Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ben's Gamble

Now Ben, he was a true son of the South, being born in Alabam awhile back. He was lanky; he was several hands high as horses be measured, a tall drink of water in the local tongue of the American South. Like many sons of Dixie, he came north after the War, seekin' work in the Northern Industry which at the time prospered. In his case, fortune led him to Detroit, Michigan, to a job at one of the now Big Three auto makers. That was a blessing for him, as in the quick years after his arrival he had acquired a family, a wife and three kids as I recall, which he needed to manage through his labor. He had also acquired some 60 year ago as a friend me Pops, Bill Cosgriff.

Now the economy, it likes to act on its own every so often. When that happens it puts a hurt on industry, the car makers so much as anyone else. So his company, they go and lay him off. Tell him the layoff is for about three, four months. Look for a letter they say, to tell him when he might return to his toil.

Now Ben, he figures he and his blessings might as well spend their downtime with kin in Alabam. Makes sense, of course: might as well show off the family by being with them, you know, for a minute. So he packs up everyone in the old sedan and goes south.

That were no easy trip by car back then. Two, likely three days, depending on a lot of unforeseen factors. They was the roads, many two lane blacktop and of dubious quality, and there was the cities and towns which one had to plow through, there being no superhighways as we are all familiar with these days. And unknown backups delaying traffic. And car troubles; there was no 80,000 mile guaranteed tires in 1955. And you slept in your car to save money on motels. It was a journey in them days, a true journey.

Yet they make it, and they settle in with family grateful to see them. Then in six weeks a letter arrives, demanding Ben get back to Detroit straight away, as his job had returned to necessity.

The two, three day journey begins again. They arrive safely in Detroit. Ben finds lodging in me Grandpa Joe's rooming houses, good enough for a short spell until Ben's income allows them to stay in a home. Ben dutifully reports to work on Monday morning. But the line foreman, he has no clue to what he's to do with Ben. He sends him to his supervisor.

That man, he has no clue either. So he recommends Ben up the next step of the ladder, who himself has no clue. He says Ben ought to commute with the shop foreman, who sends him to an assistant plant manager, who sends him to the plant manager. Who after due consideration with the proper authority grants him a new layoff notice.

So Ben proceeds this time down the ladder of authority, telling each and every one of them effectively and emphatically what he thinks of his treatment in this debacle. He causes them each to understand exactly how wrong his situation was and how deeply he did not appreciate it. He imparts upon them how truly in the wrong they all were with him and his situation.

"Bill', he says to me Pops after regaling him with his tale of woe, 'When I was done tellin' each and every one of them how I felt, I was paid off, laid off, told off and run off. That was how complete my damage was."

But that is the damage you must complete against the devil, lest someone misunderstand your plaint. Ben, he got that satisfaction. And may the Lord bless him for it.

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