Millennials are driving less. The reasons why may surprise you–if you’re a pathologically sheltered dipshit who takes retarded thinkpieces at face value.

As I write this, I’ve just woken up from two successive nights sleeping in my car at rest areas, but I spent last night on the outskirts of Wilsonville, not five minutes from a classy-ass Starbucks, so fuck yeah. I have a car, so I drive, too much, actually, but I pay some fucking attention to how a wide variety of other people live, in the interest of not being a damn idiot, so I recognize my own good fortune to be able to pile a bunch of shit haphazardly into a not too heavily used Focus and not into a stolen shopping cart.

We’ve enjoyed some crude language already, so let’s enjoy some more, this time as part of a vicarious cold Chicago morning. Some Chicagoans live in the ghetto (in the ghetto); others get out of the ghetto on a regular basis to operate the CTA’s free fare program. I heard about this from a guy who chatted me up at the cell phone charging stations in front of the Metra ticket windows at Union Station, but it’s way the hell more credible than probably forty percent of what I read in any newspaper of record, so I believe it. The way the free fare program works is that a bum with a free unlimited CTA fare card will go up to Addison on Cubs game nights and call out, “Any of you white motherfuckers want to get on the train for free?” Because their black ally has accurately assessed the moral character of his White clientele (not much), the answer is oh fuck yes, more drinking money. The bum then swipes preppy shitheads through the turnstiles by the dozens in exchange for whatever tips they offer him; they’re loaded, often in both senses, so the tips can run into the hundreds of dollars an hour, but the bum usually quits within a few minutes, after he’s cleared about forty.

This is one of the least racist things to happen in Chicago. The White Community involved in this scam makes its contribution to the Society for the Prevention of Kwesi Millington for Sheriff. The bum isn’t meanspirited or bigoted for calling them white motherfuckers; he’s just making sure that he’s getting through to his target customer base, which is assuredly white, and most assuredly White, and isn’t exactly not motherfuckers. They all know that the farejumpers aren’t proper old church ladies. I don’t enjoy ripping off transit agencies, even badly run ones, so I wouldn’t Fly the W for being invited into a seedy racket like that, but I’m not a preppy Northside cocksucker. I’ve never been to Lakeshore Drive. The El doesn’t go there, and I’m always le tired when I visit because I’ve been humping luggage around after some redeye train ride or flight. What, me Royko? Also, I’ve seen some dystopian shit in Whole Foods and don’t expect it to get better if I wander even further north.

Seven generations from now, the CTA may have recovered from the Emanuel administration. RAHM SHANTI, RAHM HARE HARE. Fare-whoring bums aren’t crapifying the CTA by having loose morals with their cards. The assholes they’re swiping onto the El are doing more than their fair share as private citizens to screw over the system, but they’re still relative bit players. (Yes, I inevitably started to write that as “fare share.” Faaaaaahhk.)

The real trouble comes from the elected officials and cronies that the preppy fuckheads cherish in their municipal government. Rahm is surely steak-knife-into-the-table livid about the fare-whoring bums up at Addison, because they’re running an unauthorized paleoliberal racket under the auspices of at least two administrations of social democracy, not an authorized neoliberal racket under the auspices of a mayoral administration that gets schoolchildren killed on their way to school by closing their neighborhood schools and forcing them to cross rival gang territory. The bums can’t take part in some bullshit scam to give Metra riders free Uber rides for signing up for some app; getting driver’s licenses would get in the way of being severely mentally ill and drunk, and besides, parts of the El run all night. The guy who told me about the swiping scam said that the welfare authorities and the CTA probably figure they’re nutty as fuck, “Yeah, I’m gonna get on the bus five times in a row and then get on the train another three times.” I don’t doubt that they’re card-carrying members of the mental health community, because I know that they carry cards.

What I don’t know, and what the guy who told me about this racket didn’t say, is whether the police turn a blind eye to it on the Northside specifically in furtherance of white privilege and, for that matter, White privilege. Dude was mixed-race black and not squeamish about discussing racial problems, but that didn’t come up and I didn’t think to ask about it. I recall him making some comments indicating that the scam is allowed in racially integrated skid row neighborhoods, too, but some of what he said faded into my sleep-deprived haze, pursuant to Wow Much Travels.

So far we have white motherfuckers who are also embarrassingly White driving less because their brothers by very other mothers are there to swipe them on to the train. Some of them probably take the El in sober daylight hours, too. A friend of the Insurance Schmuck’s has been driving less because she totaled a car that her parents had bought for her in a drunk driving accident; since then, she has been commuting to work in Center City on the old R6, getting around Conshohocken on Uber, and still getting sloshed at the Great American.

Many of my other contacts in greater Philadelphia’s White Community, however, continue to drive all over hell. It takes a lot to get Americans out of their cars. SEPTA, by this reckoning, is not a lot. I still use it when I visit, and I can confirm that it kind of sucks. On dysfunctional lines and at bad times of day, it sucks major ass, and I’ve never tried to argue that it isn’t a great place to get work as a total numbskull. By contrast, the LA Metro Rail system has been exceeding ridership expectations. I’ve used LA Metro quite a bit, too, and it beats the shit out of almost anything that SEPTA runs, so I think that’s why. A cherished Angeleno car culture makes more sense to pop culture consumers in flyover country who never visit LA and to TV executives who live off Mulholland Drive than it does to anyone normal who tries to commute on the 101. Reason Online doesn’t change that by concern-trolling Metro and LA voters with dispatches from empty trains on the Expo Line on the first day of service. It didn’t take long for normies to notice that the line really worked and to start mobbing it.

LA now has excellent rail service in some areas and slow boat to China bus service in others. Philadelphia continues to have shitty transit service in many areas. San Diego continues to have a trolley system culturally fit for Tom Perez and Bill Durden and logistically fit for not a hell of a lot. It takes really good transit service to get affluent people who demand reliability out of their cars. If they vote for Rahm, that’s an oops for all of us. There will always be a hardcore minority of Kardashian-aspirant assholes who insist on taking limousines to clubs with bottle service, unless mass media trendsetters start recoding limos as trailer park trash trucks, but they’re marginal and susceptible to peer pressure holding that buses aren’t for losers anymore.

The obstacle to walkable neighborhoods, to arrangements like being able to safely stumble home blind drunk on account of Conshohocken’s geography, is speculative rentier parasitism, and that’s as American as apple pie and industrialists approaching Smedley Butler with coup proposals. It isn’t immutable; America has evolved from good to evil to good to evil in the past; but there’s a shitload of defensive, possessive, easily riled up, belligerent incumbent elites who have to be overcome if walkable urban planning is to be redemocratized.

The places where people without cars are left in the meantime can be pretty fucking ugly and difficult, even dangerous, to navigate. Remember, I live by the light rail station in Rancho. I don’t stay there, but I lives here; can I come in? Rancho is reasonably walkable for a suburban shithole, but it’s still sketchy and poorly appointed. Northeast Salem is much safer and sociologically upstanding, but its urban planning is worse. East Salem, trashier but no Rancho and certainly no transit-oriented San Diego, has been described to me as “Felony Flats;” it also has bad urban planning. There are densely populated streets in Salem with apartment complexes but no sidewalks.

The reason people in these neighborhoods get by without cars is that they cannot afford cars. It’s that simple. The Salem bus systems, Cherriots and CARTS (Scout’s honor, that’s what they’re called), don’t operate on weekends. Not a lot of people move out to Lancaster Drive to walk for their health.

Extrapolate this by a few thousand to account for all the other towns whose cores have been gentrified by hipster shitwads, and the implications for those displaced into the banlieue aren’t so groovy. The implications for declining motor fuel demand are pretty dystopian, too. Every time gas prices drop, Americans start trading in sensible cars for gas guzzlers again. We’re an awfully profligate people. If gas demand remains low in spite of this ostentatious waste, it makes sense that it’s because lower classes of Americans have been dispossessed from car ownership entirely. That’s a great way to kill fuel demand while still allowing those with enough credit or cash to continue to buy shiny jacked up crew cab pickups for the proper manful display of truck nuts.

No one at the farm where I work, staff or owner, drives anything of the sort. It’s because we aren’t useless assholes. It’s because we aren’t drugstore cowboys. We leave it to others to waste money on vain shit like that.

It goes to show that it’s easy enough for a country to be ruined and beggared by an aspirational ten or fifteen percent. All it takes is an organized, pushy minority, another minority that figures it may someday enjoy the same privileges, and a disorganized, apathetic majority that doesn’t particularly care for the bullshit but can’t figure out what it can possibly do to combat it. Why the hell should RV touring take precedence for policymakers over weekend bus service in cities of two hundred thousand? Because RVers vote; that’s why. As their bumper stickers brag, they’re spending their grandchildren’s inheritances.

Our leaders cater to those who demand things of them, and the circuit-riding senior bling crowd is demanding. Why wouldn’t it be? These are people who believe that they’ve earned the right to drive around in fucking buses. They believe that such a luxury can be earned. Some of them have the nerve to pretend that they’re of modest means while driving $200,000 rigs tens of thousands of miles a year. Bull fucking shit. Even if they bought their boomer cruisers on credit they can’t sustain, that’s no modesty.

We distribute the goodies unequally around here. It’s the Amway, I mean, the American Way. Borrowing from future generations, born already and yet to be, is some solid DeVos shit, too. We can’t all live on Wealthy Street. Some of us would have to expatriate to the Netherlands to become Dutch. Dick and Betsy don’t carry no paper ten-stamp Dutch Mafia card, dumbo. They don’t get their cream by the shot, and they aren’t the kind of white motherfuckers who are down for a welfare swipe onto the subway. America, America, God shed some dregs you don’t even want to imagine on this joint.

More Panera Democrats: different blame rules for different blame fools

The Democratic Party cannot organize anything like See You at the Pole. It hardly even has the discipline to stand back and allow a movement of the sort that is consistent with its purposes to do its thing without nitpicking interference or other neurotic distractions.

That the GOP has See You at the Pole and the Democratic Party has nothing analogous is telling, and damning of the Dems. See You at the Pole isn’t exactly a Republican movement, but it’s tactically and strategically shrewd and consistent with the goals of every significant extant faction of the Republican Party (get thee back to the hearth, Rockefeller; nice job locking up all the black folk for drugs, tho), and so Republicans of all remaining stripes work in concert with it, just as it works in concert with them. Secular movement conservatives don’t try to engage the flagside establishmentarians in internecine warfare; the flag prayer circle dipshits, in turn, basically punch left, putting aside what they assume are relatively minor differences with secular Republican factions to focus on what they believe (mostly rightly) are major differences with liberals and leftists.

See You at the Pole is horseshit, but it’s effective horseshit. Those who aren’t familiar with religious right cultural touchstones may be having salacious thoughts of what Lambert Strether calls ladies of negotiable affection more on the pole than at it, but it isn’t anything that reputable or upstanding. *Beavis butting in, head and all* Hehheh, uh, I’m, uh, totally upstanding right now, but you might be more comfortable kneeling to, uh, polish my pole. *Huhhuh* There’s something touchingly innocent and earnest about a bunch of (mostly) young people who believe in their own ideals and in their own power to effect their ideals coming together in a prayer circle around a flagpole, but on reflection it’s a dubious and even dangerous authoritarian bonding ritual blurring the lines between religion and civics. There is no aspect of sincere Christian praxis that requires such a pushy stunt; this shit is Constantinian church-state aggression updated for a modern Protestant-leaning right-wing sensibility and reweaponized; but this is precisely why Republicans, both of the sort who sincerely believe in the religious right agenda and of the sort who secretly ridicule the religious right as a rabble of useful idiots, encourage this muddled public worship. It’s great agitprop for all of them. It organizes people who otherwise might wander down rabbit holes to the left (labor unionism, say) under the auspices of a public religious preoccupation that directs any political impulses back to the hard right.

The Democrats can’t hold a candle to this. As I said, See You at the Pole is not organized under formal Republican auspices, but it’s a very easy thing for Republicans, who already share an exaggerated and explicit version of the tacit authoritarianism informing these prayer rallies, to endorse. If their schedules are free or they really enjoy mixing it up with the values voters, they can drop by for some prayer and readings not in their secret closet. Otherwise, they can rope in a large part of their target constituency just by saying, hey, I’d have loved to be there but couldn’t make it, but you guys are doing great work, keep it up.

Liberal Democrats who try to outargue the religious right on these cheap authoritarian stances regularly get tripped up and made to look ridiculous and impotent. I campaigned for John Kerry in rural Pennsylvania, so I would know. Bernie Sanders has the rhetorical focus and discipline to stake a claim on his own policy territory and not be lured away from it by wedge issue assholes, but as I’ve carried on about at such length already, the Democratic Party as an institution was not down with the old socialist. Hillary Clinton and everyone around her are fucking hopeless against the religious right. Long Face, an unfortunately weak communicator, made a stumbling but sincere effort to present a nuanced approach to reconciling private faith with public policy, and he got steamrolled by anti-intellectual thugs who didn’t give a shit. Hillary, who has long had a reputation on almost every part of the political spectrum except the center-left for exceptional licentiousness, looks like the Devil Incarnate when she tries to appeal to religious voters, not just a possible unwitting tool of the Dark One. This diabolical look is pretty comprehensive for her, actually: the feminazi harpy never-resting bitch face (not the most gracious look) that offends and discomfits so many cultural conservatives is at least loosely of a piece with the commodities trading monkey business (Carl Sandburg and Leroy Brown, pray for us), the barely-legal-in-Arkansas Whitewater scam (Campbell, you on the line again? Afraid we need you, too), We Came We Saw He Died (for various reasons, I don’t even try to get a hold of History Resistance Liberty Glory Revolution), and the Dr. Evil in distress act that she couldn’t suppress late in her last presidential campaign on account of her being in trouble electorally, which she inevitably delivered in an apparently empty room while dressed in the fashion of a lesbian apotheosis of Mao and Nehru.

The overall optics of the Clinton/Kaine campaign were a raging clusterfuck that the Republicans were able to beat just by running a slightly wooden but impeccably wholesome veep candidate under a loose cannon who, regardless of his judgment or his intellect, clearly had a heart. Mike Pence and Donald Trump are both effective campaigners who successfully appealed to complementary parts of a Republican base that Trump dramatically expanded by appealing to disgruntled Democrats, many of them recently berned over. As inferred Trump voter Michael Moore kept pointing out, Hillary just wasn’t getting through in the rust belt; the different things that can be tried on Torch Lake include getting baked as fuck in a MAGA hat or soberly having a KFC family bucket and a half gallon of RC Cola for dinner while finalizing one’s conclusion that the Democrats really, seriously blew it this time and that one’s fellow slovenly fat guy is the real cultural liberal and trade union leftist remaining in the race at the witching hour.

Never Trump will have a shit fit over the last part, but look at the diverse coalition that the Donald brought together just by being all over the place and picking a politically and temperamentally complementary running mate. Hillary could have picked Bernie, and he would have put her over the top, but her priority, and for reasons of corruption her party’s, was spending the general election campaign reminding him and his supporters that their proper place in the coalition was as meek, submissive, whipped little bitches. That worked out great, guys. I didn’t want that woman in the White House, so I don’t mind gloating a bit now and then. Sexist? I didn’t really want Kaine around there, either. Also, I voted for Jill Stein, bitch. It depends on what the meaning of “her” is, and sharing a candidate with a marginal collection of anti-vaxxers and healing crystals freaks is better than sharing one with a horde of insatiable power yuppies. I’m not crazy about Trump getting so easily triggered by the Nork Dork, but at least he isn’t starting shit with our supremely rational and mostly peaceable alleged enemies in the Kremlin, who conspicuously are not joining Piggy Gangnam Style in announcing plans for a nuclear missile attack on Guam.

Etc., but Wow Much Words. #WithHer regards argumentation like that as retardation on the level of someone with Down’s Syndrome talking about how good the hot dogs are at Bear River Pump-n-Play. It’s Wiener Day at the Roth’s in West Salem tomorrow; go choke on one. The refusal to acknowledge nuance on the part of the opposition is not a good look in a sworn liberal party. That doesn’t just alienate conservatives and reactionaries. Donald Trump looking like the more liberal candidate appeals to some of us. If the nominal liberals won’t confront their own illiberalism, maybe he’ll confront it for them. It might be worth a try.

In this context, the impotent embarrassments of Democratic-aligned protest movements is worth a look. Happily married women with large families aren’t natural allies for the pussy hat marchers, whom they’re more likely to regard as barren, bitter, pathological shit-stirrers, even freaks. Appealing to nebulous concepts of virtue like science and reason backfires on those who won’t honestly state and defend their own principles: extensive moral reasoning led Rick Santorum in a very different direction, and now liberals smear him by smugly appropriating his surname for a slurry of post-climactic butt goo, all while he’s married with, IIRC, five living children.

Bernie Sanders stays away from this toxic, distracting shit, but the Democratic Party would rather adopt Dan Savage as a mainstream standardbearer. But it gets worse than that. Bernie is beyond their comfort zone, but he’s closer than most of the voters they’re theoretically trying to reach. He’s a college-educated sitting United States Senator. Famously on the gotcha right and center, he owns several lake houses. The problem, the intractable problem, is that he talks basically like an organizer at a union hall. He relates to coal miners. Like Trump, he’s comfortable reaching out to workaday people, but he does so at a much more granular, thoughtful, and probably honest level, and he has a strong track record in industrial policy benefiting his constituents in Vermont that parallels Trump’s casino bankruptcies and stiffing of small family-owned contractors in Atlantic City.

Sanders has a more honest version of what Republican politicians have and Democratic politicians desperately need: an ability to get into the trenches and interact with ordinary voters on their own turf. It’s hard to say for sure what mix of sincere interest and depraved psychosexual drives motivates Republican politicians to do effective retail politics with voters at state fairs and grange halls and churches and athletic events, but they do it. It comes naturally to them. They look comfortable. Democrats look all grossed out that some pig is about to shit on their Bruno Maglis. Or some voter. Hell, Mitt Romney has a fucking elevator in La Jolla for his cars, and even he had more in common with ordinary voters than Hillary Clinton on account of his involvement in LDS stake leadership, which involves ongoing dealings with congregants at various socioeconomic levels.

Of course this idiot crew can’t connect with farmers or factory hands. We’ve got a political class on what passes for the left that can’t think of a single thing that it has in common with normal, average people in probably eighty percent of US counties and, let’s not kid ourselves, many urban neighborhoods. The client-patron relationship that the Democratic Party presumes with African-American and Latino voters isn’t nearly as sustainable or cordial as the Dems think it is, but when they try to take the same attitude to majority-white parts of flyover country, where voters forthrightly expect not to be treated so condescendingly, the locals invite them to immediately enjoy a hearty serving of Manchego Fuck Yourself. They dig themselves even deeper into the hole by pretending that 10% black counties in Appalachia are 100% white and 100% bigoted, and then return to their contemplation of how bae Nate Silver is for being such a detail-oriented wonk.

GA-06 was their wet dream. Finally they had located a single congressional district in the New South that they thought they had a chance of winning by running a milquetoast Millennial neoliberal against a hardliner Gen X values MILF. And they lost it. Oops. They lost to the Jersey Slugger in Montana, too, but that was because they shut off the party campaign funds to their High Line native candidate as a fuck-you to the Berniecrats. Ain’t no Panera in Cut Bank, either. The proper bougie purveyors of coffee and sammich nicely complemented the obsession with winning over hardliner Republican dentists in Alpharetta instead of reaching out to ranchers who gladly vote for Jon Tester every six years.

Any party that actually valued meritocracy, in the sense of having what it takes not to torpedo one’s organization by being a moron, would tell anyone encouraging more outreach to Panera Democrats in suburban Atlanta to go on public assistance. They’d take the fuckheads down to the welfare office. Any sensible political leader would figure that a belief in Panera Democrats as a viable constituency could only come from the laziest, dumbest, softest, most squeamish motherfucker on earth. The Dunkin’ Doorman hangs out in a coffeeshop, too, but he doesn’t work as a political strategist. I’m writing this from a Starbucks, and I interrupted my writing to go trainspotting out on the sidewalk, twice, but I’m not a fucking idiot who has never talked to poor people. You might not want to hear the stuff I could tell you about the bitchin’ consists that I watched roll by, but I don’t pester the Democratic Party with any of that. The people who do pester the Democratic Party include incorrigibly timid little shitbirds who think they can run the ground war for a successful national political strategy from the lobby of a chain cafe that’s decorated with peak clip art.

I pick fruit commercially, and I think they’re fucking reprehensible.

The permanent business plot

Being decisively on the same side of a contentious political debate as Tom Cotton is disorienting for me. It’s like one of my occasional mornings on the road when I wake up with no idea within three hundred miles of where I am. This must be the famous horseshoe theory. It certainly doesn’t give me the feeling that I have not been hit in the head with a horseshoe.

What Cotton said on behalf of his new immigration bill the other day was morally sound and pitch-perfect. He is absolutely right that it’s time to start doing right by Americans who work with their hands and work on their feet. He’s absolutely right that concern for the welfare of destitute foreigners is harming the welfare of working-class Americans.

Our leaders are not making a credible or sincere effort to reconcile these conflicting interests. Cotton at least recognizes that these interests conflict and takes an aboveboard position on whose interests he’s advancing. His opponents are too chickenshit and craven by a long shot to admit that they’re on the side of immigrant scab labor. That would look bad, and looking bad costs politicians reelection. Hence the rising chorus of complaints about excessive democracy from the center-left and the center-right. Democratic representation that actually represents the demos is problematic because it fails to represent the revolting elites. Let us #NeverForget how violently the Bern and the Donald have infuriated antidemocratic highbrow elements by appealing to downmarket constituents who hope for faithful representation.

Tom Cotton is probably first or second in line to infuriate them next. I haven’t checked the internet, but I have no trouble imagining denunciations of him for being a hapless hillbilly ignoramus legislating on the basis of old wives’ tales about the labor market and a spirit of herrenvolk reaction. What I heard from him in the press conference clip that NPR played was a clearheaded, workmanlike, and eminently coherent description of a serious problem that he has correctly identified and the reasonably good start that he wants to make towards solving it. His focus isn’t exactly where mine would be, but his goals overlap enough with mine and seem morally sound enough that I’m not of a mind to quibble over the mechanisms. He’s showing a hell of a lot more responsibility than the rest of Congress.

Before I get strawmanned (which will happen anyway), I should lay out exactly where I stand on a number of the points in question. I consider David Perdue’s comments about immigrants on welfare spurious and needlessly inflammatory. I do not approve of deficit concern-trolling or the opportunistic shaming of public assistance claimants, especially ones who work. That said, I can’t object to the immigration bill just because one of its sponsors is a minor public shithead.

I have no objection to the use of English proficiency as a criterion for visa approval. This seems perfectly reasonable and prudent. The United States is an English-speaking country. This is a matter of fact. Every other language spoken here is relegated to some marginal subculture; an inability to speak English drastically limits the ability of a person to function in this country. In this context, I see no reason to give a rat’s ass what languages have historically been spoken within the borders of the United States today or how objectively bizarre English is as a language. These are immaterial, distracting points, and I’m pretty sure that most of those advancing them damn well know it. It’s a language of empire, but tough shit. We’ve inherited an empire, so it’s up to us either to steward it and maybe bring it back into control as some kind of republic or be derelict and let it go totally to seed. The Mother Country gave us some ugly civic and political inheritances as part of the mix, but we’d be in worse shape under almost any legal system that we might have inherited in place of the English Common Law. The guys who ran colonial Mexico, at the time including most of the present-day Southwestern United States, were godbothering, slavedriving, tyrannical pieces of shit. Everyone living in that part of the country is lucky that the Spanish toffs were demographically and militarily overwhelmed, leaving behind a legacy of mission architecture, a bunch of misprounounceable street names, and some taco recipes.

Consequently, English is, as they say, our Lingua Franca. (It’s not just for the Franks anymore.) The possibility of there being anything controversial about this indicates a frothing overproduction of elites. Communication in English in no way necessitates utter agreement with everything the worst of the English have ever done. It is the language of anti-imperialism in the Anglophone world, too. Ooh, galaxy brain! It’s no less useful for running Commonwealth governments. Personally, I’ve always figured that if English is good enough for Jorge Castañeda, it’s good enough for me.

The point here isn’t to be bigoted or narrowminded. Having large, enduring enclaves of foreigners who cannot readily communicate with the native population presents a number of serious problems, for both the enclaves and for the native society surrounding them. This isn’t some angels-on-a-pinhead academic exercise. The wholesale presence of Mexican peasants in meatpacking towns has enabled the ruination working conditions, including safety, in American slaughterhouses. People have gotten killed in preventable industrial accidents on account of our feckless immigration policy.

The clubbable aren’t supposed to think about these things. That kind of work is for someone else, probably someone less American and definitely someone less educated. Meatpacking jobs were relatively safe, well-paid, and highly sought-after, sometimes to the point of years-long waiting lists for new hires, in the midcentury. They’re always been grueling, but today they’re needlessly grueling, terribly paid, supervised by cruel floor managers, and exceedingly dangerous. None of this just happened. Management spared no aggression in breaking the unions and replacing dedicated American lifers with disposable Mexicans, who have been replaced in turn in some meatpacking plants by Somali refugees.

There was never anything humanitarian about any of this. All this concern for the welfare of destitute foreigners is a disgusting conceit. It’s misplaced and wrong to blame the Mexican and Somali scabs for this arrangement; they’re just trying to get by after fleeing life-threateningly dysfunctional and violent homelands. All-American management teams, or at least very heavily American ones, saw an opportunity to exploit them in their desperation, and they took it. Throwing their fellow citizens, their fellow Americans, under the bus was just one of the costs of doing business.

Their fellow Americans have not forgotten a bit of it. The yuppie swarm moved past it, if they ever saw the faintest problem with it in the first place, but not the poors left behind to desperately try to hang on to a decent existence in wrecked factory towns. They remember. Few of them forgive. How can they forgive bad acts that are still being done to them in the most calculating, predatory, premeditated spirit? They aren’t fancy, but they aren’t a bunch of drooling retards, either. Society would grind to a screeching halt without the skills that they’ve spent their careers honing; it would carry on just fine without the fucking MBA’s.

I picked fruit again today. I’m unaware of any MBA’s who did that. Tom Cotton recognizes that there’s some hard work that needs to be done. From what little I’ve heard of his comments, he actually holds most of his fire. The extent to which educated elites, many of them proudly liberal, look down on and demean working men and women is unbelievable. Cotton’s pushback against this bigotry has been quite restrained. He’s standing up very politely on behalf of some of the most shit-upon constituencies in the United States at a time when there really isn’t anything wrong with standing up rudely on their behalf. The educated elites are all but literally biting the hands that feed them. How the hell do they expect that to end in their favor?

If you think I will or must vote Democratic because I’m educated or fancy, you’ve got your head up your ass. No one is hooking me up with the good stuff. This is what Tip O’Neill meant by all politics being local. My own local is full of yuppies who talk a great game about networking but never network me into jack shit. To be crude about it, my interests don’t intersect with theirs, and I’m not sure they ever did. Donald Trump humiliating and sandbagging their crowd is a good thing. They could do to be brought down a rung or two in a society whose working men and women have been dropkicked off the ladder straight into a pile of pigshit.

If I’m going to vote Democratic, i need a reason to vote Democratic. I’ve repeatedly voted for Dale Mensing for Congress solely because he’s listed on the ballot as a cashier. He could be nuttier than an Almond Joy on any number of issues, but that wouldn’t stop him from bringing Congress some much-needed insights about how menial workers are treated from day to day in this country. Loretta Sanchez gave me reasons to vote Democratic twice last year, but if Tom Cotton carpetbagged his way into a general election against Kamala Harris, he’d have to really screw the pooch for me not to vote for him. I wouldn’t assume that he doesn’t generally suck, but I know that Harris generally sucks, and I’d be thrilled to have someone coherently advocating and legislating on behalf of workaday Americans in the Congressional delegation from my first home state in its time of extreme yuppie infestation.

These are not sources of shame or embarrassment for me. I’m no MAGA shitlord, but I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that much of what Donald Trump has been saying gives me rare hope and welcome schadenfreude. I didn’t expect him, of all people, to be the one to publicly take on the yuppies after his real estate and television careers, but I’ll take it, and joyfully so. For that matter, Anthony Scaramucci, an obvious prick, doesn’t disturb me the way Washington’s traditional lanyard dork army does. He looks and sounds sort of normal, other than his being a prick. The number of visibly abnormal people rushing around Washington is scary.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that hasn’t somehow disturbed Tom Cotton, too, and inspired him to push back against the yuppie swarm. The situation on the ground in Washington is hard to imagine from flyover country. It’s deeply pathological, verging on the Antebellum South in its hypocrisy and moral cowardice. Hiring exclusively Latin American staffs of presumably irregular legality is obviously a cheap and shady practice. Around Washington, it’s treated like a fucking Rotary cultural exchange, and no one has the courage to say otherwise. Of course it was never sincerely meant to be any sort of people-to-people shit. Has Marion Barry been handing out free crack rock in Northwest, or are they just a bunch of fuckheads? Hint: rhymes with “Buckhead.”

Bitches set themselves up, in both senses. These are not ones to live humbly or austerely or in truth. They’d much rather live grandiosely, lavishly, and in falsehood. Like #TIMMEH, they’re #LIVINALIE! More than a few of them look like they’ll imminently revert to his level of executive function, too. That has to be a great town to find a diaper fetishist. *Strom Thurmond, still going strong all night long* Now, that is no fetish, son; it is an expediency. Do I look like a man who remains clothed around a colored woman? *Strom Watch Expired*

I never expected Tom Cotton to be the one to notice that something was off about the joint and to try to fix it, but that seems to be where we’ve landed. Nah, more like washed up. But if he has the only fresh set of eyes capable of noticing that our federal government really is operating out of a fetid swamp, that’s better than St. Jean de Breboeuf driving an oil train through Lac Megantic. *Voice crying out in the frontier, probably in French* Brother, can you spare a pair? I can’t find mine.

That was unforeseeably bad. The bad stuff in Washington is all too foreseeably bad, and it isn’t just obscure blogging in bad taste. I’m in it for the art, and I guess the page views; they’re in it for the money and the power and the majesty. It’s past time that someone stepped up and tried to correct it. It’s happening in the midst of what may still be a real political realignment, so it won’t necessarily make sense. That’s okay. John Fremont was a Republican. William Jennings Bryan was a Democrat who got into religious meddling by way of positive law late in his career. We don’t need saints. As we saw in the previous paragraph, we really don’t need saints. We need political leaders who are halfway honest. Cotton and Trump are giving me that 53% feeling again, and oh hell yes, I do like it.

Are these motherfuckers serious?

NPR gets worse and worse. Avowedly commercial drivetime radio in either of our national languages calls into question why the FCC remains chartered if it won’t put a regulatory stop to such atrocities, so the possibility of NPR offering something better is alluring. It’s always nice to imagine that there’s good in our world. Instead, the totebaggers offer us merely a different horror. Its superficial aesthetics are better, just as Bernie Madoff’s superficial aesthetics were better than those of an Amway consultant or car salesman who won’t get out of your face, but I shouldn’t be so snarky about the old crook: dialing in to the Butner Jewish Gentlemen’s Kaffeeklatsch would be a huge improvement (yuge!) over the shit I just heard on Morning Edition.

For some awful reason probably having to do with a neurotic bourgeois obsession with the micromanagement of daily schedules, NPR has started advertising itself as something that’s hella informative to listen to for just twenty minutes a day. My points of clarification are twofold: First, if it’s some good shit, why the hell wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen to the entire program, or to get a portable radio (please to not encourage shut-in behavior) and listen to the entire day’s worth of programming, and, second, if it alternately sucks, why listen to it in the first place? The House Voice has also been advertising a website called Curious, which purports to help its audience or readership or instascannership or whatever the fuck learn the good stuff, like Mandarin Chinese, in, I recall, thirty-minute increments.

I needed only twenty minutes this morning, or thirty, or thirty, or maybe thirty-five, which I will not be doublechecking because I cherish the feeling and the appearance that I am not insane, to hear two separate but equally grotesque pieces of sponsored content for the neoliberal regime.

The first was an interview with Joaquin Castro, a Democratic Member of the House for San Antonio, in which Mr. Castro (Raul sounds better by the day) used the recent mass-casualty migrant smuggling truck incident to plug additional work visas for foreign agricultural and high tech workers. Neither Castro nor Steve Inskeep (I’m not doublechecking whether it was that cracker or David “Big Sexy” Greene at the mike, either) discussed the possibility that ag and tech have trouble recruiting Americans because the work conditions and the management suck. We’ve discussed ag at length in these pages, including the sad truth that the In-Laws are far from the worst (DiL actually called me a few minutes ago for an unruffling of feathers, invitation back to work, and IDK WTF all, because as dysfunctional as that operation is, it’s a weirdly self-righting ship). We’ve discussed tech less, but others have discussed it at painstaking, salacious length. These industries have to recruit foreigners because they either shut out or alienate the locals.

Joaquin Castro is a certifiable self-bullshitting fool because he described Texas as having major highways running north and south and east and west, making it a crossroads. This contrasts it with a number of other states, including Hawaii, maybe Alaska, and absolutely no others. A family friend had a classmate at University College London who turned in hilariously overwrought research papers, one of which described Burma as having, like all countries, lakes and rivers and mountains and plains, and noted that the northern part of Burma is called “North Burma,” and so forth around and into the compass. Castro is the same dude, but without the flowery, uncalled-for literary descriptions of William the Conqueror’s horses snorting into the cold dawn mists at Hastings.

This shit about highways running in four different directions and crossing each other was the reification of “Perspectives” with Lionel Osborne, but without the comedic charm, and not at 4:43 in the AM, either. This ain’t Coast to Coast, cracka; the aliens would have better insight into the geography of Texas. *Transmission of Data incoming* According to your human directional conventions, United States Highway Number 87 runs in the approximate directions of northwest and southeast, crossing many other highways along its path on vectors diagonal to theirs. *Data set complete* Some of our more familiar, less legal, aliens might wonder what the fuck it matters whether there’s a different highway running in a different direction as long as there’s air conditioning in the trailer, but their voices weren’t of any use to NPR under the circumstances.

Neither was any discussion of the Border Patrol’s internal checkpoints, which are as comprehensive in Texas as they are in any state. Even putting aside the serious constitutional and civil liberties problems with the checkpoints, a trailer smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants (by some accounts, up to 180) seems like exactly the sort of thing the checkpoints were established to interdict. The idea is that the Border Patrol has no fucking capacity to properly patrol and secure the border (yeah, this is problematic, too), so instead it takes advantage of a number of natural chokepoints on the interior highway system in sparsely populated parts of the Southwest to make sure that nothing fishy with respect to immigration status is allowed to pass deeper into the country, into the unsecured (secured?) parts. Yeah, great job there, guys. You come bother us on domestic passenger trains through Buffalo, but nothing seemed off about this truck? Do these jagoffs even check cargo manifests against what’s actually in the trailer? Of course not. I mean, maybe sometimes, but there’s nothing comprehensive about this regime. It’s totally arbitrary. It’s security theater. The difference is that TSA officers dress up like Boy Scouts as reimagined by a cop-fancying Village People cover band, while the Border Patrol dresses up and arms itself like the guys on the East German side of Checkpoint Charlie.

The second whatthefuckular item on NPR this morning (and there may have been more, for which I’ve tuned out) was on the Marketplace Morning Report segment. Marketplace seems to have started as a sort of intellectual diversity initiative, a neoliberal show focusing on investing and flapper lounge music to balance NPR’s otherwise bleeding-heart left-liberal programming about serious news that won’t directly get a cracker rich. As the rising tide of neoliberalism has swamped the rest of NPR in recent years, any interest in programming balance or variety became spurious as a justification for Marketplace. What little non-neoliberal programming is still on NPR is increasingly relegated to off hours, in the same manner that Coast to Coast AM and Perspectives with Lionel Osborne are safely confined to marginal parts of the AM.

Everybody’s welcome and his son is dead.

This particular Marketplace Morning Report segment wasn’t nearly so honest. It was about how Americans aren’t doing as well as economists would expect in such strong economic times. As always, the overpaid fuckers chatting about this stuff couldn’t imagine that the economic data were erroneous, too narrow, or bogus. A large percentage of the population getting by with no or very little savings is unmistakable evidence that whatever prosperity and stability there is in the country is not being shared widely at all. The numbers that they mentioned were pretty bleak, bleak enough to make me feel really damn lucky for having family backstopping and savings at all.

We’ve got a lot of broke-ass poor folk around here, just as we’d expect if we looked at the labor market and the attitudes of hiring managers with any intellectual perceptiveness. This isn’t the Sorrowful Mystery of the Passion; it’s just sorrowful, in a way that isn’t mysterious at all for those of us who don’t work at NPR. I know, I know, I was listening to it, so it must be for me, but think of me as an NPR hipster; it’s, like, my PBR, my dive bar, my wearing a bowler hat and a plain American Apparel T-shirt at work in a kebab shop in Echo Park like a fucking asshole because I somehow don’t see a problem with looking like I’m still in my underwear when I’m wearing a rich Englishman’s hat indoors. Do I sound like I listen to that shit earnestly?

The thing about this MMR piece (which will not, for better and worse, be followed up by an MMRBQ) wasn’t just that it lacked any self-awareness about the upper and upper-middle classes being responsible for the widespread economic malaise at the household level by doing everything in their power to drive wages for the classes beneath their own into the gutter. That much would have been merely a bit dense, a modest self-own on the part of a crowd that has always believed in self-ownership.

The really bad part, the creepy part, was the proposal of nudge theory IFL Behavioral Science Pavlovian policy tweaks to encourage savings, including entering people into prize competitions for opening savings accounts. This is exactly why workaday Americans, and the lower sorts of loafaday Americans, distrust soi-disant experts. They’re always adding insult to injury, in this case by condescending to people who flat-out cannot afford to put money aside for savings, and talking in public like they’re knowingly running society-wide psychological experiments that have not passed institutional review without the consent of the test subjects.

This shit is not far at all from some of the less lethal experiments that got Nazi scientists into trouble after the war. It gives off whiffs of Tuskegee. There are supposed to be institutional and legal safeguards in place against this kind of abuse, and yet it’s being discussed openly, shamelessly, on nationally syndicated radio programming. One World Government, Agenda 21, chemtrails, and similarly florid conspiracy theories start to make sense as attempts to process these elite attitudes that merely get some of the details wrong. The international collusion of neoliberal elites is a matter of public record. It isn’t exactly crazy to assert that elites that admit to using advanced psychological and behavioral programming techniques on the citizenry at large are also unscrupulous enough to deliberately poison the air with God knows what. FEMA camps aren’t necessarily any more grotesque than the current American penal state, which in some states exceeds the Soviet Gulag on a per capita incarceration basis and at least rivals it for human rights abuses. WHO DAT!

This entire regime is predicated on the mass degradation of the public. How else would anyone think it’s normal and not insulting to offer the chance at a prize as an inducement to open a savings account? That isn’t even a free toaster. I might be young, but I ain’t stupid enough to fall for that. In any healthy society, the usual reason to open a savings account would be, gee, I have some extra money sitting around that I don’t feel like leaving in my checking account or sewing into a mattress, and I like the idea of earning interest on it. Could the lack of interest (heh) in savings accounts have anything to do with interest rates being at historic lows? I earn 0.75% annual interest on my savings account. It’s better than nothing, but isn’t a hell of a lot. Good luck getting 1% APR on consumer credit, though. As private consumers, we still have to pay the bank 15-25% APR on outstanding balances, if not worse. Mortgage terms are somewhat more generous, but qualifying for a mortgage is a bitch.

Capital One cut my interest rate from 0.9% to 0.75% after I opened my account. If everything is about incentives and micronudges, why don’t I close the damn thing? Answer me, Gladwell. Are we seriously to believe that savings rates wouldn’t be higher at 4 or 5% annual interest returns? How is this sort of incentive, which is normal and not creepy, impossible but being entered into a contest to win some crappy prize for opening a savings account on uninspiring interest terms totally doable? What is this shit? Publisher’s Clearing House? No, that big check is worth big money. This shit is more like parish hall bingo with Lynn Rader.

Ooh, you’re thinking, she sounds sexy! Yes, he is. Sexy male code enforcement officer Lynn Rader memes are an improvement over any of the Pavlovian mass experiments the neoliberals have to offer. I make fun of another serially murderous creep on an F-List blog best known for a half-assed hot take on Arab failsons shitting on international rent girls (sometimes there’s nowhere to go but up; #KeepClimbing); neoliberalism makes fun of all of us while pretending to be acting in our best interests as our structural Mengele.

In this context, Donald Trump not talking and acting like a disingenuous Josef Mengele wannabe was an adequate selling point. His deal was basically, look, I’ma go fun a bunch of the creeps who keep trying to run the Milgram experiment on you guys, and I’ll sandbag them if they try to mess with you again, and wow, this is a really cool fire truck, magnificent, really elegant machine. The five seconds that he isn’t wowed by the fire truck are enough to show that his heart is in the right place, or at least in a less wrong place than Hillary Clinton’s. We’ve seen what she does with her laser focus. We’ve seen what her fellow travelers do.

The class aspect here is deliberately hidden, but it’s very real. Do Tom Friedman and Megan McArdle live under this regime? Of course not. This regime is for the little people. McMegan gets paid to write about how we’re too sensitive to the victims of the Grenfell Fire and put too many regulations in place in an effort just to keep them from dying prematurely in raging apartment fires. No amount of driveling, bigoted idiocy will get the shitbirds who talk the story of neoliberalism fired and replaced by H-1B’s who just graduated from communications programs in Bangalore or Guadalajara. The experiments aren’t being run on them; they’re exempt. How fucking convenient.

This piece at Dissention is spot on: “Neoliberalism works only as long it operates in a command-control type of socio-economic-legal environment.” It’s painfully obvious that the incumbent elites are not approaching us as free citizens making free decisions in a free market. No one normal and healthy wants to be a customer in a regime that tries to get the broke to open savings accounts by entering them into penny-ante prize drawings after dispossessing them from the opportunities that used to be available, more or less for the asking, to earn a living wage doing stable work.

It’s striking, too, that the amount of red tape needed to keep this regime running, to operate its elaborate mechanisms of monitoring, reward, and punishment, would fatally choke any small business operating without access to unlimited below-market capital and would hobble large businesses operating in a free market. I’ve often wondered, for example, when Panera will finally collapse under its own dead weight. Panera has efficient kitchen lines putting together dishes developed by some exceptionally talented test chefs in clean, well-lit, well-maintained facilities, but I can swear sometimes that the entire chain is on the verge of choking on its own corporate horseshit, and I can’t help but wonder when its customers, even its most safe-for-work bourgeois corporatist customers, will either run out of the discretionary income to spend on that joint or get fed up with the fucking muzak and clip art. Watching a new hire half-attentively watch a training video in the kitchen with no one from floor management present forced me to move the projected failure date up by years, but as they say, only the Father knows the day and the hour.

Great place to go looking for Democratic voters, though.

There was a third piece on Morning Edition this morning that I didn’t think to include until just now, about sin taxes making the poor spend more of their income on cigarettes and claim federal food stamps more frequently. States’ rights, bitch. This third piece was, surprisingly, not creepy. It was the only bit of humility I was able to readily discern this morning. It admitted, without defensiveness, that smokers want their damn smokes and will make whatever third party they can find, in this case the feds, reimburse them for the jacked-up price of their cancer sticks as imposed by their state and municipal governments. It implied, more than openly enough for me to stop denigrating NPR’s morals for a full paragraph, that socialism is a viable way to pay for the costs of neoliberalism. Personally, I don’t smoke and consider cigarettes super gross, but between Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg and the Smoking Chair, I’ll take the Smoking Chair every time. The purpose of whatever ungodly amount cigarettes cost in New York City is to punish the poor and fob tax costs off onto them so that elected officials don’t have to stand up to affluent voters in a state of apoplectic tax revolt. We might well never have heard of Eric Garner if classy crackers like Don Draper were still smoking that shit.

Spend twenty minutes listening to All Things Considered this afternoon and you, too, can be Icarus.

Sure, Americans won’t do menial labor, if by “Americans” you mean the Real Housewives of Conshohocken

Today is a beach day. I feel terrible about playing hooky in Newport on what should be a workday, but no more terrible than Mother-in-Law should feel about her noontime lashing out yesterday. It is not my place to know today how or what she feels in the aftermath of that dumpster fire, since it is not Newport. Newport itself is problematic (tourism), but eh.

I’ve scavenged some cans already, so today actually is a workday, as I really should keep reminding myself. Just because it doesn’t involve Mother-in-Law, Travis Kalanick, and/or enough money at once for a tall Pike doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. It isn’t a side hustle; it’s a roadside hustle. I mostly found safe places to pull over along the old highway out by Nashville (not THAT one, for better and worse) and clean up after the rainforest rednecks on the state’s dime. I also found a hearty junkie bottle, a one-liter plastic Pepsi bottle that at once relieved and horrified me when I discovered that it was full not of used cigarette butts but used syringes. This is another point at which I lube up, bend over, and softly moan, haidt-fuck me now, Ghomeshi. It may not be a comprehensive morality of disgust, but it is disgust. Take me down to the VFW hall to make my #MillennialPledge and let me TELL you about my trauma.

I feel bad about forsaking my plants so early in the season. Some of them are as fruitful as an Elton John concert for the Queen’s household staff. That said, we’ve been over, and over, why I had to ghost that hot mess of an operation. Free markets don’t work when one party isn’t free. The labor supply at that berry farm is tacitly based on the restricted liberty of its labor pool. I wasn’t even on course to quit working there just because the Ditzney Princess demonstrated all the socialization of a poorly behaved five-year-old. That much was tolerable. Our off-the-clock hypomanic Socratic Method continuing lecture series and involuntary fruit tasting was not. The former, I suspect, contributed to the latter, but Daughter-in-Law wouldn’t have been excited to that quantum of collective punishment by a single, individually manageable brat.

How this will ultimately be resolved is yet to be seen. It is very much a social crisis, and another tricky day for me. Bish be cray, dawg; bish be wack. My then-colleague’s comment two years ago about MiL being bipolar is harder and harder to dispute as MiL’s pattern of wiggity-wack recurs season after season. Her outbursts at staff are the kind of thing I fear myself doing in my worst nightmares in some moment when I could really use some Ativan. Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t actually gone there. As far as I can tell, I’ve never gone flying at others from a position of authority, although I had some episodes, mainly in high school and early in college, that in retrospect look like legit 420 Club aviation. The advisability of my parents taking all of us on vacation in Scandinavia was debatable, but their taking along a coat for me over my objections when we went out on an all-day excursion out of Bergen including a fjord cruise was not.

This shit that MiL pulls looks all too familiar. It’s exactly why I stopped taking Adderall against my psychologist’s advice and, if I recall correctly, didn’t see him again. That shit had me throwing a rubber ball repeatedly at my bedroom ceiling, thinking that eleven at night was a perfect time for an eight-mile hike through the State Game Lands over the neighborhood ridge without drinking water, and then breaking down in tears without warning in front of my parents.

Uncorking the Id in front of subordinates seems like a more distant, more alarming frontier, but mental illness operates as a series of variations on prevailing cultural themes, and a key cultural theme for the In-Laws is their own virtue as small-town small business owners. Give MiL a bit of mad zoom-zoom and she’ll weaponize that shit against us.

This is not just a mental health problem. Mixups in my Mind and Psychotarp have never gotten hostile with me. The hostility that they’ve shown towards others in states of extreme psychotic agitation is comparable to, if a bit more extreme than, the hostility Mother-in-Law has shown her employees in a state of usually mild manic-depressive illness. I’ve had truly debilitating depressive and hypomanic episodes in the past, and MiL’s demeanor in the midst of her tirades has usually looked higher-functioning than that, although not fully functioning. I made it through entire shifts at Hersheypark without anyone asking me if anything was wrong in the midst of depressive episodes that had me feeling much worse than MiL looked during her tirade yesterday.

That wasn’t the High Noon of the Long Pick, although fortunately/unfortunately, unfortunately, the High Noon of the Long Pick was. I know, Wow Much descriptive Many repetition Very annoy. The cultural context of MiL’s tirades is ultimately more troubling and inexcusable than her merely being bipolar. There should be automatic negative cultural feedbacks on that kind of shit. Like, what the hell was the other woman thinking yesterday, the market saleswoman whom MiL weaponized for her tirade against us? Could she really not tell that there was something inappropriate about it? Did she really consider that kind of formalized verbal abuse appropriate?

I’m afraid she did. She looked too calm and emotionally stable not to be culpable. An ethically engaged person who gets roped into that sort of scheme is taken aback. It occurs to me that the saleswoman may have been a bit on the simple side, but where the hell were the cultural prompts that should have raised the alarm about her being used by an emotionally volatile employer who was yelling at a bunch of mostly minor employees under her authority to make a point about what useless, wasteful incompetents we all were? That should be simple enough to register with the simple. Business owners waiving the ethics for their own benefit and talking self-serving stories on the fly about why that’s all cool might explain why it did not.

This whole situation provides its own gaslighting. The only possible master manipulator who was party to the lecture yesterday was the saleswoman, and I say this only because I didn’t get a good enough read of her to say conclusively that she wasn’t manipulating us. Walking off the job violates the Protestant Work Ethic. So does berating one’s employees so that they’re unable to work without defying one’s direct orders to take abuse until one tires of offering it, but we aren’t trained, as Americans, to flip this script. As a fruitboy, I feel most called to work during the summer, because that’s when there’s the serious fruit, but it was never being a fruit grower that catalyzed Mother-in-Law’s workplace harassment of her employees from a position of authority.

That’s the fault of our broader business culture, especially its downhome country-ass versions. I’m afraid that I’ll have to explain, or make an attorney the channel of my piss to explain, to one or more of my employers that they and I are adverse parties. We’re really close to that happening already. If it does, it will be thanks to all the self-justifying fuckheads in business, large and especially small, who go around pretending that we’re all just country friends with little misunderstandings and there’s no such thing as a labor dispute in the Heartland. We’re also close to the point at which my bosses, especially MiL, will blurt out some bullshit about how my standing up to them is moral hazard for their younger employees, since it isn’t one of the lessons that they’re trying to teach their employees about work and life. Of course it isn’t; one of MiL’s lessons is that it’s okay to call a thirteen-year-old employee’s home phone at 8:30 pm and spend half an hour straight berating him about his poor performance. That’s pretty close to an inspiration to a child’s parents, helicopter or not, to consider that the police maintain night watches as well as day watches and to place a call of their own to the nearest patrol desk.

MiL knows better than to do that to me, or so I sense, but she should know better than to ever do that to any of her employees.

One takeaway (*John Hockenberry voice* I have no idea what the fuck any of this is) is that professional boundaries are whatever the boss says they are. Another is that professional boundaries are whatever the employee says they are. If I don’t define the limits of acceptable workplace culture, people like Mother-in-Law will. The Ditzney Princess won’t set any such limits because she’s the dutiful child of pants-shittingly timid authoritarian parents, but family considerations apparently set limits of their own on MiL, who turns around and flings the shit at all of us. Hence my day trip to Nye Beach. I don’t even find a parking space before I’m overwhelmed by a sense of dread at being surrounded by a shiftless, purposeless hellscape of the deracinated and the lost, but no one’s harassing me, so there’s that. The surf is pretty fucking boring today and I wouldn’t mind some more clouds and some fog, but whatever. The bottle junkies out by Nashville had an idea for combating that anomie, even if they criminally wasted a fine pop bottle, aggrieving the heart of Chaka Can. They’re probably all like, dude, you may think that’s worth something, but you don’t do drugs. It isn’t worth the risk of HIV or Hepatitis, but at the same time, a look inside merely made me cringe, not lay eyes of a lake of butts and chaw juice and fight back a rising tide of vomit. So, as Ali G. would say, RESPEK.

I’m a seaside wastrel today. So, according to Marco Werman’s peeps, are the Americans who won’t stop skipping their jobs at the fudge shops on Martha’s Vineyard to go lay out and do other cool Vineyard Vines shit. Hint: you’re getting a clue, too, (ooh!) about why the local Yanks aren’t so much interested in doing menial labor at a fudge shop. The local culture is not ordered to such callings to service. As with our surnameless old boy Lloyd up in more Millingtonian climes, who never had any interested in settling somewhere so damn cold, the cool change Massholes need Jamaicans to staff their fudge shops. As a restaurateur (restaurateuse?) with a noticeably Mayhewish accent helpfully informed America’s listening public, they’re also the maids who go missing whenever the H-1B visas are not forthcoming, leading to much island gossip among the local non-color about the absence of the non-local color, also described without surnames, and the ramifications for the local economy, like being le sad that one must either clean one’s own bedroom or risk letting it start looking like the interior of my Focus.

Listening to this story, I was taken aback but not really surprised. The utter lack of self-awareness was to be expected. The Onion was right about the inner-city murders that left three families maidless. I am reminded of the parable of the workers in the fudgeyard. *Prime Minister’s Question from the Member for St. Thomas incoming* I think I understand your teaching, but do tell, teacher, what is “fudge?” #TeshTips: Out in Provincetown, they’ll gladly pack it for you, too. Fudge shops are a really credible keystone for a local economy for anyone who’s that gullible and retarded, but don’t forget, we’re talking about NPR listeners here. It would be a hard teaching to remind them that there’s still a decent union presence in the grocery industry, hence many American lifers at the register, and to take their white asses to Hannaford to buy the raw ingredients to make their own damn fudge.

This dumbass, dismayingly earnest White Whine wasn’t necessarily about Americans being unwilling to hold down menial jobs. It was more believably about Americans being unwilling to hold down poorly paid menial jobs waiting hand and foot on yacht wastrels who fuck around in the migratory presence of the Clintons. Working in a fudge shop on Martha’s Vineyard isn’t just another underwhelming retail job; it’s an underwhelming retail job catering to the overwhelmingly affluent, a service-industry (lol) job on the Vineyard requiring a scrupulous work ethic to make possible the ostentatious public masturbation of the sorts of people who live on the Vineyard. If I ever visit, I’ll end up wandering around muttering to myself about how appalling it is that they don’t even grow any Pinot Noir or Concord and what a damn waste of a vineyard that is.

It figures that they need noncitizens to take these jobs. Americans would ask for things like days off. Americans might accuse their bosses of talking like Mary Mayhew. Those from Wicked South and other points wicked north would notice. Americans would not particularly enjoy the social arrangement of busting ass all summer for rich fucks who devote their own summers to being absolutely useless. They’d risk being all like, bitch you sound like you’re running for Maine HHS commissioner, why the fuck are you acting like some Mexican gardener and short-order cook is your friend.

As Teddy Kennedy always said, it’s time for a cool change. Ride the Ducks! Few have ever hit the surf like Senator Splish-Splash, the premier honorary Point Loma Sea Lion, but many have aped that fine-ass Kennedy style and pretended that nothing much went down at Chappaquiddick. What’s-her-name wasn’t one of us, you see. (I’d look her up, but I’m already Very Online today, and it’s more than enough.)

I don’t personally know many Masshole seaboarders, but I know plenty of Philadelphia shore wankers, and they aren’t too reputable themselves. ISB and ISBF come to mind. ISB has a shore house, invitations to which he uses to induce the Insurance Schmuck’s ex- and future girlfriend to serve as an unpaid lady-in-waiting to his fiancee. I was just about to say that I at least get paid to listen to Mother-in-Law’s tirades, but then I remembered yesterday. Wow None lucid Much details Very confuse.

I keep hearing about how hard ISB and everyone in that office works, how they all have such strong work ethics, but when Philadelphians go to Sea Isle City or Avalon or wherever the hell ISB has his Shore pad, because he’s too classy for Wildwood and way too good for AC, that ain’t a work ethic; that’s a beach ethic. Brenda Jorett apparently saw no inconsistency in posting photos of herself lounging around on a folding chair down the Shore and scolding young’uns for not having a work ethic. Pick fruit, Jorett.

Seriously, there is something really bizarre, surreal even, about people who dick around on the beach during the summer even insinuating that I, a commercial fruit picker, am maybe kind of lazy. You gotta be shitting me. Cracka you clownin’? I do more tangibly productive physical work for a shabby partial living in a day out in the fields than anyone in the sales offices at New Amsterdam Death does for a living. (The Insurance Schmuck, and probably also ISB and ISBF, for that matter are probably thinking, okay, I get the death part, but what does this have to do with Amsterdam?) (On second thought, definitely ISBF.) Fuck, I did more physical work for a living picking up cans off the roadside this morning than I’ve heard of ISB and ISBF doing as adults. The Insurance Schmuck at least did some real work managing pools, which gave me an opportunity to show him how to hammer a nail into concrete so that maybe the railing wouldn’t fall over into the pool. He’d have a decent chance of getting hired as an ocean lifeguard, but I don’t see him looking for any sort of work that wouldn’t keep his hands soft.

This is the crowd that most strongly suggests that I’m some kind of trust fund wastrel. The Dunkin’ Doorman didn’t question my work ethic and professional capabilities. He didn’t reciprocate my strong online accusations that he’s a lazy, pain-in-the-ass bum and coffeeshop troll. If I know anyone who deserves a shore house, it’s him. He might not make much use of it if it didn’t include a Dunkin’ franchise whose customers he could pester (I get the feeling that the Dunkin’ Donuts shortage keeps him off the beach in good weather, too, since he runs on people who run on Dunkin’), or he might charge random people admission to hang out on his property, payable in cash money or coffee. That would be no more corrupt and much more honest than ISB’s shore-whoring. I swear, he’s like an apparatchik straight out of the Brezhnev Politburo, getting social climbers to do him favors off the clock as a way of making sure they’re allowed to come hang out at his dacha over the summer and get classily blitzed.

The idea of either ISB or ISBF considering themselves superior to me, especially so in times when I do not have enough of my parents’ money at my disposal to invest with them as a proper high net worth individual, is absurd. ISB seduced ISBF by going around acting like a modern Midas. That was generally how it looked when I first met them, and the Insurance Schmuck has given me dispositive details about them, notably including the $14,000 watch. That crazy bitch owns a watch worth damn near twice what I paid for my Focus. If my parents let me take over my mom’s old Civic for my own use back east, as my dad has been considering, ISBF’s bling-ass watch will be worth more than both of my cars combined. She’s also got $20,000 in outstanding credit card debt, down from $30k since she moved in with ISB, which ISB frets isn’t enough financial responsibility. Yeah, but you know something, buddy? She didn’t take up with you because she’s financially responsible. This dense bastard wonders why his fiancee is such an all-around high-maintenance spendthrift, but he can’t imagine that it has anything to do with his bragging about his own bitchin’ rides. Now he’s shacked up with Rolex Marie Antoinette, she’s getting riled up to the point of occasional domestic battery, the Insurance Schmuck is admitting as much to me in reluctant, hushed tones, and ISB is wondering why this crazy woman whose hand he’s preparing to take in marriage isn’t a model of financial prudence and a fit Christian helpmeet. Yeah, maybe it’s because he wasn’t advertising for anything of the sort.

By the way, this balls-to-the-wall, sleep-deprived nutcase has named his fiancee as a policy issuer and taken her along to business meetings where she has alienated clients to the point of reneging on agreements that they were on the verge of contractually signing. ISBF is New Amsterdam Death’s equivalent to the Ditzney Princess. (I initially wrote that as “Amsterdamn.” Hmm.) Since we’re talking about an affluent part of Philadelphia, not a poor part of rural Oregon, she’s a Borderline wacko who looks like she might end up featuring in a Dateline NBC murder special, not a religiously preoccupied spergchild, but it’s mainly a different kind of shitty.

Think about doing concerted farm work and having to deal with any of these people. Imagine being hardy and grown-up enough to pick fruit several hours a day and then being confronted by the moral superiority complexes of a thirteen-going-on-four dipshit who reads Christian fairy tale fantasy literature, thinking that there is such a thing; a flashy spendthrift insurance sales poobah who totally knows that he earned his shore house by his own hard work and deserves it, and who, like Donald Trump, may or may not have a positive net worth; that guy’s reality television-ready girlfriend, whose net worth is predictably negative and who doesn’t have any identifiable professional skills, to be construed however salaciously you wish; and a farm owner-operator who repeatedly pisses off her own workers by yelling at them about how useless they are but still fails to send the fantasy dipshit home to resume her studies of John 3:16-compliant treatments of Beauty and the Beast. 

Is the Dunkin’ Doorman even low-functioning compared to any of these? He seems more mentally stable than three of the four and at least as well socialized as the fourth. His fantasy is that I’ll buy him a coffee. He doesn’t play a productive role in the game of life, but neither do ISBF or, to be just a wee bit uncharitable, the Ditzney Princess, and ISB, the host with the most, makes a fair amount of his money by skimming from the junior salesmen, Amway-style. We’re left with one productive person among the four, and she gets upset and makes us stop doing work for her so that we can taste the sour fruits of our own labor, in a lame, bathetic foreshadowing of hell.

As the racist 4-F from two years ago was told by the gay-for-pay who sucked his fellow off under the bleachers at the high school, “I’m not gay, but twenty dollars is twenty dollars.” According to television, that’s what it costs in Over-the-Rhine, too, if you don’t mind that’s she’s built like a German brick shithouse. It’s much like I say about bottles: $1.20 is $1.20. I didn’t even keep track of what all I collected today, but that’s a rough idea. I’d rather be picking fruit, since I’m not just in it for the money, but we’ve already discussed where that’s led. The 4-F fucker was safer for work than Mother-in-Law. It was mostly because the rest of us could tell him to shut up. Also, he seemed worse at the time because none of us had the Ditzney Princess around for comparison.

I’ve done worse for $20. No, that isn’t quite right. I’ve made $20 in a day, or less, and then been hit with something intolerably awful that stopped me from making another $20 at once because I never run into such a glorious fucking pile of deposit bottles. We can’t say that dealing with MiL was degrading like prostitution, because the idea of prostitution is that the prostitute gets paid for putting up with whatever her job involves. #NeverForget: none of us was paid or will be paid for putting up with MiL’s tirade yesterday, or with most of her other tirades. That wasn’t like the junkie bottle on the old highway near Nashville, either, because I’ve only come across one junkie bottle and no one forced me to look at it.

The Dunkin’ Doorman and I are both trying, separately (and let us rejoice and be glad for that), to maintain some kind of faint yeoman spirit. He seems to earn more than I do, if what he does can be described as earning anything. I used to consider him a moral inferior, but then I started comparing him to other people in my professional and quasi-professional life. He doesn’t give a shit what I think about him; if he thinks less of me, it’s just because I didn’t buy him a damn coffee when he pointed out that I’d dropped a ten spot on the floor. He doesn’t regard me as another person called to take part in his personal public relations campaign by mere virtue of my being involved in his life. He doesn’t want a cut of my parents’ estate when they die; he merely wants a cut of my pocket money now, and yours if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Beautiful day, yes? Yes, a beautiful fucking day. Mr. Rogers, pray for us. Nor is he the yelling kind.

Yes, that fucker is still a huge pain in the ass, but as they say about sex in Maine, these things are all relative. He understands freedom and cherishes it above rubies. ISB and the Insurance Schmuck are obviously more hostile to my freedom of speech. Mother-in-Law is hostile to the freedom in general of her employees. For her, freedom’s just another word for oh shit I may lose pickers again. I had nothing to lose but the $24 a day I earned on my best day this season. Well, that and the intangible shit having to do with not being unemployed and adrift and unproductive. But if the Insurance Schmuck and his colleagues valued productivity, they wouldn’t be working, as they like to call what they do, in insurance. What they really value is being able to show off their own affluence. The losers who hang out all day on the downtown Eugene plaza are in it for the money, too, but they’re satisfied with rather less money.

I don’t always work, but when I do, I prefer to bang on the drum all day. Don’t talk back to me (or to anyone else who actually doesn’t mind being a lazy bum all summer long, since unemployment has a way of getting me distraught) from a damn beach unless you’re there to eat a washed-up shark’s corpse for dinner with a Bowie knife. That’s a legitimate seaside folkway. I might be young, but I ain’t stupid enough to think that you don’t need a harbor to go fishing in a way that won’t get you shut down by the health department, or to think that Meghan Trainor is anywhere near the most obnoxious thing to come out of Massachusetts in my lifetime.

Child labor death spiral

Intersectional Mother-in-Law/Ditzney Princess workplace culture has sure been grand. As they say on the internet, it’s tfw ur homeschooled autism-spectrum daughter wd rly benefit from a summer job w ur cray-cray cuz from church. Take me, Mr. Hozier.

Of course it hasn’t benefited the rest of us. That, I assume, was never the point. I don’t think the employment of the Ditzney Princess was even supposed to benefit the company. Probably half the crew can’t stand her, doing what she did before, which is what she was still doing when I threw in the towel on this never-ending fairy tale. Liturgical Steely Dan references aren’t much, but they’ll momentarily dull the pain and the sheer aggravation.

My involvement with these people as their colleague speaks to a number of things, not all of them encouraging. My main targets here are, once again, MiL and the Ditzney Princess. One or two of the other pickers get amped up by the DP’s childish bullshit, but they aren’t noteworthy trouble on their own. MiL and DP alone are enough to confirm that I am (was?) working for a surreally unprofessional operation staffed by children. We’ve got a co-owner who is grossly unfit to hold supervisory authority personally recruiting and, by some accounts, giving unacceptable latitude to, an exceptionally immature child who is functionally unemployable. It occurs to me that MiL may have lashed out at all of us as a group because doing so was easier and more harmonious in her family context than targeting the Ditzney Princess specifically for her wanton failure to comport herself appropriately in the workplace.

Poo-Poo Splatter, our friend from Laguna Niguel who literally went out on a limb and took a shit, benefited from this neighborly MILF discretion: her friends (possibly sic; most certainly sickened) were of a mind to fun the shit out of her for shitting before them for fun, but their mothers were uncomfortable with the prospect of justifying their own children to Poo-Poo Splatter’s mother for making fun of her precious snowflake just because she took a shit from a tree with company present. The Ditzney Princess would not really surprise me if she did likewise. Her parents are at once restrictive enough to order her not to read from their broad Index of non-Christian literature and permissive enough to send her to work acting as I’ve been chronicling. It’s easy to imagine MiL having some splaining to do to the Ditzney Princess’s mother for hurting the poor brat’s feels. If MiL alienates me, I leave; if she alienates the DP, she probably gets shit at the next family reunion for her grievous harshing of the mellow, which would reciprocally harsh her own mellow. The Ditzney Princess is the one with the high-power family back channel of adult authority to Mother-in-Law. This dynamic is pathological enough that it has already resulted in one of the extended family’s socialization problems being babysat at my workplace.

Advising me to just get another job makes sense from a perspective of abject ignorance and wishful thinking about the menial job market. It’s brutal, guys. The rub is that this dysfunctional berry farm is the best thing I’ve got going professionally. I know the lay of the land and the characters I have to navigate, and they take me back. That is, I did understand the cast of characters until the Ditzney Princess showed up. She’s worse than the ADHD spazz kid, who was too hey wanna ride bikes to glom onto anyone in particular other than his sister. She’s worse than the 4-F racist soldier-fluffer who gave us updates of his discoveries on Niggermania; his social skills were better and he was less obnoxious. Come to think of it, he was a strong candidate for membership on the Spectrum (many such cases!), but the thing about interacting with other autists is that one comes to realize that the Ditzney Princess has more going on than just autism. There are low-functioning, throw-the-cat-at-the-wall autists who are less obnoxious if they’re left alone and kept away from cats. They may still smear their shit all over the toilet seat because that’s funny, but according to relatives who take care of some (to bar the guest bedroom door against two confirmed unmarried siblings, including a likely sperg), the pay for fostering them is an order of magnitude or two better than what I’ve earned for putting up with the Ditzney Princess. Socialism FTW, fam.

The worst of these losers are tolerable enough until someone like the Ditzney Princess shows up, and then I’m clearing a fifth or a third (nothing so classy as a Fifth Third) of the minimum wage to be a peripheral player in a family drama that I’m hopeless to navigate. It’s pathetic, but these people, for all else that’s wrong with them, keep hiring me. The application process for other employers is a fruitless hellscape. We have noncompete clauses for sandwich flunkies at Jimmy John’s. What’s stopping Venezuela from invading us? Or Mexico? Nah, the Mexicans are familiar with what they’d have to administer. The application form at Wetzel’s Pretzels wanted to know my high school and college GPA.

Great Books for Men GBFM LZOLZOLOLZOZLO etc. was right about getting blacklisted at Starbucks for not doing well enough in school. This shit actually happens. What the fuck does my high school GPA have to do with slinging pretzels at the Fashion Valley Mall? I get that they want someone who is capable and diligent, but what would I have to do at the interview to convince a hiring manager that I’m not a hopeless, useless putz? Maybe I could tell them that I’ve forgotten where I went to school but please to accept this two-thousand-word essay on national decline, featuring pretzel logic.

At the other extreme, I wouldn’t be facing such discrimination if I looked like I’d skipped my English classes to climb into the United States through a storm drain. At that point, it’s basically a matter of not looking loaded like an Indonesian ferry. Being an MS-13 cholo might be a disqualifier, or it might not. As a campesino, the point is to be ablebodied, maybe not look like a current Chino yardie, and not obviously be high as giraffe balls. Show up speaking fluent English, and suddenly you might as well be applying for naturalization as a Japanese citizen. What’s in YOUR fridge, gaijin?

Americans who actually hire other Americans are to be cherished above rubies, but even the Association would have a hard time cherishing Mother-in-Law. Hell, I don’t even dislike her; I just can’t tolerate the way she treated us today. When that horseshit is just about the best thing going in an industry in a 300-mile radius, shit’s fucked up. There are a few other plausible options, but they’re sparse, and the logistics tend to be pretty awful.

The thing about being knocked down again and again is that it stops being an inspiration to get up again and starts being an inspiration to maintain a stabler position with a lower center of gravity. The berry farm is what we might call low. The work blatantly has to be done, but there’s no glory in it, no prestige, and not a hell of a lot of money. But because MiL has a thing against Mexicans, we’re all she’s got left, and we are neither Dutch nor much. Beggars can’t be choosers, and a lot of us are the beggars here. There aren’t a hell of a lot of options when the number of farms openly hiring fruit pickers within commuting distance can be counted on one hand. MiL isn’t even advertising for help, because WTF. Everyone else in fruit production either personally bemoans the wetback shortage or arranges for designated industry ululators to bitch about the tight wetback supply.

Not quite anyone could get a job at this joint, but most could. Not that most would, or that I’d cast blame on the reluctant. It would be fucking absurd for MiL to insist that she has recruiting standards. Well, isn’t that fetching. And I’m the Prince of Wales. My own standards in this business, as I’ve discussed before, are pretty damn low, but don’tcha know, Mother-in-Law has figured out how to fall shamblingly short of them.

I’m not really planning to go to work tomorrow. I’m fresh out of a clusterfuck at a company where I don’t make enough to financially justify my showing up in the first place. I went through the wringer precisely because I give a damn. When I say that I stop feeling like getting back up, one example is trying to explain any of this to hiring managers who haven’t been screwed into the sad margins by their own bosses. Like, I quit the job where I was making four dollars an hour on a really good day because one of my bosses had kept us out of the fields and subjected us to another bipolar rant about how useless we all were instead of letting us work. There are people in this country, especially in management, who don’t believe that such things happen. They damn well do happen. Mother-in-Law actually isn’t that bad by US managerial standards. She was intolerably bad today, but there’s worse.

These horrors aren’t negated by the scandalous impoliteness of discussing them with the craven, sniveling chickenshits who make hiring decisions. The rudeness of admitting that I fled back to a state full of garbage cans in search of deposit bottles as a refuge from an out-of-control boss doesn’t make it any less true that Chaka Can feels for me when the managerial class doesn’t, or that I’ve had bosses feel me almost as I’d expect of J. Denny Dundiddly.

My leg, Chesterfield! My leg!

Walkout

Mother-in-Law blew it with me today. She probably alienated the entire crew, but I was the most visibly reactive. I walked off the job and drove away in the midst of a hostile lecture about how we were picking low-quality fruit and costing the family money by making them pay a sorter to throw fruit away. I might have stuck around if we’d been on the clock, but there is no clock. We were totally unpaid for this lecture-cum-forcible berry tasting, in which we were to compare the perfect fruit that one of the family’s market saleswomen (I’m guessing), whom I’d never seen before, had supposedly picked in ten minutes with the underripe crap that we’d needed all morning to pick. Speaking of not too ripe, the perfect pairing for that tasting would have been (what else?) a Manchego Fuck Yourself, such as Mother-in-Law was already serving us all.

I felt terrible, even physically sick to my stomach, for driving off the job, but I had no doubt that it was the right thing to do. There have to be consequences for that sort of behavior. We were being ordered to submit to a completely unpaid lecture for the purpose of our collective punishment and humiliation. I was the only adult on the crew and one of only two pickers who had a car onsite. Harassing minors who are dependent on other people for rides to and from a remote worksite is even worse. Employers get sued for that kind of shit, and with good cause, because it’s wrongful, harmful, and distressing. I’d expect to get fired if I got so hostile with a boss. As badly as I want to make that professional relationship work, there are certain things that I just don’t have the tolerance to let slide, and serial off-the-clock verbal abuse from a superior is one of them. It had happened before, and this time I did not have the patience to be a martyr before it again.

It was a bit unsettling to see MiL wave at me as I drove off, with a significantly calmer, more collected, and more deferential demeanor than she had used with us as a crew not two minutes earlier. Maybe her mood had softened in that time, but for the first time working there I had a bad feeling that she had been using an unhinged tirade against us as a deliberate managerial strategy. I still don’t want to firmly conclude that she was deliberately manipulating us based on a single incident, especially since almost all of her wrongful behavior in the past was obviously the result of genuine emotional instability. Or so I thought. I doubt I badly misread her, and I’ve never seen her do anything chillingly manipulative like I’ve seen from Joe Dirtbag.

It may have been an on-the-fly attempt to mollify me. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if MiL consciously holds me to lower standards of submission than she applies to her other employees. The thing is, that sort of privilege, if that’s what it is, doesn’t sit well with me. Mother-in-Law shouldn’t be verbally abusing employees, period, and she especially shouldn’t be abusing minor employees without transportation of their own. This situation doesn’t just concern me specifically or my feelings. I’m not looking to get personal protection from workplace abuse. I’m not looking for special consideration for any reason, as an adult who has other options or as a return employee or as someone who has quit midseason in response to MiL’s yelling before. My colleagues don’t deserve any of that, either. One of my conscious reasons for walking off the job today was to set an example for the other pickers that we were under no obligation to put up with that shit. Whether I’m the only picker to quit early is up to them. I can only guess what sort of freak show got going after I left for the day. If I return this season, they’ll fill me in, because we are, as they say, labor.

What I expect, bluntly, is minimally decent treatment consistent with the spirit of the prevailing labor laws. I’m willing to let some dodgy shit involving child labor slide because there are mitigating circumstances and I’ve dealt with much, much worse in the industry. I’m certainly willing to turn a blind eye to minor violations of minimum wage laws, since the regulations are not ethically coherent enough to be worth enforcing with draconian force against employers who make a good-faith effort to pay their employees as promised. The situation this afternoon, however, was a flagrant outburst of bad faith driven by a total disregard for the spirit of the law. We can’t work when we’re being berated and ordered to taste the disappointing literal fruit of our labor, and we don’t make one red cent when we aren’t working. Hell, we were already doing incidental unpaid labor on a daily basis by repositioning ourselves from block to block and running our own flags into the fields to mark what we had yet to pick, but that, like a lot of other minor, inadvertent problems with the way that farm is run, was tolerable as a condition of holding an otherwise good job. If they’re occasionally sloppy and thoughtless about some peripheral duties that take up a few minutes of their pickers’ time a day, we end up with a probably imperceptible drop in our daily pay, which is quite low for most of us, but the job doesn’t go completely to shit.

The lecture and berry tasting under duress ruined the entire tenor of the job and simultaneously zeroed out our hourly pay. We were stuck listening to this shit unpaid for as long as Mother-in-Law felt like indulging herself. Or, in my case, for as long as I felt like indulging her. I think I decided that what I called the forcible berry tasting above  (*Flowing golden R. Kelly voice* I will forcibly defend myself against these allegations!) was the last straw for me. I’d already regularly been eating tart, underripe berries as I’d discovered that I’d picked them instead of dropping them in my bucket and letting them be management’s problem. I knew what a fucking sour berry tasted like. I wasn’t about to boycott a small independent grower on account of some imperfect fruit in the mix. I’m not even offended by slightly underripe blueberries; the worst reaction I have is, uh, gee, that was a bit sour, maybe I shouldn’t keep eating that straight. The competition in any chain grocery store comes from no telling where this side of Tierra del Fuego and contains no telling what, some of which ought to be left untold. 

I did not cotton to the idea of submitting to a group humiliation about how I, too, had supposedly picked some fruit that I wouldn’t throw out if I’d bought it at Safeway. MiL once handed us out free bags of mixed-quality fruit, some of it pretty unwholesome, that we’d picked as a sort of tip in kind by way of subtle managerial humiliation, but I picked out and discarded the shitty fruit as I came across it and figured that the rest of it was a free snack. If they were putting shit like that in their retail flats, they’d lose business, but they don’t. Their quality control is night and day compared to any normal grocery store. (Market of Choice is, by this inference and certainly by others, abnormal.)

They aren’t going to turn into the fucking Joads just because we picked some fruit that wasn’t totally the bestest, most wonderfulest ever. If they were concerned about it, they should have shown us the kind of fruit they wanted us to pick beforehand or given us some pointers in the field as they discovered the quality control problem. They’d had close to five working hours to do so prior to the lecture and berry tasting, during which time they had given most of us no guidance whatsoever. It wasn’t until after lunch that they had us take the time to flag the rows we’d been picking, lectured us about how we had to change blocks and cultivars abruptly because we’d been grievously fucking up, and had us eat this, bitch. When I walked off the job, the end of this unpaid time sink was not in sight.

As far as I can tell, they’re solvent and their fruit is in high demand in spite of this horseshit. The general public does not see how the sausage gets made, and even if it did, the crunchy masses would easily imagine worse sausage factories. The Ditzney Princess may cause me to sink beneath the bushes like a Secret Service agent behind the palace curtains in the presence of Woke Slay Queen Abuela, but she won’t sink their business. She’s as impotent to undo their work as she is to do her own damn job and stop being a whiny, simpering brat. Actually, she did shut up for something like half an hour straight this morning; let us rejoice and be glad!

But that’s the extent of my attitude of gratitude. Most of the rest of us did nothing to deserve the Ditzney Princess as our colleague. I let that horseshit slide, but I keep mental (and, around here, written) notes of her annoyance level and keep it in mind as an aggravating factor influencing my punctuality and tenure decisions. None of us deserved the tirade this afternoon. In fact, it’s reportable to the Wage and Hour Division of the Oregon Department of Labor. Anyone who counsels gratitude for an affront like that is either a fool or a tool of management. The owners have a duty to us as their piecerate employees to make it possible for us to work productively, and MiL made it absolutely impossible for the duration of that tirade.

MiL wasn’t the only offensive participant in her tirade. She weaponized the market saleswoman or whatever whom I mentioned above as her concelebrant. Take this, all of you, and eat of it; this I demand of you; no more paid work until you’ve had your unpaid crap snack like good little boys and girls. The saleswoman was outwardly quite pleasant, but she literally added insult to injury by telling us that if we took the time to make sure that we were picking better fruit, “you might not get paid as much, but it will be better for all of us.”

Hand me the leather jacket, Gillespie; who the fuck is “us,” Kemo Sabe? No shit we’re not making the big bucks at this job, but even the Ditzney Princess shows up to make money. We aren’t there to perform charitable works for small business. Good God, y’all. I want my interests as an employee to overlap with the owners’ interests, and if I’m picking a lot of fruit and they’re selling a lot of fruit, we’ve got us some overlap. If there’s a conflict, though, I’m not on management’s side. Like hell I’m that little bitch. But here is this nice, kindly old lady to pleasant small talk with us about how much fun it is to be out in the fields, then to be used as Mother-in-Law’s channel of piss to show us how she picked two pounds of perfect fruit in ten minutes, in contrast to our hour upon hour of unworthy labor, and to inform us that she had transcended the love of money that was holding us back from our potential as perfect pickers.

Well fuck me. If she’s that good, why not put her out in the field as one of the pickers? Something to do with the piece rate not being too good, I’m guessing. If she’s so good at it and enjoys it so, why doesn’t she fucking do some?

This shit was like Paul Ryan talking about the dignity of work. Someone I’d never seen before descended like a minor Greek god, was lavishly praised for a miracle that she had supposedly worked beyond our presence, and then, presumably, ascended again beyond our mortal sight. I didn’t stay long enough to see that part. If homegirl wants to show up out of nowhere and encourage us to make less money doing more work, I don’t see why we shouldn’t get out of Dodge and make no money by doing no work. That isn’t even $25 less than I’ve been making a day busting ass in the berry patch.

Okay, scavenging deposit bottles is work, but it doesn’t involve Mother-in-Law. Also, it sometimes pays better per hour than being a loyal fruitboy.

I’m not the kind of spiteful bastard who wants any of these people to fail because they sometimes do me and my colleagues wrong. I want them to succeed. The problem is that I don’t want them to succeed by screwing us over. As a practical matter, that won’t really work; they’ll see pickers, even their best, bailing on them if they keep up the shitty stuff. I’m more thorough than some, but I’m nowhere near the fastest. Who has told me that she, too, is getting really fed up with this shit and has considered quitting, on the assumption that they’ll beg her to come back. I’m sure she’s right about that. I was closing in on six hundred pounds for the season when I walked out today. My plan had been to stay for the full season, or at least until early to mid-August. I don’t resent them for having made money from the fruit I’ve picked for them, and I won’t, because I’ll be getting paid for it.

Getting paid more would be better, but I’m on the fence about putting up with this operation another day for the remainder of the season. MiL keeps pulling this shit. In 2015, she had her you’ll-be-fired screaming fit at me for dropping too much fruit, her imposition of uncompensated penance at the sorting table for picking sloppy buckets, the penance on bended knee picking dropped fruit like medieval peasants, and the High Noon of the Long Pick, when I’d been on highest alert, ready at a split second’s notice to jump up, physically restrain her, and grab the weeding pick that she’d been cradling and drive it to a police station for safekeeping. This year, I’d made it past a quarter ton and two weeks before she did something in front of me that was totally out of line.

Not looking like she might get violent any second isn’t enough. Not harassing us and abiding by the spirit of prevailing labor laws would be enough, but that ain’t happening. That needs to be an everyday thing, not a most of the time thing contingent on Mother-in-Law not having an acute projectile bipolar moment. The projectile bipolar shit does need to be punished.

The consequences need to be disruptive and painful. My bosses have lost anywhere from six to twenty pounds of output from me as a consequence of MiL being an abusive asshole this afternoon, and that’s a start. Realize that I don’t wish any harm upon any of these people. My objection is that MiL blatantly harmed us. That’s why I’m still thinking about filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division and possibly parallel complaints with other agencies over the child welfare aspects of this mess. MiL has a pattern of presuming impunity for aggressive, erratic behavior towards subordinates, mostly minors, and blatant violations of minimum wage laws pertaining to agricultural piece rates. She cannot legally force employees to perform unpaid production work or submit to off-the-clock workplace harassment as conditions of their continued employment on payroll.

The lack of a minimum wage floor in this job is hardly even another straw on my back, as far as I’m concerned; I’m really enthusiastic about it in spite of the poor pay as long as nothing intolerable is happening. Humiliating yelling fits that prevent all of us from making a cent while we’re on site and on duty are obviously fucking intolerable.

And I’m not comfortable with the idea that this sort of thing should be forgiven and forgotten for an apology. As agitated as I’ve gotten, I am not holding a grudge against Mother-in-Law. I was badly upset by this incident precisely because I love this job, am deeply grateful for it, and want it to work out. This isn’t about some slight that I’m carrying around in my heart like a millstone that I won’t release; right this moment, I’m not quite three and a half hours removed from my personal, face-to-face involvement in this frank workplace harassment as one of its victims. This is about the entire picking crew as a victim pool for serial, at-will harassment and other out-of-control behavior on the part of a boss supervisor who is also the co-owner of the company employing us. A serious, ongoing problem can’t be addressed with mere forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if. Nah, never mind.

Just letting it all slide because there are no other visible options leads to slavery, and I mean that literally. That’s why I fucked off today. I don’t even like being done with work at noon, no, actually at 11:30, although I didn’t know it yet. I come here to work. I know that there’s a whole lot to be done in this business at this time of year, and I’m eager to get in there and do a good chunk of it. My energy level has to really flag to sap my motivation. To hell with the beach. To hell with the Eugene Plaza. There’s fruit to be picked. Unfortunately, pursuant to Fortunately/Unfortunately, there’s more than just fruit.