Yesterday, an entry with some historical references about how things used to be received some very positive feedback. So, here's another one.
At eighteen years old, I was employed in a family business. Shipping manager for Carnival Toy Mfg. Corp., maker of plastic toy instruments such as guitars, ukulele’s and violins, located in Bridgeport, CT at Wordin Avenue, right alongside I 95.
My older brother, Carnival’s General Manager, and I commuted to work together five days a week from our homes in Manhattan. He’d drive up in the morning, I’d drive back. We lived three blocks apart, he with his young family on East 88th Street, me with Mom on East 91st. Most often coming back, my exhausted brother would spread along the wide back seat and nap the entire time.
Summer was always the busiest season, national chain stores, such as F.W. Woolworth, W.T. Grant, McCrory’s, McLellan’s, Montgomery Ward, Sears and the like stocking locations for the coming “back to school” sales surge, followed soon by the Christmas seasonal rush.
Personnel always brought on several more shipping employees at this time for the business onslaught. Most were tasked with order-filling and shipping preparation, continually loading merchandise on trucks for delivery direct to purchasers or various freight carrier’s terminals. Employee ethnicity was of no particular importance to anyone. Functional capability was.
Early one morning, a late teen-aged newcomer arrived, informing all in earshot that he was an actual, bona fide, living, breathing American Indian. Proud of the fact that he could prove it, albeit a quite rare heritage in our particular, citified, neck of the woods. Soon afterward, a problem arose whereas he spent so much time broadcasting his ethnic status and lineage he not only did no actual work himself, but simultaneously prevented listeners from performing their assigned tasks as well.
Soon taking him aside to explain that we all had work to do, it was confirmed that his job description and responsibilities had been clearly presented. He undoubtedly understood his responsibilities. Non-performance of assigned tasks meant immediate termination whereas that was how the department ran, much less the issue of costly disruption of everyone else around him.
A response came quickly, surprisingly thorough, almost as if rehearsed, as he explained that he, as an American Indian, was a member of a protected working class impervious to the extent that termination was precluded until a thorough situational review had been conducted, such review unequivocally establishing his fault or occupational incapability.
I replied “Okay,” quickly picking him up by his shirt collar and pants seat to toss him off the shipping platform. After he’d landed on the driveway four feet below, I loudly informed him that if he returned to my department, he’d meet a similar fate because I had no time for any kind of slackers, regardless of religion or ethnic heritage. And then, I went back to work as usual.
Later that evening, as my brother sprawled across the rear car seat homeward bound, I told him what had taken place with Geronimo, or whatever his name was. My brother, the GM, sat bolt upright in the back, screaming “You can’t do that, the guy’s a protected hiree.” To which, I replied, “Yeah, but I did it.” He responded even louder, “But you can’t!” And me: “Uh, huh. But I did it.” We went back and forth like that for the next few miles, my brother finally conceding to a circumstance far beyond his control and finally going back to sleep. And to this very day, I’m unaware of anyone in our organization ever hearing again from or about Cochise.
Ps: This incident had nothing whatsoever to do with ethnicity. The guy could have been of any identity on Earth, black, white, red, yellow, even plaid. It didn’t matter. The issue at hand was an eighteen-year-old manager with a busy department to run and the response received from a disruptive straggler. Had he been of any conceivable background or identity and given me that kind of reply, at 18 I’d have thrown anyone just as far and just as high.
In fact, thinking back, his color that night was most likely black and blue.
That’s it for today folks.