“It’s gonna be a New Year,” said one of my bosses.
This did not come from one of the top bosses. It came from one of the assistant supervisors. “There’s gonna be some changes made around this place,” he said.
“I’m putting my foot down.”
I arrive at work the same time each morning. I come in early to ease myself into the process. I begin by putting my hand inside of a hand-scan, which reads my fingerprints, and starts my hours on the clock.
My next step is to an old gray door with vented louvers that take up one quarter of the bottom section. This is the door to the Engineer’s Locker Room. There is nothing prestigious about this place at all. The door to this room was originally installed before 1929.
Through this door is a small machine room with an air-conditioning fan unit that serves the main lobby of the building in which I serve as a stationary, watch engineer.
There is an arrangement of fan belts on the wall—a few cabinets with extension cords, tools, drop-cloths, and there is an eye-wash station located on the wall in case of an optical emergency.
There is an expiration date for the solution in the eye-wash station, of which I am told has expired a long time ago—but I made a deal not to get anything in my eyes—so I will just move on from here.
Passing the air-conditioning unit, the belts and the cabinets, I come to another door. This is the door to the locker room. We have a small round table to eat at, a few chairs to sit on, a couch, a microwave to warm our food, a fridge to keep it cold, but above all else and even more important than the assistant supervisor’s desk and computer, we have a coffee machine which is godlike to us.
After arriving through the doorway, I push my mug underneath the coffee machine and I press the blue button to inform the coffee gods that I await their wonderful gift.
Then I head over to my locker where I unlock the door and remove my civilian clothes to put on my engineer’s uniform. I place my street clothes on a silvery hook on the inside of my standard size locker with a small shelf at the top where I place my smaller personal belongings
I put my shoes inside, my jeans, my coat (if I wear one) and whatever else I might have during my time in the outside world. Then I close the door to my locker and turn the key. I lock my belongings inside for safe keeping, although, nothing in my locker is worth stealing, and no one in my crew is interested in stealing anything. But the boss says, “It keeps everybody honest.”
And I suppose it does.
Aside from my civilian clothes, my jacket (if I wore one) and my small personal items, I also place my private beliefs, my thoughts, my dreams and the intangible things which I hold sacred.
See, my job is a dirty one. And same as I would rather not stain my clothes with grease—or rip my jeans while fitting into a small, or hard to get through places in an old commercial office building on the Eastside of Midtown, Manhattan, I would rather not stain or damage my private beliefs, my thoughts, my dreams, or the intangible things that I hold sacred.
Same as I lock up my small personal items—I also lock up my aspirations. I lock them inside of my locker to hold in trust and protect them while I do what I do.
Inside my locker are pictures of my family. I have tiny post-it notes that my wife hid inside the plastic bags of lunch she has packed for me throughout the years. I keep a small Israeli Flag in the inside corner of my locker because though my belief system has evolved, I cannot and will not deny my background or how I was raised. I also keep this flag because there is a level of Anti-Semitism in my workplace, and should anyone forget who I am, I will quickly and proudly remind them.
After the process of changing from a civilian to an engineer and locking away my personal belongings, I sit down and drink my coffee. I ready myself for the day, and of course, I ready myself for the comments like, “It’s gonna be a New Year and there are going to be some changes around here!”
Although this statement was meant as a threat (and not just to me, but to the entire crew) I have decided to make some changes of my own.
Silence is not always an easy thing. My pride can be loud at times and in the stretch for dominance—I sometimes speak when listening is a better idea. I sometimes argue when in fact; it would be a better to walk away.
I work in a blue-collar industry. I spend much of my time with hard–handed men. Most of them are older and most believe in the difference and separation between blue-collar and white.
Many of the people I work with are not college educated; however, their education is hands-on. Most are skilled with tools—but all, including myself—struggle when it comes to someone questioning our intelligence.
We are not stupid men by any means. The men I work with come from hard backgrounds and strict upbringings. We have good days and bad. I work with good people and some who are not so good. Our job descriptions are different, but the means to an end is the same as anyone else..
Same as a lawyer brags about the cases they have won, a tradesman like myself will brag about pipes we have fixed or motors we’ve replaced. Same as an accountant has his version of hard days, so do we. And same as I fail to leave my pride in my locker sometimes—and same as I fail to separate my home life from work, I sometimes fail to leave my work problems at the job.
After my shift is complete, I wash the day’s grime from my hands and face. I arrive at my locker, open it, and for the first time since the morning; I look at my civilian clothes. I remove my uniform and toss it into the laundry basket. I remove my jeans from the silvery hook in my locker, my shoes, and jacket (If I wore one) and then I reverse my transformation from an engineer into a civilian. I place my personals back in my pocket. I place my work boots inside my locker, check to make sure I have my house keys, and then I close the locker door and I lock it for the day.
And last, after a long day, I finally proceed to the hand-scan to place my hand beneath the scanner to end my time on the clock.
Same as I try to lock up my personal beliefs, dreams, and the things I hold sacred in my locker when the day begins, I try to lock my concerns about work when the day ends.
. . . . but I’m not always successful.
The assistant supervisor is right.
It is a New Year.
As I write to you, I am sitting in the corner room of my house. I am sitting in a comfortable chair. The lights are on, my dogs are lying on the floor behind me, and I can hear the gentle sound of music playing in the background while I type this.
This is why I go to work. The people in my house are the reason why I take the extra shifts. I work hard to feed my family. I work hard to keep them healthy, clothed, and fed. But I also work to keep them happy—and that’s not an easy thing to do when I bring my work home with me. Maybe I should get a better lock for my locker . . .
There’s going to be some changes around here.
I’m putting my foot down