Employment – 1 April 2014

Posted: April 1, 2014 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,




 1 April 2014

Another sunny morning around the freezing mark. We still haven’t given up hope that Spring weather will arrive. Chuck was in his usual place.

“Hi Chuck, after our conversation yesterday, I Googled on the internet to see how they make brooms. It was fascinating. I guess it’s changed a lot since you worked at that.

“I don’t know what they do now, but I was pretty versatile. I operated a lot of different machines. There was one for making broom handles. We’d feed a squared length of wood into this machine and it would come out the other end shaped like a broom handle. Adding the ferrule, the part that screws into the broom head, was a separate operation.

“The work was dangerous. It was before the government required health and safety inspections. We didn’t have any kind of guards on the machines; everything was open. A couple of times wood flipped back at me. I had five cuts on my chest one day, not bad cuts, but they hurt. Twice, my glasses were knocked off and skidded along the floor. I got the company to pay me for new glasses.

There was a woman who operated a machine that trimmed the scrapers. I cringed every time I saw her working. If she’d slipped or pushed a little too far, she would have lost her fingers. Later they put up a guard so that only the scraper would go through, not her hands.

“I also worked at fitting the bristles. First of all we’d cut them to the correct length, then with a pair of tongs we’d pick up a stack and hold them over the drilled hole. With a foot pedal we’d operate a machine that would drive the bristles into the hole and secure them with a staple. You had to be quick to get the tongs out of the way before this machine came down. Then, the broom went into the trimmer.

“We made all kinds of brushes, even the tiny twizzlers that they use to clean test tubes. There was a special machine that would twist the wire around the bristles. We’d cut them to length, then trim them.

“I guess the hardest to work with were the brushes for the big industrial floor polishers. We also made vacuum cleaner brushes. All of this work was repetitive. I stayed eight years then moved on.

“I was a manager for a while, but I got too frustrated with the stupidity, just utter stupidity, of some of the workers. We used these big forty-five gallon barrels for shipping handles. We had to know both the total weight and the number of handles we were shipping. I explained it to them, I said, ‘Weigh the empty barrel first. While it’s still on the scale fill it with the handles. Subtract the barrel weight from the total and that’s the weight of the handles. Weigh one handle and divide that weight by the total and you have the number of handles, within one or two. Now, that’s not too difficult to understand is it? I’ve only got grade seven education and I could figure it out.  I got called over, the guys had filled the barrel and were trying to lift it onto the scale. I said, ‘That barrel weighs five hundred pounds, you’ll never lift it; but, once it’s on the scale, and loaded, it’s easy to roll off the scale.’

“Another time we had some boxes that had to be stacked on a high shelf. The boxes weren’t heavy. This guy was taking them one at a time, climbing the ladder, placing the box neatly, then climbing back down. It would have taken all day to finish the job.  I picked up the boxes at a time and threw them up on the shelf. I could stack them three high, without a problem. They wouldn’t be straight, but after they were all on the shelf, it took just one trip up the ladder to straighten them.

“I remember we had a couple of black ladies working with us. A lot of the staff wouldn’t have anything to do with them. This was back in the sixties. One time they came into the lunch room and the only chairs available were beside me. They asked, ‘Do you mind if we sit with you?’ I said, ‘I don’t mind in the least. Have a seat.’ They had a really good sense of humor. I sure got the cold shoulder from a few of the workers, though. I didn’t care. I pulled a trick on these ladies one time. We used a solution to soften the bristles before we could use them. I was up to my elbows in this stuff. It started out kind of a brown color, but dried black. I managed to get it smeared all over my face. When I saw these same two women coming, I jumped out and said, ‘What are you white women doing, working in a place like this?’ They had a good laugh at that.

“I worked at the cemetery digging graves, cutting grass, digging graves, cutting grass. The only good thing that came out that job was, a woman came up to me one day and asked. ‘Your name is Chuck isn’t it — Chuck Noble, from Perth.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is, but how did you know?’ She said, ‘I’m Rosemary Clark. I used to babysit you, when you were a child.’ It was nice meeting her. We went out for lunch a few times, talked about our former neighbors, things that had happened in Perth, gossip mostly.

“Remember yesterday, I told you that I was having my income tax done. I was worried that I wouldn’t be getting a refund. My accountant gave me this article that explains everything:

A tax refund of $1,000+ may be the most lucrative windfall many people get. They use the money to pay bills, cover large expenses or simply spoil themselves and their family.

Will people be just as happy with a payment of $90 or $100 a month? Maybe they will in the long run, since most bills come on a monthly schedule.

But right now, many feel betrayed by a government that is making their financial situation worse — without consulting them — in the guise of extending a helping hand.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is well aware of the growing protest. He called me Friday and backed down from the decision, instead of defending it, by saying he’d explore an opt-out provision for those who insist on annual tax refund.

“I’ll bet a lot of people don’t know about that opt-out provision. As for me, I want my refund right now.”


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