Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Why is that to achieve equality, we must sacrifice integrity?
This a taboo subject, and as such no matter how I approach it, someone is going to misinterpret my intentions. That has never stopped me in the past, so why should it now? The old Smith Barney commercial featured John Houseman saying, "We make money the old-fashioned way, we earn it."
....For this post, I am going to take a little poetic levity and rephrase that quote as: "We gain positions the old-fashioned way, we earn them."
....I am treading these waters because a story in the local papers not long ago. It is not a precedent setting story and it is not unique to the construction industry. In fact, it is a common practice in a lot fields these days.
....A person was given a union scale job for one of the many construction companies involved in the massive highway project in the city of Boston. Dubbed the "Big Dig," an entire expressway was moved from above ground to underneath the city. It is to date the largest such project ever attempted anywhere in the world. Although there have considerable cost over runs, it is nearing completion.
....This person's job called for experience and knowledge of construction equipment. It also included on a rotating basis with other workers, keeping work sites clean and safe and manning traffic flags. It turns out that this person felt it was undignified to sweep streets, move tools and tool boxes, and to wave safety flags to direct vehicles away from cavernous holes in streets. This person also refused to wear a safety helmet. I guess $45 an hour wasn't enough money to perform such tasks?
....This person was a black woman, a former part-time librarian. As if you haven't guessed by now, she was given the job to fill a quota. The criteria of the quota called for a certain amount of women and minorities to be employed on the project. The job description was clear, she wasn't asked to do anything that wasn't covered in writing. I don't need to tell you that OSHA would be the first to cite safety helmet violations.
....She is still on the job, her supervisors covering her duties. She is still collecting $45 an hour to stand around and watch someone else do her job. They cannot and will not fire her for fear of reprisals from the ACLU or NAACP. The last thing a high profile construction operation wants is for Jesse Jackson espousing discrimination.
....For the record, I would shovel shit and wear a helmet for $45 an hour!
On a personal level, I have worked with that same misplaced philosophy when I worked in the Stock Market. Myself and another person were overlooked for the position of department head as Assistant Vice-President of Operations. To make matters worse, my position of office manager was reworked to Senior Clerk, in favor of a new manager. I was not a happy camper to say the least!
....Both the new AVP and manager were women. To set the record straight, they were two of the best bosses I have ever worked under. The two of them were very fair, protective, and usually gave the staff credit for their hard work. In a rather odd arrangement, I answered directly to the AVP and not the office manager. Except for the all important paycheck, the AVP treated us as equals. It didn't take me long to realize I was slowly being lobotomized by proxy. My brain was slowly being picked. I was nobody's fool, I could see that when there was nothing left to pick, I was expendable.
....While we got along professionally, the AVP was the direct antithesis of myself. The differences included obviously gender, but also persuasion. She was a lesbian and I was heterosexual. While not necessarily devout, I do believe in God, but she was an atheist. She was a vegitarian and I was a meat and potatoes person. She was an ex-drinker, I was known for a liquid lunch every now and then. She was an ex-smoker and I was a current smoker. I knew the operations inside and out. She knew very little about it.
....Besides working for the same company, we did have one thing in common. We both had admiration for the female body. I must say however, that I was more discreet in showing that admiration than she. The women in the office were always complaining that she never made eye contact with them, she seemed to be always staring at thier boobs. Much to the chagrin of us male chauvanists, they began to wear sweaters, looser fitting tops, and cleavage all but disappeared.
....There were three women in particular who were quite buxom in our department. (Man to man, we referred to the three of them as the Grand Tetons.) While the heads of a lot us men would turn when anyone of them would pass by, I caught her several times doing the same. One day after a staff meeting was breaking up, she asked me to stay behind for a moment. She said to me, "Mike, you and I have a lot in common, you know?" I looked at her and answered, "Oh? How's that?" Did she ever lower the boom and catch me off guard! "Both you and I would like to suck on all those titties!"
....I don't know why, perhaps because I was stunned, or maybe because I was angry, but I said, "I already have on several occasions!" You could have cut the silence with a knife. As soon as I had opened my mouth, I had regretted that stupid comment. I couldn't believe that she shut the door and sat down and said, "I figured as much. Please, tell me about them. What do they look like? Do they sag? Are their nipples righties, lefties, downies? Do they moan when you kiss them?"
....I got out of that office as fast as I could. I told her that I was sorry and that that was a private matter between me and them. I was ashamed of my earlier comment that had led to that interrogation. The only way I would feel better would be to tell the girls about that conversation - all of it. I lived up to that vow that evening after work at out favorite watering hole. Certain that I had just made their shit lists, I started to get up and go home. Instead of being angry, the three of them began to laugh. They even extended their hands to me for an exchange of high fives. One of them said to me, "You did the right thing. Now she knows my boobs aren't for her pleasure." The blonde of the trio started unbuttoning her blouse and said to me, "You should do all those things. You don't want to be a liar, do you?"
....Imagine me, any man for that matter, telling her to keep them bloused. I know she was joking, I think she was joking, but I was quietly wishing she wasn't joking, when she said, "You're right. Not here in a public place." Then she winked and said, "Someday... somewhere else a little more ... private." Then the three of were laughing again, this time at my expense. "Why, Michael, you are blushing!" I was blushing, it was just that at that particular moment, even though I had to go the mens room, I just could not bring myself to stand up.
Six months later, in the wake of a massive cost-cutting layoff, both the AVP and her hand-picked office manager were victims of attrition. I was finally elevated to office manager, but the AVP position was eliminated. Three years later, upon achieving twenty years at the company, I decided to make a career change. That was fifteen years ago.
....We did get together to celebrate one of their birthdays five years ago. Sure enough, talking about the good times, the topic of the Great Boobie Caper got the most laughs. The blonde even toyed with her buttons and reminded me that they "owed" me. History, I guess repeats itself, for they found themselves laughing when I blushed. Ah, but revenge is sweet! I told them that I had to go the mens room. This time I did stand up. I was a little embarassed, but it was me who laughed as they took a gander at my lap. It was they who blushed this time.
....Once inside the mens room, I removed the salt shaker I had palmed from the table. Strategically planted in just the right place, you can imagine the sight the girls had seen. I returned to the table and I could see that they noticed "discreetly" that my condition of moments earlier was gone. Remember what I said earlier about revenge being sweet? In my absence, all three of them had managed to position their blouses and bras underneath in such a way that I was greeted by three of the lovliest nipples I had ever seen at the same time. Picture me trying not to appear that I'd even noticed. Picture me trying and failing to divert my eyes anywhere else but at those nipples, one at my left, one at my right and one in front of me. I did the only thing any red-blooded American male faced with the same predicament would do, I placed my hands on my chin and leaned forward and took in the spectacle.
....Even after they had put them away and had rearranged their blouses, I found it difficult to get up and go to the mens room again. For the record, I had left the salt shaker on the sink in the mens room!
Curmudgeon responsible for this post: Hale McKay at 12:05 AM