First Daughter-in-Law, then Daughter-in-Law’s Husband (because we can’t come up with a retarded acronym if we don’t first come up with a retarded full designation), and now Mother-in-Law have all approached me to apologize for MiL’s lecture and berry tasting last week. DiLH seems to be by far the most cynical member of the owning family, so his apology had an implicit WTF Mom air about it. DiL is exceptionally matter-of-fact and professional when young children aren’t around, and so was her apology to me over the phone.
MiL’s apology was, not at all surprisingly, a rather more shambling, roundabout, half contrite, half self-exculpatory effort. Many people, I suppose, would have been offended, but Mother-in-Law, consistent with OPB and KLCC broadcasting standards, likes to think out loud (TM) (fam, some of y’all have no idea how bizarre Oregon is), and I never expect her thoughts to be the most clearheaded and functional. I’ve never detected anything deeply or abidingly malicious or manipulative about her; like her relatives, she seems to be a fundamentally decent person. To understand this, it’s important to set aside the sub-minimum-wage shit and the piece rate lowballing; these people are all quite morally grounded in spite of their ongoing exposure to some really fucking sketchy intersecting business, social, and religious cultures. A twenty-five-cent tip is intrinsically pretty WTF, which is why it is dem shine George coin, but we’re hopelessly to understand this situation by looking at it intrinsically. From an extrinsic perspective, i.e., with some context, dem shine George coin is the result of some valid, if disappointing, math. It’s the bottom line, a bottom line that I promptly regifted at Starbucks. I told a middle-aged Denny’s host about it later that night, and I don’t think it really registered with him that I was not joking and do in fact work at a place where that kind of thing happens and is normal.
Mother-in-Law is a hot mess, but this afternoon she was a mostly functional, thoughtful, non-projectile, borderline-calm hot mess, and in my book that’s enough. (It may not be a book that you’d ever want to read, but that’s your business. BTW, how’re y’all enjoying Dubai Porta Potty?) From most people, an apology like that would bewilder and annoy me, but from MiL, anything shy of a full Manchego Fuck Yourself is low-salt enough for me. The idea that anything about her tirade last week was excusable or reasonable is problematic, but Mother-in-Law recognizing that it was not something to do again and approaching me to apologize for it in a fashion that only she can pull off means that she isn’t currently yelling at anyone, and that’s the real goal there. DiL and, I infer, DiLH had a Come to Jesus talk or two with her about her lecture series and other, off-the-cuff comments that the staff might find off-putting, and she’d clearly gotten the message, so I didn’t mind that her way of expressing contrition and understanding would have been fucking nuts coming from anyone else.
The self-exculpatory part of MiL’s apology was an explanation that she had directed the tirade at the new pickers, not at me, and that she’d been frustrated with the low quality of the fruit and didn’t know how else to address her objections and teach the pickers how to improve their work. I suggested that she and the other owners give us more guidance while we’re out in the field, i.e., more orientation and training. I can’t remember how I phrased it, but she seemed really receptive and eager to avoid repeats of the forcible berry tasting, especially ones that alienated me. I didn’t mind that she was misinterpreting my objections to her lecture (I don’t like watching anyone being mistreated by management, period) or that she might relapse at some point. Life is a journey, a highway, we might say, and Mother-in-Law was willing to embark on it. In that context, I was not about to do anything that I thought might humiliate her. Wow Much martyrs Such penitent Many kyrie Where sandal Omg santiago de compostela Very confesh.
If life is in fact a highway, we might call this a journey on the Hershey Highway. As a former Hersheypark employee, I’ve inevitably been asked if I’ve been on the Hershey Highway. I can’t screen such losers out of my life entirely, and yes, some of them really are losers. Advisably or not, I’ve usually answered that straight with some story about actual roads that I’ve driven to Hershey, including the 28th Division Highway. I’m sure that was a better experience than serving in the goddamn 28th Division. So is the berry farm. MiL overdoing the command-and-control shit was a problem, but she’s simmered down again.
I don’t want to write a fucking treatise on forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if. I’d rather write Doge memes that are probably crappier than I think they are on the amount of sleep that I’ve been getting. At least I know that I’ve heard dumber than that by a long shot from colleagues, even today, so I’m not rooting around at the bottom of the barrel yet. Even with the Ditzney Princess done for the season, I picked a really good day to bring a new runner’s radio to work today. “Let It Be” never sounded so good, let alone with such poor reception. Thanks, Freddy.
In fairness, no one got quite as unrelentingly grating as “Fortunately/Unfortunately.” 35 is presumably too old to be working for nowhere close to minimum wage around a frank child who sings a one-line song about a rainbow dragon or some shit for fifteen minutes straight, but I’ve worked with worse. Hell, I’ve worked with worse than the Ditzney Princess. There are guys in the ginger-intersectional non-White community in McMinnville who make Mixups in my Mind’s story about the rotisserie chicken fight sound like Pope Francis saying compline and Psychotarp’s blogging sound like a Victor Davis Hanson essay series. There’s a threshold beyond which sexual and scatological vulgarity stops being titillating, witty, entertaining, or in any other way interesting, and these likely as not recently felonious losers from Newberg and what our one crew boss called Mack (WTF?) leave it in the dust. There’s some bad, bad shit in this industry. The In-Laws don’t come close to plumbing its depths.
Don’t believe that over-the-top evangelical piety is good for nothing. It keeps the Mack Attack shitheads off my current crew, and that’s above rubies. I can still come over here after hours to swear and curse and sputter. That’s the thing: I may sound like one of the great American crudities in these pages, but I’m pretty fucking diplomatic and nonconfrontational in meatspace. *Most Neo-Victorian Voice* Yats! Yats! Fuck the EU! Yats! *Cable over; burn upon reading, or if you need some fireplace kindling.*
I have standards. They aren’t very high standards, but not working with out-of-control Chads who show no common manners all the live-long day is one. The Ditzney Princess, of course, was another example of low standards. I assume that “new pickers” was at least in part a euphemism for her, but as I’ve speculated before, harshing a family brat’s mellow might have been a ready source of disharmony at reunions.
That said, it’s moot now as a day-to-day personnel consideration. MiL has gotten a grip, and the Ditzney Princess has retired to a summer schedule that, by her own description, is devoted mainly to hanging out and not at all to anything useful to society. Funyuns continue to outsell Responsibilityuns. Daughter-in-Law told us today that she’d like to have us pick on Monday but that we may take the midweek off on account of the heat, so we might as well do something fun. One of the pickers said that hanging out on the couch would be fun. Some would call this youthful innocence; I call it the blather of a damn fool, but I wasn’t in the mood to kill a hopeful young man’s vibe. If funemployment is in the cards for him, he’ll learn soon enough.
Some of these kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. We’re living the dream. I am, at least. When push comes to shove and there’s no acute bullshit going down, we’re getting paid to do the work that “everyone” “knows” Americans won’t do. We don’t have anyone like Joe Dirtbag around to get in our way, not pay us, bring shitheads and nutty fuckers onto the property to get further in the way, and act out his personality disorders. The Mack Attack is confined to Mack. Kurt Ballman gets paid much more to deal with James “Mack the Pipe” Mack than we get paid for not dealing with him, but in any interpersonal sense, the joke’s on him for being the one who has to figure out that some oppositional-defiant wigger was wandering around the East End of Cincinnati brandishing a different length of pipe. As one does. Seriously, that motherfucker could have ended up on one of my crews in the bad parts of the valley. Twenty-dollar blowjobs from majorly thick bitches are far from the worst thing going down in Over-the-Rhine and/or Sweet Home.
Heh. I said “going down.” Giggity. I’ve also recently been in the Safeway in Stayton. Definitely not giggity. There were exceptions, but some exceptions prove the rule. There really are things that are wrong with flyover country, and one gets the feeling sometimes that it isn’t just poverty. Sam Dotson and Julia Pearson are no skinnier, but, well, look at them, and then go to Safeway. There’s a community bulletin board in the hallway near the bathrooms, and some redneck kid of ten or eleven was hiring himself out for help doing anything so that he could earn money for a dirt bike. Love too have legally unemployable minors operate power equipment on my property for cash under the table. This was in Safeway, so it wasn’t full Deliverance. I don’t set foot in Grocery Outlet these days. I have reasons. It’s never the Muppets from Gross Out’s commercials that die in an apartment fire in Northeast Portland because some Chad with a temper problem had to douse his off-again, on-again girlfriend’s couch with gasoline and set it on fire.
I drove by the state prisons just east of Salem later that evening. Safeway is a good place for cheap Chinese takeout. It’s also an excellent regular pilgrimage site for anyone who doesn’t want his entire life to turn into a Nickelback musical. I don’t want to go poor-shaming here, but there really is something wrong with Stayton. I’ve spent a fair amount of time around working-class neighborhoods in Northeast Salem, and they just don’t have that gee, maybe you shouldn’t be getting your kid a dirt bike if you’re so damn broke vibe. The built environment there is horrific, but Fat Sammy, never one to be out of place at a Chinese takeout joint, would fit in at the Safeway at Lancaster and Silverton.
I seek out ambient exposure to people who aren’t totally self-defeating losers, so I notice these things. If you want to be quality, surround yourself with quality. By the way, I am not shaming Sam Dotson for being fat; I’m meming him for being fat. I’m a bit of a thicky myself. There are some thick, thick Nordic bitches and Nordic-influenced fellow-travelers around Seattle, too, but they have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them definitively not losers. Plus-sized or not, you might as well go Bigfoot hunting if you expect to find anyone of the sort in Stayton.
There’s some bleak shit out here in the provinces. Well, fuck, what do I mean, “here?” I’m writing this in West Salem. Far be it from me not to get out of Dodge the minute I’m done with work. That’s the only reason I stop in most of these country-ass dumps: fruitboy stuff. Canning is work, too, but if I’m cleaning up after rednecks in Deliverance country, I do that after driven away from their roadside constellations of Keystone and Red Bull cans. I doesn’t lives here, Mr. O’Rourke. Someone else can come in instead.