Friday, November 4, 2011

A day's labor

For the past sixty days or more, I have been lining up at 5:30 am to wait and see if I have a job for the day. We sign in and take a seat. The morning news is broadcast via antenna, going out every couple of minutes. Someone dips into a closet and comes out with all the fixings for bland coffee. I take seat and avoid eye contact.
I listen to the morning’s conversations. Spirits are somber at first. Later the conversations are spread between the football game last night and who is hiring for steady work. Any word of open jobs always climbs to the top of subject matter. I sit and listen, but never interested. I have had several jobs over the years and with the exception of a few days, never enjoyed any of them much.
“My cousin got hired on at DuPont.” One person says while three gather around. Questions are asked ‘how’ and ‘when’. I listen but to me it does not matter. It is not in my field.
Someone announces this is their last week at the labor center. Everyone smiles and congratulations are given. The routine work that takes them away is changing linens at a hotel. I was a bellman once and once I changed the linens. I hated it. The steady employed are happy to fold and fit sheets and I am honestly happy for them. It is just not me. I wait in line to haul construction trash.
I get my ticket. Its me and another guy named Leon, Morris, or Glenn. I give them a ride because they arrived by bus. I'm supposed to charge them four dollars but unless they offer I keep quiet. We are headed eight miles west to a mall. A new women’s retailer is remodeling.
We arrive in a cold mist. The 18 wheeler has the trailer open and pallet jack waiting. The mall does not allow construction to go on during operating hours outside the confines of the store itself. So we have to haul all pallets and cabinets before nine AM.  Once inside the store it is warm and dry. The windows are covered over and the doors locked. No one walking past will ever know anyone is inside sweating, straining backs to lift cabinets and shelves into place so when the store opens with a sale you can enter and pick out a third navy blue sweater it is at a convenient height. I haul trash out the back door, down the elevator and across a parking lot past your parked car and into a dumpster.
I have dined with celebrities and royalty. I graduated from a renowned university. Yesterday an old man while taking a complimentary soda because he had special tickets to a college basketball game name dropped. I told him I had no idea who “Frank” was. He told me it was my boss in a tone supposing I should care. In fact “Frank” was my boss for the day. Tomorrow it will be Dave or Jerry.
What entertains me the most about my day labor job is that during that basketball game I was able to walk up near court side and watch the game right along with the old guy who name dropped. While he paid for the entertainment I was being paid. To me it was the equalizer.