You were in for a long stretch when company was coming from the Mainland. The whole natural order of things was thrown into the grinder, mangled up, or worse, taken to the circular bone saws, whizzing like hungry chainsaws that will, trust me, take a finger tip off in nano-seconds.
It started with the summer line-up change, and then it became the mid-season thing to do. The “big-wigs from the mainland” would spring down for a weekend of “inspections, dinners, hotel, bitta golf” as George would coyly observe. Each time we were pre-warned, and thus each time we’d acquiesce to, the lonely dance of the overnight meat room-worker.
I enjoyed all their company over the years, don’t get me wrong; Eddie-from-town could tell you a different joke every night amidst a string of old ones, the occasional line changed to maintain freshness. We initially had a hard time finding common ground, and my artistic temperament when met with his outdoorsy, made for challenges. But once it was established, our love and shared passion for suddenly shouting out lines from “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” (“Rules? In a knife fight?”), “Cool Running’s” (“Sanka mon? Ya dead mon?”). “Braveheart”. (“Shoulda remembered d’rocks…Ey!” “Yeah…I… Y’Shoulda”), combined with a juvenile pastime of singing the same basic Cash songs (Boy Named Sue and Ring of Fire), forced us albeit reluctantly, into co-workers, then friends, and finally, consistent volunteers for the dreaded night shifts.
“How-ya getting-on? Sleep at all?” “Nah man. Laid down after work today, 6 o’clock, still wired. It’s not legal you know? They’re required to give us a certain amount of-” “Now listen you and I both knows that lit-tle Arse-hole don’t care about that! Nudder smoke we heads er in er wha?” “Just as Well.”
There was George-from-around-the-bay who could tie a dozen varieties of knots, milk a variety of animals, and predict a variety of weather- namely though, (and tried and true according to him), was coppery precursor in the large of his throat, before a good shower of rain arrived. “Thought all you baymen were supposed to be inbred!” “Oh shud-up ya little mainlander!”. And so we spent our days in a constant mock-bickering that always ended in uproars of laughter. Temporary beards of breath clouding our chins and coats for a brief lull in the endless demand for production.
“Jaaaarge?? Can you make some more Regular?” “My ducky I would but that Idiot give me my orders!”(Anytime the term That Idiot was used, you just knew it was the one person in our department who wasn’t one of Us). “Fucking Jimmy O’Keefe. 4 Foot shag all, but a mouth on em like a sailor and no more sense in e’m then a parking-meter!”
“Scaaaaaaat?? Missus out dare? She wants a smaller pack of Regular tha-“ I Just Made Regular, Families and Smalls! Come on Joanna!” “B’y she wans smaller’n than what’s out’der. You do dat for er?” “When I get a minute, sure! I have to tray up this liver first! Why does always smell like cat piss…why can’t it smell like liver? Right. Liver DOES smell like cat piss…”. Eddie would look up and chime in “held up like a douche in the middle of the fight!” – another of our long established patterns- the remolding of popular music to suit our own, sick, and shared, sense of humor. Anything to make it closer to quitting time. We would all be found saying throughout the day, “Come On-n-n-n-n-n-n-n 5 o’clock!”.
But not on those fucking Company Case Nights.
We were always under the gun, and during the day the little boss went around rallying, cajoling, coaxing and goading. Sometimes he went into a rage, in which case the older one’s would get terse and almost fraternize with subordination amongst one other, as if to say “we’ve heard this all before, cool-it, already”, while us younger ones scattered and scrambled to unnecessarily rectify something. The biggest of us physically, Eddie, he knew ‘em growing up. “He’s always been a prick sure!” And I, always preferring to get the story from the source, I would always stop what I was frantic to finish for fucker Jimmy, to get “da real story” from Eddie.
They were playing road hockey.
“Now, this is goin on 20 years ago remember…now he was getting on like he always is right? Like a Real Prick, right? So the second the puck dropped I got ‘em behind me and I let ‘em have it with the end of my stick- Bam Buddy! Right to ‘ease mouth! Chicklets on the ice! I tell ya buddy he kept his distance rest a that season, he did! Imagine though Scotty! That was 20 fucking years ago look at em! Still a Prick!”
For whatever reason, the same thing occurred every time. The fact that a grocery store, well over 6000 feet didn’t matter.
Because Fucking Jimmy O’Keefe always managed at that very moment to burst through the bay door of the meat-room (a true cooler- a fixed temperature at all times) and seeing the new kid curled in laughter and Ed with his head facing the product- down, down, down, and then up, up and away went the little Bastards temper again! “Off his head like a child throwing a tantrum he is! Shack-In!…”.
It would go on like this invariably, a cold, bloody, upset dance of worker and other worker, until the cheap suits showed up in shit eating grins with clipboards and tans. What a bunch of cunts. If the weather was fine you wouldn’t see them at all. They’d be golfing and dining on the residuals of the pensions I worked around every day for those cold, bloody 8 years that eventually drove me into the warm embrace of the university library again.
Fuck that shit, Balki.