die.

 

#

April 17, 1985

 

Quentin H. Smith, Esq.

64 W. Santa Clara Ave., Suite 200

San Jose, CA 95113

 

Re:       Letter of Resignation

 

Dear Mr. Smith:

 

            This letter is to inform you that I don’t want to be your secretary anymore. As I write, I know just what you will say. “Whaddya mean, are you quitting? How can you quit?” Permit me to explain.

 

            I quit because you leave for lunch every day at 11:30, and even though you sometimes come back at 1:00, sometimes you don’t come back at all, and you never tell me which one to expect.

 

            I quit because, on the days you do come back from lunch, you smell like Scotch and Kent 100s, and only then do you dictate legal documents. These complaints of yours, these interrogatories, these voir dire to the jury, full of run-on sentences and non sequiturs, inevitably need to be filed today to meet the statute of limitations. You are never finished revising until approximately 2:46, and the Court closes at 3:00 p.m. and is a 15-minute walk from our office. And you expect me to wear skirts and heels to work. And we don’t have a courier.

 

            I quit because you asked me to send a letter certified mail once, and I did not intuit that meant “return receipt requested.” How was I to know the letter’s recipient was just as conniving and deceitful as you? That he would claim not to have received the letter before the statute of limitations ran out? May I remind you that I’m 19? That this is my first office job? I am learning everything, everything, and not just all the different ways one can send mail. (I quit because you’re a yeller.)

 

            I quit because your shiftless son Raymond won’t stop hanging around the office directing sexual innuendo at me and when I ask you to make him stop, you say, “Whaddya expect? You’re a pretty girl.”

 

            I quit because all the things you expect me to be as your employee – on time, reliable, cheerful, and sober – you, Mr. Smith, are not.

 

            Lastly, I quit because I recently learned that all the things I do for you I can do for someone else in a nicer location for twice as much money. I am only 19, so I believe this step up means my future employer will be on time, reliable, cheerful, and sober. (I will turn out to be wrong about that, but for now, I’ll allow myself this happy delusion.)

 

            Thank you for everything I learned in your office. I promise you this: I will never forget it.

 

                                                                                                Very sincerely yours,

 

 

                                                                                                Your Former Secretary

Mary Senter, 9/8/2014

Current Occupation: Corrections Officer
Former Occupation: Cook, fish processor, factory worker, elevator operator, waitress, janitor, carpenter, welder, sheet metal mechanic, and maintenance worker.
Contact Information: Mary Senter studied Literary Fiction Writing at the University of Washington. Her stories can be found in Stratus: Journal of Arts and Writing, Thirty Nights of Tuesday and Heater. She writes in a cabin in the woods on the shores of Puget Sound. She is working on an historical novel set in the in the 1890s. Visit her at www.marysenter.com.

#

Blue Collar Blues

 

    I’ve been wearing boots to work most of my adult life: rubber boots, steel-toed boots, lineman’s boots, loggers, and now tactical boots.  I was drawn to the blue-collar life, which is funny, because my dad’s a Lawyer and my mom was in PR and real estate and…I’m a woman.  

    I knew from an early age that boys had all the fun.  They got to play baseball and ride BMX bikes and get dirty.  I never had much interest in wearing dresses and playing dolls.  During college, when my friends were seeking work as secretaries and receptionists, I went to work in a fish factory.  My safety equipment included rubber boots, gloves and a hair net and I stood on a line for eight hours a day, elbow deep in fish parts.  You would think that would have cured me from that type of work, but it didn’t.  

    Whenever it was time to search the classified, I never looked in the administration section.  The thought of going to work in a cubicle and having to try to decide what fancy outfit to wear didn’t interest me.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl, or better yet, a uniform girl.  If you wear a uniform to work, you never have to think about what you’re going to wear.

    At 23, I enlisted in the Air Force and began to appreciate a uniform.  I became a structural journeyman and wore BDUs and 16-inch steel-toed lineman’s boots.   I was a welder, a carpenter, and a sheet metal mechanic.  My uniform was very comfortable and when it wore out, it was replaced.  I almost never had to go shopping and was always in style.

    After being discharged, I continued working construction and facilities maintenance for many years.  When I finally decided I couldn’t stand working outside in wet Washington winters anymore, I became a corrections officer.  Now my collar is literally blue, my uniform is less comfortable, but my boots are more comfortable and my office changes every day.  

    Working in a jail is dangerous, disgusting and depressing, and I’ve seen things I never dreamed I would see in my lifetime.  Every day is a challenge and I never know if in the next second someone will throw himself off the upper level or go into cardiac arrest or start beating the crap out of the guy sitting next to him at dinner.  It’s never boring.  

    Over the course of my blue-collar life, I can say I’ve done a lot of things many women haven’t.  I’ve busted ass, gotten heat exhaustion, been harassed, risen at 3am, spent countless hours with elevated blood pressure while stuck on I-5, the clock ticking toward the daycare closing and no way to get there in time.  I’ve pushed, pulled, hauled, lifted, led, directed, fixed, altered, maintained, transported, cleaned, sorted, inspected, built, constructed, demolished, supervised, hammered, soldered, welded, built, packed, installed, booked, interviewed, checked, monitored, operated, repaired, replaced, planned, cut, bent, shaped, sawed, drilled, sanded, stripped, calked, and layed.  I’ve cleaned up shit, picked up trash, been cussed at, worked while soaking wet, sliced my skin open more times than I could count, worked to the point of complete exhaustion, been exposed to extreme heights, hazardous fumes, naked people, dangerous criminals, TB, hepatitis, AIDS, and  MRSA.  I’ve fought with inmates who were coated in blood and urine, and have come home every night smelling like low tide in summertime.  However, even though my work was no picnic, every one of my jobs has also been filled with great experiences; and I’m so thankful that I have been able to do the work of men all of these years, because men really do have all the fun.  

    My dad once asked me why I wanted to do this work.  He said ditch digging (done that, too) is for men with strong backs and weak minds.  Maybe so, but it’s also for tomboys who like to go outside and get dirty.  

    But what was I thinking?  I could have been in a nice, safe, comfortable, warm office all of these years, pushing nothing but paper.  I’m middle-aged now.  It’s time I came to my senses.  I’m too old for ditch digging.

    I’m switching gears, finally.  I’m pursuing a Master’s in Strategic Communication and plan to work for a non-profit, cultural arts organization, museum, or university, doing social media marketing and digital communication.  I also hope to help other writers build their author platforms.  

    I know, a total switch.  How will I manage to put together a professional outfit every morning?  What will I do when there is no danger of being smeared with bodily fluids throughout my day?   Will I know how to communicate with people who discuss things other than football and guns and don’t use profanity or off-color remarks?    

    These are the things I worry about, but I’m pretty sure I’ll manage.  I’m looking forward to hanging up my boots, permanently.  

 

Brittany R. Clark, 9/1/2014

Current Occupation: Student;  floor crew at a movie theater (box office, concessions, usher – I've done it all)
Former Occupation: various other retail positions
Contact Information: Currently, I am a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg, where I am working on my MA in Humanities. My thesis (which will hopefully be done in the spring) will contain a collection of personal essays about my 13+ years of working in various retail jobs. I graduated from Western Michigan University in 2008 with a Bachelors degree in English. Short stories of mine have appeared in the online journal Silverthought as well as in The Binnacle.

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Labor Day:
And Other Holidays That Aren’t When You Work in Retail

 

    Labor Day was started when several New York City unions joined together to form the Central Labor Union, now known as the New York City Central Labor Council. In 1882 they decided that on September 5th they would hold a parade and picnic to celebrate the hard work of all the laborers in the city. It was a risky proposition because, being a Tuesday, many workers would have to take the day off without pay. Regardless, an estimated 10,000 people showed up to celebrate. By 1887 the celebration had spread to several other states including Colorado and New Jersey. In 1894 the U.S. Congress declared that the first Monday in September would be officially a legal holiday known as Labor Day. A day for the workers.

    Today, Labor Day isn’t really considered a major holiday for retail workers as they often don’t get paid time-and-a-half for the day. Retailers usually only consider Thanksgiving and Christmas to be the holidays worthy of overtime pay. I have only worked a few jobs that stayed open on what are considered these two major holidays, but when it is the case, I usually volunteer to work those days.  I do so partly so that some of my co-workers who are married with kids can spend the day with their families. I live in a different state than my parents, and so it is infeasible to travel the 10+ hours just for a day-trip, and getting the day before or after the holiday off is nearly impossible. And, I won’t lie it’s nice that, even though it is not required by law, many employers pay their workers time-and-a-half for working on holidays. Although I sometimes think that is to keep the employees from complaining too loudly. My partner and I have gotten used to celebrating holidays on different days. Even if that means eating turkey on a Monday and opening Christmas presents at 11:00 at night on Christmas Eve. He has worked retail in the past, and is understanding of the madness it can create at the end of the year.

    And it is always madness. Any day that a majority of working people have off, is going to be a busy day for those in retail who don’t. This isn’t just the big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, either. Many of the places I’ve worked for considered different holidays to be their busiest days of the year. The restaurant where I got my first job thought Mother’s Day was their busiest day, because people were taking their mothers out for a nice buffet and steak dinner. When I worked for a cookie place in the food court of a mall, I was told it would be Valentine’s Day, because cookie cakes were considered to be acceptable last minute gifts from forgetful loved ones. The movie theater I work for now claims that Christmas is the busiest day of the year because often special movies come out on that day. Last year we had close to 3,000 customers on just that one day despite not getting in any real blockbusters. The fact different holidays are busier at different places, and the fact that I’ve worked most of them are probably the reason I’m sort of immune to working on any holiday. After a Wal Mart worker was trampled in the 5:00 A.M. rush on Black Friday, the shopping extravaganza on the day after Thanksgiving, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a list of “Crowd Management Safety Guidelines For Retailers.” These days Black Friday is turning into Grey Thursday as it retailers creep further and further into Thanksgiving day itself.

    The first Christmas I ever had to work was for a large chain drugstore in 2012. At first thought it was okay that we were open on Christmas because people get sick unexpectedly and need medicine they didn’t know they might need ahead of time. Only, the pharmacy wasn’t open, just the store part. And most of the people that came in that day weren’t there to buy emergency cold medicine, but where there for last minute Christmas gifts. I was absolutely stunned that people would want to buy gifts on the day itself.

    That day I got into an argument with a customer who claimed that a sign on the box of cheap fleece blankets was deceptively close to the bin containing higher quality Sherpa blankets, and that I should just give her the $10 discount. Sometimes I am a bad cashier because if the customer is wrong in such an obvious way I will fight them on it until I am told explicitly not to by my manager. I was appalled that she would want to spend twenty minutes quarreling with me on Christmas day. She got her discount, but only because my manager decided we were too busy to fight with her, and that, if she didn’t she would just end up writing the district manager.

    Customers always seemed surprised when stores are busy on Thanksgiving and Christmas. To those of us who work in the field, it is common sense. When most people have the day off, those who don’t are going to be busy. The worst thing a customer can say to an employee while physically standing in the building is, “I can’t believe you’re open today!” (it is always said with the exclamation point at the end). It makes me want to reply that if customers like you weren’t here, I wouldn’t have to be, and that you are the reason we’re open today. Instead we’re asked to politely smile and reply something like, “It’s one of the busiest days of the year,” and try to end it there. 

    I think for many people who work in retail holidays mean different things than those who don’t. I don’t mean to imply that we appreciate them more, but it does give you a different perspective on the whole concept of special days. I would guess that more often than not, it makes workers like myself hate the whole wretched end-of-the year season, from first shipment in of Christmas merchandise sometimes as early as September, to the final chords of It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year the day after Christmas.

    Some stores that have never stayed open on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas are starting to because annual sales are down and they know they can drive up sales on those days. A report by Mastercard indicated that customers spend as much as 70% of their budget in the first two stores they visit on Black Friday, meaning retailers are jockeying to be the first to open on Thanksgiving. Even Macys which in the past steadfastly refused to open on Thanksgiving opened its doors at 8:00 at night last year. Walgreens’s own website claims that, “our research indicates that approximately 97 percent of people see themselves making an impromptu shopping trip this season.” 97 percent.
    Workers aren’t necessarily taking all of this lying down, of course. The website change.org has listed 199 separate petitions asking stores ranging from Walmart and Target to Staples and Big Lots to Medieval Times to stay closed on Thanksgiving. Target fought back against one of these petitions, saying they were simply responding to customer feedback, and that employee preferences about working on the day were taken into consideration when scheduling was done. The person responsible for the petition responded with a picture posted in her store showing dates employees were not allowed to ask for off. “Thanksgiving Weeks: November 18 – December 1; Christmas Weeks: December 16 – January 5.” Similar signs posted at various K-Marts also began surfacing. For my part, when I worked at a regional big box chain as a part-time employee I was also told that I couldn’t ask for time off in December, because it wouldn’t be granted. My request that I get an early shift for Christmas Eve (Christmas was the only day of the year the store was closed) because at the time I only lived three hours away from my parents, was denied. I was given the late shift and drove to my parent’s place in the dark in the middle of winter. I called in with fake car problems instead of going in on the day after Christmas that year. 

    In 1903 Florence Kelly wrote an article titled The Travesty of Christmas, which highlighted the impact of long holiday hours on workers. One of the main concerns in the article is the 1896 repeal of the Mercantile Employees Law, which restricted the number of hours women under 21 and boys under 16 could work in a day and in the week. The law was far from perfect, as these restrictions were lifted for much of the month of December, but Kelly felt it was better than nothing at all. This article started a movement that urged consumers to “Shop Early” to save workers from unnecessary extra stress of the holiday season. The movement lasted until World War II and then, sadly, faded away. While today working conditions are vastly improved, the designation of special days where workers of all sorts can enjoy a day of rest seems to be fading away.

    I started working at my first job in 2001, when I began working for a buffet restaurant. The first Thanksgiving I was asked to work wasn’t until nearly ten years later in 2010, when I was a cashier at a regional big box store. The first Christmas I worked was in 2012 at a chain drugstore. I didn’t really get into the major holiday game until late in my retail career, and came at a time when I lived an inconvenient distance away from my family to make day-trips unrealistic. So, while I don’t mind being at work on these days if I have to, it does raise questions of fairness and equality. I feel like I’ve always been less upset about having to be at work on these days than at the fact that customers can’t adjust their attitudes to be better than they would on any other day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally get bummed out when I’m driving home from work at 11:59 on December 31st, or when I have to go outside the store to see fireworks on July 4th. Or wonder whether my family has started eating yet on Thanksgiving as I’m serving customers. I don’t think you can ever completely stop feeling like an outsider observing those who get to celebrate holidays as they like.

    Some people argue that retail workers shouldn’t complain because emergency workers like policemen, firemen, and hospital workers are also asked to work on holidays. However, these workers provide life-saving services. Most retail establishments don’t. You could say that, in both of these positions employees know what they’re signing up for when they take the job, and that if the worker doesn’t want to work on these days, they shouldn’t take that job. But emergency workers are compensated in ways retail employees aren’t. Part-time retail employees aren’t often offered benefits like health insurance, and most only make minimum-wage. This past Easter I realized that time-and-a-half pay for me, making seventy-five cents above the minimum wage meant that I only made $12 an hour. Police officers make about $27 an hour normally, by comparison.

    So why are we privileging some jobs over others? Why are people who already have benefits and better pay get special days off, when those at the bottom of the job pool have to work on those days? Retail work is every bit as stressful and demanding as many of these other jobs, and can be more so on these holidays. Labor Day is the only day of the year I ever get on a soap box and ask my friends and family members to abstain from shopping or going out to eat. After all, it isn’t called “White Collar Labor Day,” it is just “Labor Day” and it is supposed to be a day for all laborers. Of course, if employers can’t be bothered to give their workers the day of the laborer off, I don’t know why we ever expect that we would get other days off. If we’re going to designate certain days of the year as being more special than others, why is it that only those privileged enough not to have to stand behind a cash register the only ones who get to take full advantage of those days? 

#

 

Sources

Working on Holidays: The New Class Divide
By Shamus Khan
Time Magazine, 11-19-12
http://ideas.time.com/2012/11/19/working-holidays-the-new-class-divide/

“Here’s the Real Reason Stores Are Open for Black Friday Sales on Thanksgiving
By Claire O’Connor
Forbes, 11-28-13
http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/11/28/heres-the-real-reason-stores-are-open-for-black-friday-sales-on-thanksgiving-day/

A Century of Misery for Retail Employees Just Before Christmas
By Connor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic, 12-24-13
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/a-century-of-misery-for-retail-employees-just-before-christmas/282628/#disqus_thread

The Travesty of Christmas
By Florence Kelly
http://books.google.com/books?id=RiYrAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA537#v=onepage&q&f=false

Save Thanksgiving: Consumers and Workers Ask Retail Stores To Stay Closed on Thanksgiving
change.org
https://www.change.org/campaigns/save-thanksgiving-2013

Target Responds to Backlash Over Thanksgiving Night Black Friday Sale
By Matt Brownell
Daily Finance, 11-17-12
http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/11/16/target-responds-to-backlash-over-thanksgiving-night-black-friday/

Photo of ‘Blackout Days’ at Target
https://change.app.box.com/s/uasrv0h8mdovg0pjgb65

Another Kmart Sign Emerges Demanding Employees Work on Holidays
By Jillian Berman
The Huffington Post, 11-8-13
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/kmart-holidays_n_4241144.html

Crowd Management Fact Sheet For Retailers
OSHA
https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/Crowd_Control.html

Retail Workers Ask Themselves What Thanksgiving with Family is Worth
By Dave Jamieson
The Huffington Post, 11-28-13
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/28/working-thanksgiving_n_4351406.html

Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death
By Robert D. McFadden and Angela Macropoulos
The New York Times, 11-28-2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/business/29walmart.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

How Much Money Does the Average Police/ Highway Patrol Officer Make
By Forest Time
http://work.chron.com/much-money-average-police-highway-patrol-officer-make-6598.htmf

U.S. Department of Labor:

The History of Labor Day:
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm

DOL’s Historian on the History of Labor Day
By Linda Stinson
http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history-elevator.htm

Work Hours: Holidays:
http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/holidays.htm

   

 

Annie Lampman, 8/25/2014

Current Occupation: English Dept. Lecturer
Former Occupation: Homemaker/Cook's Assistant/Pinecone Picker (yep, that's a real thing!)
Contact Information: Annie Lampman grew up in the woods of Idaho and now lives in Moscow, ID with her husband, three teen sons, and a bevy of hens. She has an MFA from the University of Idaho where she currently teaches writing. Her work has been published in High Desert Journal; Dunes Review; word~river; IDAHO magazine; Copper Nickel: Women Writing the West; the meadow; and the Talking River Review. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize special mention and an Idaho Commission on the Arts writing grant.

 

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Find a Trade

 

Serving Chinese food was his first job—résumé

blank—reuse the plate-scraped fried rice, find ways

to save. Pizza, baked manicottifind a trade—

steamed lobsters, cooking his way to mattress money

before new skills of machete and palmetto, staking places

of diamondbacks’ husking rattles, learning the survey.

 

Find a trade, stick with it his dad always said. So he surveyed:

rodman, chainman, instrument-man—an itemized Florida résumé

before his departure, driving expanses of never-ending land, places

of muscle-car breakdowns and steaming radiators on the way

to paradise: San Diego, Tijuana tequila border skip, money,

partying, stolen FM 91X flag, women and beaches, trade

 

the Barracuda for a 300ZX, learn surfing and the easy trade

of three-day weekends, shorts and sunburned surveying.

Long hair, skateboards, beach volleyball, maxed money

“where the grass is green and the girls are pretty,” résumé

added to: construction staking, California city working ways.

Then, a girl—me. Idaho and isolation, backpacking places

 

like Rhodes Peak, Goat Lake, the State-Line Trail—places

made to keep him. Simplicity, family, a new trade

of wildfire, blackened boots, soot-weary summers, this way

of the woods: a wife and sons, howling hounds next door, survey

lines stretched tight, fences and feuds. Add to the résumé:

ten years of wildfire, winter, lay-offs, injury. Money

 

stretched tight, simple poverty of backwoods money.

Work hard, work long, sacrifice your body—the places

he’s been outlined on this sixty-watt spotlit résumé

working record of his life, his many trades:

Cook, Mason, Carpenter, Wildland Firefighter, Pipe-fitter, Surveyor.

Emergency surgeries, blown discs, disability. Find a trade, find your way.

 

His blackened crustacean memories: sand in the sheets, the way

he ate lobster off the floor, worked in shorts, made easy money

before a decade of Idaho burned away, then back to the survey—

climbing burden of class and family, impoverished work at places

with names like “progressive,” city stress and high-dollar trade.

A wrecked body, an uprooted life, an updated résumé.

 

His work is that way: fire and survey, surgery and loss, places                

of money and injury printed in his name, the trades

of his life a debt written deep in his résumé.

 

 

Jaymee Jordan, 8/18/2014

Current Occupation: STNA
Former Occupation: STNA
Contact Information: I'm currently a nursing student in school for my degree to be a RN. I'm 24 years old and I enjoy writing short stories. I hope to make a difference and this essay shows that I did for one life.

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CPR-MM

 

Just another normal Thursday night at work; the buzz of a busy day was coming to an end.  Dinner had been served and bingo had been played.  Nearing the end of my shift, I was asked to assist a fellow aide to put the last resident in bed.  With a bounce in our step we entered her room.  “Must be almost time for you girls to go home,” the resident responded to our peppy entrance.  Jokingly we answered, “How did you know?” “Well…” the resident started, “I only see you girls this happy when the night falls.”  Smiles were exchanged as we continued our duties and helped her get ready for bed.  She was unable to stand and support her own weight so we used a mechanical lift that took her from a seated position to standing.  In the lift, she made the normal moans and groans as we positioned her over the bed.  “Going down,” I happily said, knowing that those were the words she loved to hear; the lift was not the most comfortable thing in the world.  With a smile on her face she started to feel the bed underneath her.

    In a split second she went from smiling to a blank stare—a glazed absent look—accompanied by a pale face.  Knowing that she had passed out in the lift before, we unhooked and removed the sling while swinging her legs into the bed.  I started to do a sternal rub to try and awaken her.  She took a huge gasp for air—deprived like she had been underwater—and then nothing.  I looked at the other aide and said, “Get the nurse, now!”  As my coworker went running out of the room, I made sure that the oxygen was in place and working.  I continued the sternal rub trying to get any reaction I could.  Within seconds I heard the sound of several people running in the hallway.  The nurse arrived armed with her stethoscope and she immediately listened for a heartbeat; silence.  Knowing that this resident was a full code, the nurse burst out of the room to call 911, yelling back “CPR.”

    I immediately started chest compressions as I instinctively remembered where to place my hands and how far to push down; lessons I learned at a refresher course a few months prior.  I was on count 11 when the second nurse on duty ran in with an ambu bag.  I finished my set of compressions as the other nurse delivered two breaths.  I continued on to another set—one, two, three—and another two breaths were given.  It felt like an eternity before I heard the siren from the police and ambulance.  Within seconds the EMS squad was in the room.  As I finished up a set of compressions, a young paramedic was standing next to me ready to take over.  Just as another set of breaths was about to be given the same loud gasp for air came from the resident.  The paramedic listened closely and announced that he heard a faint heartbeat.  With that, we grabbed the sheets—working like a well-oiled machine—and slid the resident from her bed to the stretcher.  “Please help me,” the resident uttered as she was slowly coming to.  Straps were being buckled and tightened as the medics rolled her out of the room and down the hall.  I watched from the resident’s window as she was loaded into the ambulance and driven away to the hospital.    

    By now it was almost 15 minutes past shift change.  I gave my report to the aide following me and headed to the back to clock out.  Still feeling the adrenaline, I gathered my things and headed to my car.  Sitting in the driver seat was when I first realized that my hands were shaking.  I sat in the dark and quiet parking lot to clear my head and calm down.  Working as an aide for so long with the same residents makes it very hard to emotionally detach yourself from the situation.  I almost felt as if I had just performed CPR on one of my family members. I was almost in tears as questions raced through my mind. What if she doesn’t make it?  Would it be my fault?  Did I do everything I could have possibly done?  I stayed parked in the quiet dark a little longer, trying to calm myself enough to drive.  After making the short drive home, I called my mom.  Even though I couldn’t tell her the specifics, I had to share with her what I had just done.  The next day I learned that the resident was in stable condition and would be returning to the nursing home after the weekend.  A wave of calmness came over me; I was relieved.

    Recently, on a day I didn’t work, this resident had another episode.   The staff and paramedics were unable to bring her back.  I have learned that death is inevitable working in a nursing home; we can’t save everyone every time.  Although she has passed, helping extend her life made me proud of myself and helped me confirm my choice to be a nurse.  This experience taught me to think quickly and just do my job without second guessing myself.  One mistake and we could have lost her.  Before this event, I had only wanted to become a nurse to advance in the healthcare field; now, it is much more than that!

 

Mather Schneider, 8/11/2014

Current occupation: cab driver
Former occupation: collection agent
Contact Information: Mather Schneider was born in 1970 in Peoria, Illinois. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona, is married to a beautiful Mexican woman and drives a cab for a living. He has been published in the small press since 1993 and has 3 full length books available on Amazon.

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CAB DRIVING LOG, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2013

 

0500 hours: Pitch black morning. Pick up 3 Mexicans, 1 woman, 2 men, from the Desert Vista trailer court and take them to McDonald’s where they all work. The woman chatters in Spanish the whole way in a tone of irrepressible optimism. The men just grunt occasionally. 2 buck tip. Total: 14 bucks.

 

0602: Still very dark. Pick up a middle aged white guy from the Palm Glenn Apartments, take him to the methadone clinic on First and Grant. I wait 3 minutes while he goes in and downs his weekly shot, then take him home. “What’s that stuff taste like?” I ask. “Kind of like cough syrup,” he says. 2 buck tip. Total: 18 bucks.

 

0710: Getting lighter. Pick up a very tall, well-built Mexican American guy standing at the gas station on Columbus and Grant. He’s missed his bus. I take him downtown to the central city bus station so he can catch another bus and go to work at something called an “engineering parts warehouse.” On the way he tells me

                               Schneider/Cab Driving Log/Page 2

 

he is addicted to morphine because of his many injuries during his days as a lucha libre wrestler. When he shakes my hand goodbye he almost crushes it. 3 buck tip. Total: 24 bucks.

 

0830: Sun creeping up over the mountains. Picked up a middle aged bald white guy at the Day’s Inn near the freeway. Took him to the adult probation building off Ajo. On the way we went through Carl’s Jr. drive-through so he could get breakfast. As he ate it he told me his wife had left him and he’d gotten 3 dui’s afterwards, spent 6 months in jail, just got out, now has to do community service. He laughed and showed no bitterness. He was happy I got him there in time for him to have a smoke before entering. 4 buck tip. Total: 23 bucks.

 

0922: Fully light now. Pick up a young Mexican American guy at the Orange Grove Apartments and take him to a fancy restaurant where he is a dishwasher. He asks me how my Thanksgiving was. I tell him it was nice. No tip. Total: 10 bucks.

 

0954: Sun bright, rush hour over. Pick up a woman at Fort Lowell Exhaust Works where she leaves her BMW to get fixed. Take her to work at a public relations company on Speedway Boulevard. She is

                               Schneider/Cab Driving Log/Page 3

 

pretty and about as interesting as a perfect little circle. 2 buck tip. Total: 12 bucks.

 

1041: Sun hot through the windows. Pick up an Asian college girl from Rio Cancion Apartments. Wait 14 minutes for her to come out. When she does she is visibly stoned and I can smell the marijuana on her. She texts on her phone the whole way. When she gets out at the college campus she trips over the curb and leaves the cab door open. 3 buck tip. Total: 19 bucks.

 

1130: Sun high, short shadows. Pick up a medical student at Mountain Oasis Apartments and take him to the university hospital where he is an intern. At the stop sign near his house a young man crosses the street in front of us carrying a gallon of chocolate milk. He scowls at us mysteriously. “Looks like he’s got a stick up his ass,” the medical student says. I agree with this diagnosis. 2 buck tip. Total: 12 bucks.

 

1158: Getting a headache from the brightness. Pick up a white college girl from Park Vista apartments. I call her on the phone and tell her I’m here. I can’t understand her response and accuse her of being on speaker phone. When she gets in the cab I

                               Schneider/Cab Driving Log/Page 4

 

realize she has a speech impediment. Takes her to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment. Hope she was ok. One buck tip. Total: 8 bucks.

 

1239: Roll up my sleeves from the heat. Pick up an Asian girl from The Crossings apartments. She has 3 suitcases that all are larger than she is. Take her to the airport. On the way a semi truck starts easing into my lane and almost runs me off the road. I lay on my horn and speed up to get ahead of him and not get smashed. Afterwards I look back at the Asian girl. She acts like she has not even noticed. At the airport I get her bags out and ask the airport worker standing there if she can use one of his carts for her bags. “NO,” he says, “How’d you like it if she drove off in your cab?” “Well, she needs a little help, then,” I say. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” he says. 3 buck tip. Total: 31 bucks.

 

1311: The day tilts and starts going downhill. Pick up an old drunk from a crumbling one room adobe house on the south side. Take him to Circle K to get a bottle of something and smokes, then take him home. Like many old drunks I have known he doesn’t have a single gray hair on his head. The fare is 8 bucks and he

                               Schneider/Cab Driving Log/Page 5

 

gives me a 20. I give him 13 bucks back and he then tosses me a dollar, which I think is a tip. Almost write “9 bucks” until I realize I had given him the wrong change in the first place. Total: 8 bucks.

 

1407: Visor down now when driving toward the west. Pick up a young white kid from Holbrook apartments. He doesn’t answer his phone and I have to search for 10 minutes on foot to find number 12588 and knock. Take him to a psychiatric clinic on Broadway. On the way he puts headphones on and turns the music up so high it drowns out the cab radio. Whenever I turn up the cab radio he turns up his headphones. I finally let him win. When we get to the facility it is huge and looks like it was designed by one of the mental patients. No tip. Total: 13 bucks.

 

1510: Sun flirting with the Tucson mountains. Pick up a middle aged lady from a 500,000 dollar house in the foothills. She appears to be drunk. Take her to a bakery less than a mile from her house. The fare is 5 bucks. She looks at me and says, “This is a free ride, right?” I say, “No, ma’am.” She says, “It was supposed to be free.” I say, “Why’s that?” She says, “Forget it.” Then she rummages in her expensive purse for her money,

                               Schneider/Cab Driving Log/Page 6

 

gives me a 5 and gets out. Afterwards I see she has dropped a 20 dollar bill on the floor. Total: 25 bucks.  

 

Dawn Corrigan, 8/4/2014

Current Occupation: Program Manager in the Housing industry
Former Occupation(s): Editor, Tech Writer, Tech Support Manager, Administrative Assistant, Web Content Writer, Researcher, Customer Support Specialist, New Media Specialist, Operations Manager
Contact Information: Dawn Corrigan has published poetry and prose in a number of print and online journals. Her debut novel, an environmental mystery called Mitigating Circumstances, was published by Five Star/Cengage in January 2014. It centers around work done in the Planning and Zoning Department of a fictionalized version of Gulf Breeze, Florida. She resides in the real Gulf Breeze with "Kelly W.", whom she married a couple years after the Great Debate.

#

The Great Lunch Debate of 2004

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2004 12:54 PM

To: Tech Support

Subject: Friday's lunch

Hi All,

Remember, by tomorrow we need to give George our decision about what we’d like for lunch on Friday.

We can choose from Traditional Menu | Lunch Plates or the International Menu, but we all need to reach a consensus (or rather, two consensuses—vegetarian and carnivore). There’s a movement on the table to select the Sausage Lasagna for the carnivores. Discuss.

Thanks,

Dawn

P.S. Don’t dismiss the Pupupas con Queso either!

 

From: Nick N.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 7:04 AM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

I believe that sausage lasagna is not only better for frontline tech support, it is better for America. That is why I'm voting for sausage lasagna.

I'm Nick N. and I approve this message.

 

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 8:56 AM

To: Tech Support

Subject: FW: Friday's lunch

Now THAT’S what I call an endorsement! And Nick wasn’t even the first one who suggested the sausage lasagna, so you can’t accuse him of endorsing himself. However, it would be interesting to know if any money or “favors” exchanged hands between Nick’s cubicle and the one directly to my left.

Others have indicated interest in Spanish steak, chicken cacciatore, or chicken parmesan, but not with the straightforward simplicity and quiet, yet direct strength that make us proud to be Americans. I, however, remain neutral as the Supreme Court. I’m only suggesting that if the rest of you want to defeat the sausage lasagna movement, you’d better start campaigning now.

I leave you with this thought: think of the carbohydrates, for the love of all that is good!

 

From: Kris P.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 9:35 AM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

Nick N. would like you to believe that Sausage Lasagna should be the choice of the American People, and as such, the choice of the Frontline team. But back in the last referendum, he voted against S.L in favor of another dish, Chicken Parmesano, which doesn't even contain sausage. This kind of flip-flopping on issues is bad for frontline, and bad for America, that's why I vote YES on Proposition 42, to bring the values of Chicken Cacciatore back to the American people. Remember, the cost is the same, but what price will we pay if Sausage Lasagna is allowed free reign in this great land.

I'm Kris P., and I approved this message.

 

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 10:38 AM

To: Tech Support

Subject: FW: Friday's lunch

A compelling message from the sponsor of Proposition 42.

 

From: John L.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 10:45 AM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

i support prop. 42. the chicken cacciatore sounds great.

 

From: Nick N.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 11:02 AM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

America. This is a land built on American values. Values like bravery, integrity, perseverance, and sausage. But some fringe elements of tech support are begging to undermine these fundamental values. Groups like the proponents of Proposition 42. They would lead you to believe that chicken is good for Tech Support. Chicken. Think about that. Is this the message you want to send to America's enemies? That we are chicken? I believe that we are a better America, a stronger America. That is why I encourage you to vote against Prop 42 and vote for Sausage Lasagna. If you vote for chicken, the terrorists have already won.

I'm Nick N. and I approve this message.

 

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 11:15 AM

To: Tech Support

Subject: FW: Friday's lunch

A message from the “We Are Not Chicken” faction.

 

From: David K.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 11:47 AM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

Escalation supports Nick N., Sausage Lasagna, and the American People.

P.S. War is bad, Pease is Good, Sausage is Good. Nick N. 1984

David K.

Implementation Escalation Technician

 

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 12:13 PM

To: Tech Support

Subject: FW: Friday's lunch

A surprise endorsement from the Escalation Department. There seems to be some Orwellian rhetoric involved, though; perhaps it’s satire?

 

From: Kris P.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 12:16 PM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

Honesty. Truly a noble virtue to possess, and one that the 'We are not Chicken' party seems to disdain. They call upon tired clichés of party rhetoric to stir the masses, but what are they hiding from the American people? What are the real motives behind these sausage lovers? Well to unearth these facts we have to delve deeper into the message that is being portrayed, stirring quips about terrorists and sausage indeed. I'm sure that Poland was accused of terrorism before another faction of sausage lovers invaded them. Well this party’s stand is that war is not our voice, and neither is sausage, and we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

I'm Kris P., and I approved this message.

Paid for in part by the 'Sausage is not my voice' Party, and freedom-loving people everywhere.

 

From: Dawn C.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 12:23 PM

To: Tech Support

Subject: FW: Friday's lunch

A disturbing message from the “Sausage Is Not My Voice” party. The media is beginning to wonder, What exactly is sausage made of, anyway? The FDA is considering launching an investigation. In the meantime, though, I implore all parties to stick to the facts and not to suggest that Soylent Green Is Made of People until the investigation is complete.

As discussions are growing heated, the Speaker of the House calls for an immediate head count and vote to attempt to restore order. Please submit your votes as soon as your duties permit. Non voting members are welcome to submit their input, but are implored to remember that their input is non-binding.

 

From: Kade L.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 12:28 PM

To: Dawn C.; Tech Support

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

In my opinion both platforms are too bloody. What we need is a progressive move away from the death and the killing. We need a base reformation of our goals to better fit with not only our needs, but our fellow inhabitants' needs as well. Our decisions are affecting more than just ourselves. Think of the helpless aminals that are directly affected by our foreign policy. In this coming lunch season I implore you all to take a second look at the issues, and join chance and i in protest against the blood and violence. Cheese Manicotti for president all the way!

If you don't vote with us the aminal's retaliation will be swift and merciless. FEAR US! [and check your media sources]

 

From: Kelly W.

Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 1:03 PM

To: Dawn C.

Subject: RE: Friday's lunch

Where would a Hot Dog fall in the “Sausage Party”?

Concerned Citizen, from equal rights for meats.

 

 

——-
Who Won: The sausage lasagna was delicious.