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.
Of course, when I was down on the loading dock, taking a cigarette break 40 years ago, it was only us hourly bums who considered swiping a socket set before the ship went down. The guys in the office seemed calmer, and we knew they were more likely than we were to have some cushion money in the bank.
I’m watching the whole rich carnival of thievery in America, a carnival conducted mostly at the top, and I’m wondering why the bosses would steal the tools. Don’t they have a little cushion money somewhere?
And they do, but they’ve sensed it doesn’t matter what you take now. They laid the security guard off months ago, and you can get anything out the back door.
They must think they’ve got some chance of keeping what they steal, after America closes, and they padlock the door, and tell the rest of us not to come Monday.
In my life, I’ve worked through layoffs, buyouts, forced overtime, no overtime, pay cuts, company bankruptcies, “staff reductions” and sudden closings.
I know when it’s coming, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a boss scurry out the back door with a box of tools.
Marc Dion, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a reporter and columnist for The Herald News, the daily newspaper of his hometown, Fall River, Massachusetts. For more on Dion, go to go to www.creators.com.