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The Loading Dock Manifesto
June 28, 2011 8:23 AM   Subscribe

John Hyduk, a middle aged blue collar worker in Cleveland, writes about his daily existence.
posted by reenum (46 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
He's a cabbage wizard, and if there's a rarer bird than a Rastafarian who cooks Bavarian, I haven't found one.

This is good.
posted by OmieWise at 8:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very well written. Ties in with Mike Rowe's points about the US and blue-collar work.

http://friuch.com/mike-rowe-and-the-truth-of-blue-collar-work
posted by haley_joel_osteen at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2011


Not many blue collar people I have met could also write decent prose. But his life, sadly, is tedious, and though it might be romantic to identify with The Working Man, it seems that those who actually make things (see Studs Terkel on Working) are happy with their work and lives, no matter what they do.

For a working guy who had a lot to say:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRu_iFfwS2s

eric hoffer, blind longshoreman
posted by Postroad at 8:42 AM on June 28, 2011


Dude is an extremely good writer.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's work in poetry, and poetry in all work. I believe that. There is rhythm and meter in the slap of work boots on concrete. Your reward is more than a paycheck. It is a connection to something larger, even if the something larger is a half dozen men in a barbed-wire yard.

Beautiful article.
posted by eendje at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2011


Still having an existential crisis? Want to find truth, authenticity and reality? Here's your truth. Here's your authenticity. Here's your reality. As a bonus - here's some perspective.

Damn, let me cease bitching this morning about forgetting my stainless steel coffee cup on the bookcase before I left for work today. Five years out of the kitchen and I already need that much perspective.

Thanks for this.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


But his life, sadly, is tedious

I don't recall him saying that in the article. Tedium is all in how you perceive your situation. You might not enjoy his work; it seems that he's able to find the beauty in it.
posted by dubold at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice. As someone who escaped that life, I appreciate someone who can describe it so well. It's hard to know what it's like to actually work for a living unless you've done it yourself.
posted by octothorpe at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is rhythm and meter in the slap of work boots on concrete.

While looking for something else on YouTube, I found the channel of Myfordboy. ("Myford" is a UKian machinery maker, apparently, and he owns one of their lathes.) He shows a lot of machining and patternmaking, which some people would probably find boring. But the great thing is he doesn't talk. I don't know if he's shy or has a speech impediment or is doing it deliberately or what. He just shows what he's doing and the silence, with cars going by and bird tweets, combined with the rhythm and steady progress is really beautiful. For instance, check out Flywheel Pattern Making and Casting. It's amazing.
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Not many blue collar people I have met could also write decent prose. But his life, sadly, is tedious, and though it might be romantic to identify with The Working Man, it seems that those who actually make things (see Studs Terkel on Working) are happy with their work and lives, no matter what they do.

Many people who do blue collar work are reasonably happy with the work they do (but then, many people who do blue collar work didn't have a lot of choices or knowledge about alternatives) but are unhappy about the conditions under which they do it - job insecurity, low pay, no guarantee of retirement, crappy vacations. In fact, that shines through in this guy's comments on his job search.

And why is it precisely that there are so few great documents/novels by blue collar workers? It's not because blue collar workers are stupid; it's because the time, concentration, and practice needed to produce good prose are hard to come by. Also because blue collar life is not widely considered interesting except when it's romanticized, preferably by someone with a better job.

Honestly, the blue collar folks I know - and that's more maybe than most college-edjumacated types do - haven't been especially happy with their work. My father hated his job, for example, even though he did it and did it well for something like 33 years (blue collar boy who went to college, only got one tenure track offer in an impossible location, worked in an office supply store for 30 years). But maybe I know different ones.

Also, I wish I had more career options. I regret that I will never see Paris and that my work is repetitive and does not use my skills. I have a pink collar job that I'll cling to like a limpet as long as possible because this is the best that it gets for people like me.
posted by Frowner at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Here's what I know: Every man needs an arena, and this is mine.

God bless our arenas.
posted by Faze at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2011


If his last name is pronounced the way I hope it is, then… Alo. Salut. Sunt eu, un haiduc.
posted by Nomyte at 8:58 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Myford" is a UKian machinery maker

While "Our Ford" is an Alpha Plus Plus.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2011


To me, what makes his writing appealing is that he's got a good storyteller's voice and a gift for observation. I think he'd be writing compelling prose about his life if he were doing customer service at an insurance company.
posted by Pants McCracky at 9:06 AM on June 28, 2011


To me, what makes his writing appealing is that he's got a good storyteller's voice and a gift for observation.

Exactly. This was great. He talks about interesting people and tells me about what the process of getting his jobs are like. So many "insights from a man on the street" end up like this-- banality exploited by a reporter for the supposed "authentic voice" that does nothing for the reader: the bigotry of low expectations.
posted by deanc at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2011


Great stuff, he's got a wonderful voice.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:16 AM on June 28, 2011


This is great and all, but I'm bracing myself for when this guy "gets arrested on a DUI" and after a few days it's revealed that it was really a 17-year-old gay Syrian woman writing it all along.
posted by Maaik at 9:17 AM on June 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


Basically, I'm a yard monkey
I sometimes get told off for calling myself a monkey by senior management who find it distasteful. I remember a colleague who has worked himself a place at the top table asking why I did it.

"Why do you call yourself a monkey? You're cleverer than I am!"

"We're all monkeys Ade, some of us are phone monkeys, some of us are right-click monkeys* and some of us are decision monkeys
The problem you have is not that you think I'm a monkey, it's that you think you aren't."

*WINTEL hehehehe
posted by fullerine at 9:19 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Gorgeous, and I can identify. I worked a similar sort of job for five years. I enjoyed the meditative, rhythmic nature of it. At the same time, I came from a white-collar family and I always felt ill at ease in the work somehow - I resented the people I served, whom I had been brought up to believe I belonged among. I eventually found my way into more cerebral roles, but there were definitely times when I missed being alone in the early morning hours with a hundred pounds or more of cheese. And I never found better friends on the job nor laughed as much at work than I did in those days.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Metafilter : I missed being alone in the early morning hours with a hundred pounds or more of cheese
posted by fullerine at 9:36 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It might not look like that to the untrained eye, just passing our open dock door — large men pulling and moving, pulling and moving, in artificial light. I understand. Sometimes it's hard to tell the picture from the frame.

You want something higher, a prickly Everyman speaking half-truths to power, go scare up Joe the Plumber. All I know is this: I am a schlub walking a high wire between paydays in steel-toed shoes. And my name is legion.


That's a whole lot of writing packed into a little bitty space. I liked this a lot, thanks. It's fitting that this comes out of Cleveland, which has always seemed to me like a city-sized version of the writer.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2011


This is great and all, but I'm bracing myself for when this guy "gets arrested on a DUI" and after a few days it's revealed that it was really a 17-year-old gay Syrian woman writing it all along

Nope. Been reading this guy in the Scene and Free Times (RIP) for years. (Tough times for independent weeklies.)

Here's his profile of then-CWRU physicist Lawrence Krauss from 2000.
posted by Herodios at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now that Harvey Pekar's dead, is he the new poet laureate of Cleveland's working class?
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Horrible, distasteful and fundamentally dangerous to society - that's my opinion.

Why should so-called "blue-colored" workers be given such a platform to air their sectarian grievances? Such blue-color-favouritism is damaging to our dream of a COLOR-BLIND society. And who the hell is colored blue anyway? This guy, Lord Krishna, people who hold their breath too long ... such individuals are NOT representative of America today. I think that a thin blue line should be employed to resist the endless demands of these blue-colored revolutionaries on we honest blue-bloods.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I was Bruce Springsteen, I would write a song about this fella.
posted by punkfloyd at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2011


More from the author here. I especially like Sundays Without George. How do you do that, the nostalgic essay, without sliding off into self-indulgence? Good reads.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


If I was Bruce Springsteen, I would write a song about this fella.

Please don't.
posted by Herodios at 9:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I keep meaning to drive up the turnpike to check out Cleveland and I still haven't done that. It's sort of my city's (Pittsburgh) sister city although a lot bigger and more diverse; I should go up and check out some of the neighborhoods on a weekend.
posted by octothorpe at 10:17 AM on June 28, 2011


How did Esquire come to pick this up? Does he have any other history as a writer? Because that was great. Someone get him an account here -- I want to see him go toe-to-toe with sonascope.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:20 AM on June 28, 2011


Holy Hell, someone get this guy a book deal.
posted by Gilbert at 10:21 AM on June 28, 2011


That's a whole lot of writing packed into a little bitty space.

That particular paragraph or two does pack a wallop. It's not just a turn-of-phrase thing -- the guy really gets it.

As a light-blue collared guy (I learned teh computor) who has haltingly begun to write about his working life, this guy gives me something to aspire to -- though certainly never attain.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:24 AM on June 28, 2011


No regrets. You make choices, and every one feels right at the time. Because they are.

Shit. This is fantastic.
posted by Zozo at 10:28 AM on June 28, 2011


Maurice Franklin, Spitalfields Wood Turner.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:31 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The contemporary job-search experience can best be summed up by the phrase "part-time man." I saw that scrawled on an index card thumbtacked to a job board: "Seeking Part-time Man."

First thing, you take a number and get in line with the rest of the unemployed. Then you look at the number in your hand — 14,000,000.


Reminds me a little of Philip Levine:
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.... (from What Work Is)
That was published 20 years ago. Seems like things haven't changed much.
posted by dersins at 10:50 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I resented the people I served, whom I had been brought up to believe I belonged among. I eventually found my way into more cerebral roles, but there were definitely times when I missed being alone in the early morning hours with a hundred pounds or more of cheese. And I never found better friends on the job nor laughed as much at work than I did in those days.

Look, let me tell you something - blue collar (and pink collar) workers often resent their betters - we're not happily groveling away at the feet of our white-collared masters.

I really, really think that there's a lot of misreading of this piece going on, and kind of disturbing misreading - sort of a "look at this guy who spent his life doing shitty, low-paid jobs and is perfectly self-actualized, ah for the honest virtues of the working class!"

First, this piece is clearly ambivalent about the work being described and is written in a gently ironic mode. I like the way he describes the weird skills you need for blue collar work...skills that are simultaneously interesting and totally worthless. Like, why is it a valuable human skill to be able to tell the difference between pallets of two types of soda in low light conditions? It's sort of impressive to be able to do this, but it's also totally conditioned by the vagaries of a repugnant capitalism.

Second, the writer is an anomaly. He is someone who has made a career for himself as a freelance writer, has some standing/self-worth from that, has a wider world and writing practice. As Orwell points out somewhere, blue collar writers tend to have atypical characters and experiences of blue collar life - that's what opens up the writing opportunities. And while it's true that any writer is a bit atypical, being a white collar writer is less so.

That is, I think folks are reading this piece like it's some kind of pure, unclouded reflection on the simple joys of precarious, low-paying simple labor when it's really the creation of someone who is obviously both a practiced writer and an unusual person.
posted by Frowner at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


One of my favorite poems by a man who is often misunderstood. The sons of Martha Indeed, gifted with much more than just a strong back and care for when the nuts work loose.
posted by bartonlong at 10:54 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frowner, since you quoted me, if you think I'm reading it in the way you're describing in your last paragraph, I'm not. It's resonating for me precisely because I *was* ambivalent about the work (as I said in my comment) and because I developed exactly the same sort of vital and useless skills. Eleven years on, I can still wrap a piece of cheese in plastic film without a wrinkle. If I was well enough to do so, I could weigh a wheel with my hands within a pound. I can tell you the cutting patterns for any shape you'd put in front of me. What good does any of that do me, now that I'm disabled and bedridden? It's all just a memory, but the repetition of the job ingrained all of it indelibly on my mental landscape. I still dream I'm behind the counter on a busy Saturday, with too few labor hours allowed by corporate for the tasks at hand, or shivering in the walk-in freezer while doing my monthly inventory in the wee hours or the morning.

Please give me the benefit of the doubt that having a similar experience as the author allows me to understand his perspective.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guys prose and turns of phrase almost remind me of the hard-boiled detective novels of Chandler or Hammet... I like his style.
posted by jnnla at 11:24 AM on June 28, 2011


There is little noble about blue collar work. Sometimes midnights can be okay, because the only guy supervising sleeps in his office or goes home at 4, and there's no one breathing over your shoulder, but then the day shift comes in and they start complaining to the bosses that the night shift are screwups who never sweep up at the end of their shift. That then means memos about sweeping and emptying garbage cans pinned to the bulletin board. Maybe I could settle into a blue collar job - steady pay, an environment that's familiar, and work that someone needs to do, right? - if I could ever keep one for more than a year and a half. But some fast track twenty something in an office is trying to make their career by having the cost you represent do backflips on a spreadsheet and soon you're back at the temp agencies trying to not be too hungry for anything, because being too available means they'll call you at five in the morning to see if you can unload a truck in the rain at six. Everybody on the shop floor, especially the temps, has done something else, no one is a grizzled lifer anymore, three out of five have a computer science certificate from the community college, one other is two years gone from a union job that once paid for a house and a family, and the other is real enthusiastic about the CD their band just produced. At one of the last temp jobs I worked, packaging CDs and DVDs back before Christmas, they couldn't ever guarantee me more than one day of work. Couldn't say come in for the next couple weeks, and when we don't need you we'll tell you. I was working midnights and every day about one in the afternoon - when I was sleeping because I was working midnights for them - the agency would call and triumphantly announce that the corporation would be pleased to see me back there that night. In the office they probably thought they were geniuses for keeping such a tight rein on costs, but all it said to me is that they're clueless to the reality that people who work nights need to sleep in the day. People go home at the end of their management workday and for entertainment watch TV shows that are all about the drama of separating the winners from the losers - "You're fired", "You're off the island", "You are going home". Getting - and keeping - the least job seems like suffering through a series of immunity challenges. My dad worked a traditional union blue collar job for 30 years. When I was a kid I thought he must be going in each day to do something necessary and important. Then I went to work in factories myself and discovered that it mostly involves some guy who is paid more than you being on your back about emptying a garbage pail. I feel screwed in the workplace now. Getting old, declining prospects, spotty skills, and a distaste for the resume and interview circus. I see myself standing on a loading dock like this guy, but how long will that job last? Five months? Ten? A year and a bit if I'm lucky? Then out and little to show for it, no next step to move towards.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


More from the author here. I especially like Sundays Without George.

That was exceptionally moving without being maudlin.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:28 PM on June 28, 2011


"There is little noble about blue collar work."

There is little noble about anyone's work - blue-collar, white-collar, whatever - except for the very very few who can lay claim to inventing or delivering something which benefits mankind.

The rest of us are just grunts. Oh sure, you may convince yourself that you're not - you're selling people something they need; you're part of the team that produces the best tv show / video game / application ever; you've written books enjoyed by millions; you saved an innocent man from jail today - but you're still a grunt, toiling away at your job just as this guy is.

The sad thing is that you've managed to convince yourself you're not a grunt; your whole world-view depends on you not being a grunt - but the strange thing is that the honesty and simplicity of the blue-collar life you wistfully desire is entirely dependent on realising that you are a grunt.

Nothing against grunts - I was one for 20+ years, albeit in a somewhat more specialised and technical position than this guy - and now, partway through a postgrad degree, I'm looking forward to being one again in my visible future. Not because it's noble - it isn't - but, unless you're one of the aforementioned very very few, then the simple pleasure of a good job well done is all 99+% of us can hope for.
posted by Pinback at 5:15 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good article.

Not many blue collar people I have met could also write decent prose.


Speak for yourself.

(Grunts).
posted by ovvl at 6:54 PM on June 28, 2011


"it seems that those who actually make things (see Studs Terkel on Working) are happy with their work and lives, no matter what they do."

What horseshit -- happy little workers, slaves singing happy songs in the cotton fields, etc.

I worked in a factory for a year. It was fucking awful -- I was literally the only guy there who didn't have a criminal record, rampant drug and alcohol abuse (oftentimes on the job), and management that actively worked to fuck us over as often as possible.

I mean, I'll say this much -- until you've worked overtime shifts on a Saturday and a Sunday, then gone to bed Sunday night miserable knowing you'd wake up at 5 a.m. to start all over again, until you've severely burned your arm on a hot piece of steel and tried to patch it with band-aids, until your floor manager has accused you of stealing equipment just to let you know he's better than you, or until you've been offered meth while you're on your ten-minute break, you really don't know how awful life can be.

And I'm honestly grateful for that. And for labor unions, which of course I've never been a member of.

That said, this is a cool piece of writing. And it sounds like he has a human being for a boss, which sets him apart from 90% of blue collar Americans.
posted by bardic at 11:12 PM on June 28, 2011


I'm sad that he thinks the women should think they're too good for him.
posted by b33j at 12:03 AM on June 29, 2011


Reminds me of "Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line" by Ben Hamper, about working at a Ford plant in Michigan in the 1980s. (Harper's printed an excerpt that weird Mr. Pieck had us read in English class.) Read some of it here: http://hamper.michaelmoore.com/excerpt1.html
posted by wenestvedt at 8:05 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did some blue collar work when I first started work and then after that all white-collar stuff. The blue-collar work was less stressful but slightly more dangerous. The white collar work was more stressful. In the end I learned one thing they both had in common - it's the work environment, the people, the bosses that determines whether it's a good job or not. In my blue-collar job (as a shipper/packer) we had a great team and a fine manager. I wasn't using much of my skills but I still had a good time. My worst job experience was as a typist in a typing pool at the local library, typing overdue notices all by myself in a dark office. Ugh.
posted by storybored at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2011


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