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by John S
Rated: ASR · Fiction · Cultural · #2255211
A factory worker who was about to lose it all finds an unlikely savior.
Factories and Podcasts

“Don’t look now, but I think someone is following you.”

Of course, I looked, it was my friend Gary. “I told you not to look, asshole.”

Gary was always pulling shit like that. He thought his little jokes were hysterical, most of us thought they were just stupid. Gary was a great guy though, even if he had a warped sense of humor. At least he attempted to be funny the rest of us were too depressed to even think about being funny. Eight hours a day, seven days a week spent on a factory floor would do that to you. We had no choice, we have families to feed and clothe. Shit, at least we had jobs. Our factory was still up and running, most in this town were shuttered years ago.

Calling it a town was a bit of a stretch. Not much was left. Our kids couldn’t attend the local schools like we’d done because they had closed years ago. Instead, they had to ride buses to bad schools miles away.

Janet and I have discussed getting out, just like in that Springsteen song, that posing piece of shit. We couldn’t do it. At least I had a job, no telling if I could find one somewhere else. The American Dream was dead to people like us, and it wasn’t coming back.

Mike, our foreman, finally found his way out, he dropped dead on the factory floor. None of us liked Mike. He was a complete asshole, but we still grieved, he was one of us. How much longer could this go on. Our quotas were raised almost monthly. Our vacation days were cut in half, and we’d never seen a paid sick day.

The whistle blew and it was time for lunch. We all shuffled along like zombies to the lunchroom. We had twenty minutes to gulp down whatever delicacies we’d brought from home. The whistle blew signaling us to return to work. Gary started it. “I’m not going back.” We all thought he was fucking around.

“C’mon Gary, lets go,” I said.

“No, I’m not going back. These motherfuckers are trying to kill us. They raised the quota again. We can’t work any harder. We’ll all end up like Mike. We can’t let them do this to us.”

There was a general mumbling agreeing with Gary. I agreed with him, but I was in a difficult position. Rumor from the secretaries upstairs was that I was in line for Mike’s job. More money and no more tortuous linework sounded pretty good to me. Even if I agreed with Gary in theory, what good would it do us not to go back to work? The bosses would fire us all. They would then hire our replacements and have them on the line in a couple of days. It’s not like we were doing highly skilled work.

Cooler heads did prevail. We returned to work, even Gary. Of course, there was a rat in our midst. Sal couldn’t wait to run upstairs and tell the bosses that Gary tried to start a strike. Poor Gary was fired and escorted off the property in record time.

I didn’t get the foreman’s job, Sal the fucking rat did. I believe that what Gary did changed things a little bit. All of a sudden, we were given thirty minutes for lunch instead of the twenty and our quotas stayed the same. Wow, we were living large.

A few months later, my good friend and co-worker, Stan, sat next to me at lunch and said, “Hey man, I saw Gary on Sunday.”

“How’s he doing? I felt a little guilty for not checking up on Gary since he was fired. I told myself that as a single guy he took off to find greener pastures. Why the fuck would he hang around here?

“Man, he’s doing great. I met him over the bridge in Roscoe. I took the wife to the Olive Garden over there for our anniversary. Gary was just walking out of the place as we were coming in. He looked good, he was getting into a freaking Lincoln, if you can believe it.”

“What’s he doing, robbing banks?”

“No, he said he’s doing a podcast and making some serious money doing it.” Stan looked impressed as he was saying it and it usually took a lot to impress him.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask, “What the fuck is a podcast?”

“Damn if I know. I was too embarrassed to ask.”

The whistle blew and back to work we went. We had a new young guy on the line so on our afternoon ten-minute piss break I approached him. Jake wasn’t much older than my kids so I asked him if he knew what a podcast was. He spent the entire ten minutes trying to explain it to me. I didn’t get it. I did deduce from our conversation that podcasts had something to do with online computer shit that I had no interest in. All I knew about the internet and computers was that it was almost impossible to get my kids away from them. Hey, whatever, good for Gary.

I had my own problems. All these years on the line were slowly but surely breaking my body down. My back and knees were barely operating. Janet had to bathe me with Ben-Gay in the morning just to get me started.

I had no choice, I had to keep working. I had a few more years before I could collect Social Security and my pension. The pension was almost a joke, all those years on the line busting my hump and I would get about a hundred dollars a month. I did go to the doctor after Janet threatened to beat the crap out of me if I didn’t. We did have decent health insurance, how the fuck that happened is a mystery to me.

Old Doc Watson found that I had arthritis in my knees, shoulders, and back. He prescribed some medicine and told me I should look for a job that wasn’t as physically demanding. I laughed and left the office. The meds helped a little, but I was still miserable.

I finally caught a break. Sal, the rat was caught stealing boxes of toilet paper from the warehouse and was fired on the spot. Why someone would steal toilet paper was a question for the ages not for me. I was named the new foreman. The job paid more and was less physically demanding. Things were looking up. Oh shit, wait.

The factory ceased operations two months later. We received no warning. I showed up bright and early one morning and there was a chain with a huge lock on the front door. The sign said. “WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO CONTINUE OPERATIONS. You will receive your final paychecks in the mail.” That was it, no thanks for all the years of backbreaking labor, no nothing. We found out later that company executives had stolen our pension money and moved the factory to Viet Nam.

The unemployment check money wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t going to last forever. We talked about selling the house, we’d worked so hard on, and moving to Florida. Things were bleak for us, then God sent us an angel by the name of Jeff Bezos.

Amazon opened an operations center, two towns over. They hired me on the spot. I did lie on my job application. Five years as a line foreman sounded better than the two months, I’d worked the job. There was no-one to dispute that claim around, they were all in fucking Viet Nam with their brand new factory.

I love the new job, sure it gets hectic and a little crazy sometimes, but the bosses are friendly and understanding. I don’t hate going to work anymore. The money is terrific and I was able to get Janet a job there too. “I’m sure those rich Hollywood phonies who hate Amazon have never worked in a sweat shop factory, so screw them. “LONG LIVE AMAZON.”

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