Monday, November 13, 2006


If you're looking for something deep and insightful, well, once again, this blog isn't going to be a good source for that.

This guy Jack who wanders into the bakery on occasion--the one whose accent I identified, a couple of posts ago--has done some deliveries for us lately, presumably filling in around the edges when our regular delivery guy is done for the day, or, even more likely, doing it at a cheaper rate (and for cash) than sending, say, Johnnie to do the delivery, which also means pulling Johnnie away from whatever he's doing to drive a van. Friday he came in, and, after he left, Jefe says, hey, you used to work with these guys (meaning the alcoholics and junkies), Jack says he's going to be outside this weekend (meaning living on the street)--how does that happen? So first I explained about how, often enough, drugs or alcohol were involved somewhere, and then also about how close to the edge a lot of people live. I used the example of my brother--who would have lost his house if my parents hadn't been able to bail him out. (If I haven't mentioned it before, my sister-in-law didn't pay the mortgage for about 18 months, though she made it look as though she were doing so; basically, she had a bunch of credit card debt that she'd never mentioned and that had gotten worse, what with high rates and late fees and the like.) In other words, for people who don't have any kind of safety net, any little mistake, or even any little thing out of their control, and they are just screwed.

Jefe nodded at that, and compared it to the people in the nearby (rich) suburbs, many of whom, he thinks, are going to be losing their homes. It's not the same thing, exactly, because those people probably won't end up living on the streets, and they got to their straits because they bought too much crap, by and large, but hey, whatever helps you understand. A little while later, I also pointed out that the other thing is that it's expensive to be poor. Which kind of took him back a step (and Brad, of course, had some stupid remark, though he then heard me, I think)--I pointed out that, if you don't have a place to store food, then you end up buying a lot of fast food, which is way more expensive than making your own. If you don't have the money for a security deposit, you can't get an apartment, so you end up in an SRO, or a motel, or whatever. I'm not sure how much Jefe understood, and not because he's right-wing, or because he's not smart, but because it's a bakery, and we're all in the middle of doing something, or two or three things, more like; it's not like sitting in a classroom, or sitting in a bar with a beer. But I planted a seed. Now I just have to get my copy of "Nickeled and Dimed" back from my brother and hand it over to Jefe.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why he's a Republican. (He thinks the war in Iraq is a disaster, though.) He's certainly not a big business owner--he owns his own business, sure, but he employs maybe 25 people. He's been able to send his kids to good schools (some of the best public schools in the country) and to college, and get them the help they need with their learning disabilities (dyslexia, mostly, I think), but they live in a small house, apparently, and I think they only have one vehicle. He works nearly every day at the bakery, and believe me, he's not sitting on his ass--he's doing whatever job needs to be done, and he's there more hours than anyone else. (He also doesn't regard it as "work": as he says, he enjoys what he does and doesn't regard it as work; painting the garage is work.) I thought I heard him say once that he's pro-choice. He's not particularly conservative socially--he's not religious at all, and he really doesn't seem to care what people do. He's not racist (or, at least, if he is, he hides it better than anyone I've ever seen). He's compassionate, in his way--hiring Jack to make deliveries, hiring the local alcoholic to hang the holiday lights outside or do some yardwork at his house. He's been basically sponsoring Johnnie to do more stuff with his artistic talents and his baking skills, and he's also helping Johnnie get his CMB (Certified Master Baker--there are maybe 150 or so in the country). But he watches or listens to the right-wing talking heads, and he thinks they're pretty good.

What I suspect has happened is that, first, he was raised conservative--his dad certainly is, too. A nice old guy--in his 80s--and he likes me just fine, but I suspect he has no idea how far left my politics go. So there's that. And the work that Jefe's done, well, up until the past few years, he was a guy who worked in a bakery, played hockey (in a local league), went to pro hockey and baseball games, raised his kids, whatever. He hadn't been very many places, unless his kids' sports took him there. When he started trying to get on the US baking team, I think it started opening his eyes, and the process that eventually led him to the winners' circle opened his eyes even more. He's tasted more, and done more, and traveled more--way more--than someone our age, without a college education, who has always had a basically working-class job, is likely to have done. But his politics haven't caught up with his experience, on some level, I think.

So, hey, I do what I can. I find it completely entertaining that he regards me as a source of knowledge about these things. Hell, he regards me as a source of knowledge about all kinds of things, plus I'm the official writer for the bakery--anything that needs writing, I do it. Now we just have to get him to give me another buck or two an hour, and I'm set.


Blogger kStyle said...

Proselytize for the poor until ye are shunned!

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Ron Sullivan said...

Yeah, it's a strange thing sometimes, people's politics. You're getting along fine and then, zik!, up pops this weird right-wing thing, you wonder where on earth they picked it up. And it's really hard to ask that question diplomatically, especially when it's your boss.

People can be good eggs on a one-to-one basis, and then somehow forget that everyone isn't helping out the neighborhood junkie now and then, and the junkie needs more than the occasional emergency hand up to become more than that "neighborhood junkie" walk-on role. And that there are more junkies than hand-uppers anyway. And that that's not entirely just human nature.

Plus there's the fact that the most obvious and immediate enemy a working-class person has is someone just a rung below him or her on that good ol American ladder. Hard not to endorse policies that seem to get tough on such people, whatever the policies' real results.

Have you seen Barbara Ehrenreich's blog?

8:53 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Yes, it's on my bookmark list, though I admittedly don't get over to it all that often.

9:37 PM  

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