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Stealing the tools

Marc Munroe Dion on

When I was very young, maybe 40 years ago, I worked with a number of unreconstructed workingmen. They had been born on farms, most of them, and many of them had plowed with a mule, or picked cotton by hand.

They'd left that life and found factory work in a large Midwestern city. They all smoked, and they wore no jewelry except a gold wedding band and a silver-colored wristwatch with an expandable band.

They had an intense dislike of the boss and an even stronger dislike for a workingman who liked the boss.

They had their own language, too, and I used to speak it pretty well before I came out of graduate school with my second piece of stamped paper and went to work for newspapers, where my language became polluted by press releases and co-workers who were the sons of lawyers.

To those old guys, getting fired was called "getting a DCM." In that language, "DCM" stood for "don't come Monday."

And when things weren't going well for the company, when work in the plant was slowing down, there weren't may new orders, the overtime was gone and the boss was looking even more pointy-nosed than usual, one of my 50-something, big-knuckled co-workers would look around and speak in kind of a sigh.

 

"Well, boys," he'd say. "It's time to start stealing the tools."

What he meant was that the company was going under, so you might as well steal something you could sell after the last paycheck bounced.

It was a crude, blunt, dishonest way of dealing with the certain knowledge that your DCM was being cooked up in the payroll office.

Lately, as the rich bribe their kids into college, and the president's holding his tax returns like he'd hold the private area of a protesting starlet, as the drug companies hold your insulin hostage, as the full-time work vanishes, and the part-time work is everywhere, and the guys with the deep dedication to Jesus consider cutting Social Security, I've got the feeling that the guys at the top are stealing the tools.

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