I have put my heart and my soul into my work , and I have lost my mind in the process —-Vincent van Gogh
This goes back to high-school days when I worked part-time over at Redman Van and Storage . It was a small-time operation owned by a guy named Redman , and it was connected with Mayflower Movers . Mayflower is still around . I see their trucks now and again . But Redman and his crowd are long gone .
I was hired by Mr. S. , who liked my brother Tom but didn’t like me . Tom and I used to do odd jobs around the S.house before the warehouse job came up . He had hired Tom , but at the last minute Tom had to go into the Army , and Mr. S. was on the spot for a warehouse guy , so he hired me . Probably always regretted it , too , I think .
I worked out back in the warehouse and on the yard with Roy , the Warehouseman . It was just the two of us around there . All the stuffed shirts worked in the front offices . I saw them when they marched through the warehouse on the way to and from to their cars. Otherwise , they shunned the warehouse area . Too dirty , I guess . Maybe a slight odor of sweat .
I was the bottom guy in the organization . Roy was great , though , on helping me along , teaching me how to lift , and how to sweep a warehouse floor properly , and how to get silver paint out of my hair .Stuff like that . I worked like a dog over there at sixteen , and I worked harder than I’ve ever worked , I think .
Before we get to that , I’d like to make a few Parthian shots at Mr. S. , Redman, and those scarecrows [ a term borrowed from one of my mother’s college-era letters about a boss she refused work for ] First , Mr. S . He came out in back one day with a gallon can of weed poison and wanted me to spread it over the weeds on the median near the street . Okay . Then he proceeded to read me every word on the front , back , and sides of the can . Every word , and I think he repeated a few lines here and there. There’s lots of fine print there , too . Finally he left and I got to work : 3 parts water , one part poison . Don’t drink the stuff . I mean , I may not have been God’s gift to world erudition , but I was smart enough to be careful with poison .
Tom talked to me some time later . ” Mr. S. didn’t like the fact that you didn’t seem to listen when he read you the warnings on the can , ” he said . I told Tom about S. reading me every word on the can . Took twenty minutes . Apparently Tom and Mr. S. had had quite a discussion about my allegedly lousy behavior . I told you , Mr. S. never had liked me . When Tom went away to Fort Bragg , S. should have just called it a day on the warehouse job , or looked a little further . He would have been a lot happier , I think .
One day , six months down the line or so , Roy took me aside . ” Mr. S. is upset that you haven’t thanked him for the raise ,” he said .
” Check your pay stub , ” Roy said . And I did . And I did indeed have a raise . Ten cents an hour raise ! Wow ! I hadn’t even noticed it in my pay envelope , and I’d already been making out like a bandit like that for an entire month ! I’m just not very observant . Missed it . It happens .
And now , Mr. Redman . Redman had inherited the business from his father and his uncle , who had built it up . Sonny Redman spent the day on the phone making luncheon dates , planning Rotary speeches , and the like . As far as I could tell he was an incompetent , but liked to wear expensive suits and to think that he was really somebody . Mr. S. ran the place for him , if the truth be known .
And , I guess the other stuffed shirts did their jobs taking S.’s orders . They emulated Redman’s visions of fine suits , fancy cars , and arrogant attitudes . Usually they never said a word to me as they walked through the back to their cars . I wasn’t worth a greeting , a nod , or any recognition .at all . Maybe they’d offer a hello to Roy sometimes , and maybe not .
They would complain about me , though , to Roy . I was taking too many breaks ( I wasn’t ; they went to their cars at lunch time and saw me sitting . Never saw me working , I guess. ) .They told Roy that I shouldn’t eat my lunch at the loading dock , that it didn’t look good ( despite the fact that no one but truck drivers and the office guys ever came back there ). This was wrong , or that was wrong , or the other thing was wrong . There were some intra-office politics involved , too ., I suspect . Some of them didn’t like S and I was , after all , his hire .
One of these guys one day told me ( Didn’t ask , of course ; superior beings don’t have to ask .) to wash his car . I told him okay . I was the guy who did anything around there : poison weeds ; wash cars , paint sheds , ……) I washed the guy’s GTO . I did a good job , I thought . He came out at the end of the day , though , and yelled at me on his way through the warehouse for NOT washing his car . I was a little stunned at that one . A few minutes later another stuffed shirt came through and yelled at me for ” splashing water ” on his car . Roy told me later that both of those guys had blue GTO’s . I had washed the wrong car . Well , it happens .
In my own defense , I’ll say that I did a good job over there at Redman Van and Storage . I hung around there for three and a half years , eating my lunch near the sheds and not on the loading dock . Their bitching didn’t bother me much , because Roy always backed me up and took a lot of the flak for me , so I just shrugged it all off and did my work . I checked my pay stub each month more carefully but never spotted another raise .
There was one area of concern , though , had anyone been paying attention . It might have gone on my written evaluation , had there ever been one ( there wasn’t ). Roy made the mistake of letting me drive the fork lift . I’d pick up pallets of furniture from the yard and take them up to the second or third floor , or vice versa . I see those large forklifts at Home Depot nowadays glide along those amazingly smooth floors . Nice precise controls on those things , evidently . Mine wasn’t quite like that . The damn thing jumped and stalled like a bucking bronc . I drove it along the cracked-asphalt yard , hitting potholes now and again . The blades were hard to adjust . I was trying my best , but I was popping holes in wooden boxes of furniture and marooning the thing in awkward places . It was hard enough to get that freight elevator even with the upcoming floor without having to get the forklift blades even with the elevator too .