April 19, 2004

I am not a racist!

No really, I’m not. In one of my previous professions, (One of them that I completely forgot about when I was doing my “about me” post.) I was the only white guy on the crew. That’s eight total people and everyone but me was black. We were working for a company in East Knoxville that contracted with the varying railroad lines to remanufacture the bearings that the wheels run on. This was the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done in my life.

A few details of the type of work include: bearings come in on pallets, 16 on each pallet, with the average weight of the smallest ones we worked any quantity of, being 75 pounds each. Put on your rubber apron (that reaches well below the knees and comes up to your neck), and your rubber gloves (that go up to mid-bicep). Remove the end cap from the main part of the assembly, Take the holding screws out of the end cap (you don’t have to unthread them, they were used to hold the bearing to the axle), and they go into bin “A”, and the cap itself goes into bin “B”. Take the rest of the bearing and place it into the press (this was merely an air ram that held the bearing firmly to the table). Grab the pry bar, and remove the grease seal. Wipe the grease out of the seal with your gloved hand, and slap it into the 50-gallon drum for recycling. Remove the “cone” from that side, and the spacer that rides between the “cones”. (The cone is the widget that actually holds the many little metal rods that run around inside of the bearing.) Wipe off grease, into the barrel. Raise the press, flip the bearing around, and remove the grease seal and cone from the other side. Stack the “cup” (the cylinder that holds all the parts previously described), both cones and the spacer on the line, and repeat.

Do all of this while standing next to the machine that cleans the really “hard to reach” places of the bearing. This machine is basically an automatic dishwasher with an extreme case of steroid abuse. It will clean 24 bearings at a time, by spraying them with high-pressure jets of a mild strength acid solution. Did I mention that this machine ran at 800 degrees Fahrenheit? After they were cleaned, stack the (extremely hot) bearings on the inspection line. This was a factory here, so forget about air conditioning. The fans did a wonderful job of cooling us off, despite the rubber suits (/sarcasm).

The only thing that kept me sane working in this environment, was the wonderful people I got to work with. Making honky and whitey jokes all the time, fleecing me at craps, and going for beers after work.

One time I dropped the N-Bomb on the guy who cleans up around the place because he was trying to make off with one of my (personally owned) tools. The only comment by the crew was: “Man, you went all White on us there for a minute”. Great bunch of people and I’m proud to have known them.

But. There is one ethnicity that’s out there that I’ve never met a member of that I’ve liked. Puerto Rican. This is probably due to the fact that the ones that I’ve come into any significant social contact with was while I was in the Navy. Most of them were young men, and they were very cocky, and arrogant, and just crawled right under my skin. There was one lady who ran the Uniform fitting assembly line that really sticks with me. I remember 60 guys standing there in their skivvies. She’s barking instructions in a sort of pidgin English. One of my fellow recruits has done something contrary to her instruction, so she intones with: “What da matta mich oo? Don’ oo spik Eenglitch?” This was 15 years ago, and it still stays with me. I didn’t know whether to laugh in her face, or slap her.

Now I’m the type of guy who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I actively try to like you if I can. It’s just a vagary of my life that I haven’t run across any Puerto Rican that I’ve liked. I don’t hold it against the country itself, and I hope that I live long enough to find one that’s cool.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at April 19, 2004 11:54 PM
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