Thursday, March 13, 2014

Male Room

Something recently brought me back to the first real job I ever had: working in a mail room.  My father had learned of an opening in the company where he worked as an accountant.  It was early summer of 1967 and I knew I'd be going back to school that Fall so a chance to make some money to support my college education and put a little gas in my VW bug was a welcome opportunity.
The company in question was an exclusive distributor for Sony Tape Recorders in the U.S.  It can best be described as a plantation.
In this small collection of buildings ruled three plutocrats, all brothers, who had made some money in the development of stereo components and a specific lens used by the motion picture industry.  They'd gained rights to this distributorship just as Sony was making a name for itself in the U.S. market.  Sales were good and the business expanded fast.  Out of this little plant portable tape recorders and all parts and schemata and instruction manuals were shipped all over the country.  Between big semis shipping goods throughout the country and United Parcel and the U.S. Postal Service handling smaller packages, the mail room was an active place.

 It was also the little fiefdom of a pair of characters we'll call S and D.  They were legends in their own mind; a pair of racist, sexist, barely educated underachievers who ruled the roost.  S was the brain (just one) D was the brawn.  The former had once had potential, but he was slowly going to seed aided by a steady diet of junk food and too many nights sitting on a bar stool.  The latter was the quintessential redneck.  From his complexion to his liberal use of everything from the n word to extolling the virtues of his sexual prowess, this guy was a pathetic loser who had taken full advantage of the Peter Principle.  But they were the bosses; they had the power.
I worked there about 3 years all told, mostly summer months, until the day I simply walked away.  Hated to do that to my father, but by the time I hit my senior year in 1969, their behavior and intolerance were simply unacceptable.  Besides, I had places to go and things to see, and a life to lead.
They not only treated me like shit, they used to call me by the name "shitsky."  A friendly reminder that I was on the bottom and that they were in charge.  So dumb, they didn't even know their own offensiveness.  But I learned quite a bit from that little stint, and there were others who shared my status and work station who became friends.  While being ordered around by these two pathetic figures, we shared our own conversations, rebelled in our own ways.  That's what happens on plantations.
If anyone ever wanted to see the depth of racism and sexism in this culture, if anyone ever wanted to hear the language of oppression, the skewed values, the shallow thinking, the stuff of sycophants, one hour of video tape would have done the trick.  Irony is that the first video tape recorders came through that loading dock, but the cameras were never used to record the surroundings.  

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