Employers who want you back

Damned if I don’t have one. Mother-in-Law just called me and asked me whether I was planning to pick for them any more. I told her that I’d come back if she wanted me back, and she said that she did if I could avoid dropping fruit. This was one of the reasons that she threatened to fire me last week, of course, prompting my no-call no-show de facto resignation. Come to think of it, though, it may not have looked like a resignation, just some unexpected flaky behavior from an older employee in a line of work where flaky behavior is basically expected of younger workers. To my relief, MiL said that the crew has moved on to varieties that are better managed than the ones she was yelling at me for dropping, so I won’t be dropping as many. I alluded to not wanting to have so much conflict over dropped fruit, although I phrased it so diplomatically as to be almost enigmatic; she called me only five minutes ago, and already I can’t remember what weasel term I used to avoid calling it conflict or dispute or asking her not to yell at me on the job, although I was very close to making the latter request. There were two reasons why I held my peace in this matter: first, MiL was calm and magnanimous during the call, at least by her standards, and second, once such a request has to be made there’s hardly anything to be gained in making it. I did tell her that I’m looking for other jobs, which is true and relevant, so hopefully that will drive home the message that I’m not gung ho to stick around for more of her direct tirades.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the other pickers who basically had my back on that job told her about my disaffection. Either of them would have done so tactfully and sensibly, so it’s just as well if they said something. There’s also a decent possibility that some of the new pickers they recruited crapped out, got fired for low productivity or general immaturity, or got fed up with MiL and quit. They had a help wanted ad up for a couple of days early last week, so they must have gotten into a bit of a crunch, or maybe put themselves into one by inviting incumbent staff to a night of the long knives. I wasn’t picking enough on my own to prompt a help wanted ad with my disappearance, especially on my last day. LOL.

Believe me, I do not like being a diva or remotely looking like a diva, but I was responding to some really inappropriate behavior from a supervisor, and I was not, not, NOT going to have an argument with her over my performance at a piecerate job where I was down to $2.68 an hour. Not even a conversation with the outward appearance of civility. Submitting to workplace performance counseling from management on a seasonal job that is usually held by young teenagers for anything other than serious misconduct worthy of immediate termination with cause is moral hazard. Employers wouldn’t even try to pull that sort of shit with employees if they expected summary resignations as a consequence. The proper tone for adult employees to set in these circumstances is to imply that managerial belittlement or humiliation or berating over minor performance problems (and, yes, dropping fruit in a shoddily managed block is a minor performance problem) will likely result in resignation without notice. This isn’t even the fry line at Arby’s; the fry line would pay minimum wage and offer year-round employment. Seriously, give us some fucking Social Security credits with our performance improvement plans. Or just give us the credits and shut up. That’s an option, too, and a good one if you want a workforce that’s worth more than a bucket of warm piss.

My goal here isn’t to lower the boom on Mother-in-Law. She has an occasional temper problem: not good, to be sure, but at the same time not something to hold against her in broad moral terms. The fact that it’s a genuine temper problem that erupts in response to discernible stressors and not an affectation used to manipulate others speaks powerfully in her defense. I’d rather deal with someone who just gets upset and makes inappropriate comments in the heat of the moment than with a calculating, deeply antisocial manipulator who mistreats people for the sake of mistreating them, like Joe Dirtbag.

This is also why I’m generally chill around the psychotic homeless, as long as they don’t look violent. The worst I’ll have to do is to give them cues to bring a longwinded story about crazy shit to a conclusion because I have places to be and things to do, like hole up at the nearest Starbucks and write about street crazies.

That said, MiL’s behavior is alarming, and not just in the parochial sense of it making my work life difficult or impossible. Her operation is honest-to-God Jeffersonian, and it’s scary to see a Jeffersonian grower raising her voice at employees over minor problems with their performance, threatening to fire them, threatening wholesale crew replacement over low productivity, indulging in martyrdom acts over dropped fruit in a block with half-assed cultural management, and so forth. I’m probably more attuned to this sort of behavior, and more easily rattled by it, on account of my having spent years tangled up in Joe Dirtbag’s immoral simulacrum of Jeffersonian yeomanry, which is really just neofeudal squalor and lawlessness, financed by charming and then intimidating the moneyed in his orbit.

No one at the blueberry farm is a blatnoy catfish, thank God, but we’re still dealing with significant dysfunction and discord as a result of misguided neo-Hamiltonian managerial tactics. As I understand it, Hamilton didn’t advocate managerial bullshit artistry and mind games; he just facilitated them by encouraging overcentralization. He hoped for a technocracy of engineers and supply chain managers contributing surplus wealth to the betterment of the nation; instead, we have useless shitheads reading management theory literature from FedEx Office and ravenously consuming every bit of surplus wealth not demanded by the engineers and supply chain managers for their own salaries and departmental budgets.

It should be obvious why it’s easier to blow through the surplus allowing this sort of fuckery on a Jeffersonian smallholding than at Walmart or the New York Central Railroad. And I’m sincere when I say that I do not at all want Mother-in-Law blowing the whole margin with this shit and getting the business into trouble. That would be bad for everyone except the most amoral large growers.

So I ended up in Reno on the hunt for steady work and cheap lodging because herp derp. I’d have agreed to go back to work tomorrow, probably, if I hadn’t gotten the call with twelve hours to spare before the next shift with an all-night drive between me and the farm. I’m glad I wasn’t already on the way to Salt Lake City when I got the call, just for logistical and financial reasons. SLC looks like it has the best job market of any non-shithole metro area in the Western US, and it’s only (LOL) 518 miles from Reno, according to Google Maps. It’s just as well that I didn’t come across any job openings there that looked compelling. I could have taken that call in Elko or some shit. Rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert, I pick up my money and head–who am I kidding? I would merely have been another eighty or hundred dollars behind from gas expenses, with the Promised Land and any job offers therein still on the far end of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Napoleon hasn’t hooked me up with the jobs liger yet, so I’d be heading in blind. What the hell, though, Brigham Young liked the area, probably because the gentiles hadn’t arrived yet to run their pogroms on the polygs, and if I want to complain about the settlers ruining a nice valley, I’m only two or three miles from South Virginia, where the liger doesn’t roam. And I got to see a FedEx 777 on short final to 36L, followed by an Alaska Q400 catching some sick crosswinds. Since I came this far to no particular avail, I might as well hang out by the airport and check out some bitchin’ rides trying to beast the Pipeline. (In fairness, the Q400 ain’t bitchin’ anything, but it’s a riot to watch bobbing around like Amy Winehouse in unsettled weather.)

Time to turn the car around, I guess. My parents have been on my case to visit some family friends I haven’t seen in two decades, and who I probably wouldn’t recognize, because they’re summering on the Oregon Coast. At least this way I won’t have to either explain away why I’m too stuck in Salt Lake City to schedule a cool change or put another 2,200 miles on the odometer. Just because Boomers don’t mean to fuck up your logistics or your ability to qualify for a rental car doesn’t mean that they don’t fuck shit up. At least now I’ll be in the neighborhood, if the northwestern quarter of Oregon can be called a neighborhood.

There are less expensive problems to have, but there are definitely worse ones, too. I could be looking for work in Grand Junction, where all the smart locals left town years ago, Winchester Cathedral they did. (It makes sense if you’ve watched too much Lawrence Welk.) Shit’s on the skids in Junction, or so I’ve heard. Or I could be working at the slaughterhouse in Greeley whose reputation NPR helped whitewash tonight. Why do I suspect that it’s the same one Eric Schlosser exposed for doing things to its employees that you’d think it only did to its cattle? Now it wants better PR with the sorts of bougie customers  who want to know how their beef is cut to size, but not too graphically, please. Don’t worry, though: spend enough time around a modern American slaughterhouse, with its modern American labor relations, and you’ll eventually see a meat cutter’s head on the floor, too. I’m just sayin’. Greeley is one of the towns where the American working class was led most violently to the killing floor, so of course NPR is trying to make its local notables look good. Follow the money, if you can.

I’ve just got the boss-lady yelling at me at work sometimes. Pushback by labor has to start somewhere, though, and it probably doesn’t start on a crew that is willing to slam knives into swinging beef carcasses all day for $8.50 an hour. This is why we want Bougie dogfooding the grunt jobs, and not just as some made-for-TV Mike Rowe stunt. These jobs will literally kill people if they’re left to the sorriest crew of wetbacks who just rolled in on Greyhound. They won’t if they’re held by the kind of Mexicans who ask a snotty vineyard manager for a pay raise mid-shift and head back to Lodi if they don’t get one. If the choice is between getting some grandiosity with a viticulture degree butthurt over the uppity help and literally losing one’s head, by God, piss off the viticulturist. It’s his fault that he resents Mexican field hands because he has a degree and works in Napa, but they’re the ones who have the stones to ask for a pay raise.

There are a lot of assholes in management. Don’t feel bad about quitting on them, and don’t let anyone shame you for exercising your fallback options. If anyone counsels you to liberate yourself in due course of time by doubling down on your fealty to some grandiose asshole to whom you owe no contractual obligation whatsoever, mention that the Nazis also encouraged liberation through work, and that our boys put an end to that Great Bavarian Camping Adventure. Because it isn’t Godwinian if management is using social controls inherited from Antebellum plantation slavery.

If the Germans stopped tolerating that shit, so can we.

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