Saturday, September 23, 2006

Coworkers: Part 62 - Don't Tread On Me

   "I'm warning you, I'm not in the mood for this today."
   Ken bristled from the Listening Center, ramrod straight, eyes blazing.
   "Keeping Democracy safe with dummy target practice?" The Boss jibed.
   "Don't mess with me today," Ken repeated. 'This is not the day for your shit."
   "Why not, you only wing those body targets?"
The Boss continued.
   The Boss was a diehard, Berserkely survivor. Late 60's fires burned still. Stick it to the man! He retained an anti establishment, anti Military Industrial Complex attitude.
   Mind you, Blockbuster was "the man." Ours might have been a rebellious location, where the staff slowly, determinedly, shifted the style back to the Sound Warehouse era. Yet, we were part of a huge chain. We obeyed a dress code, new hires passed drug tests, mandatory layouts ensured one store resembled another. Corporate suits called the shots. Like it or not, all of us were ... The Man. Or worse, pawns.
   When possible, The Boss vented on military and authority types.
   A cruel irony existed. Many of the store ex coworkers had enlisted in the armed forces or had found employment with law enforcement. Like the parents of my generation, The Boss undoubtedly wondered where he had failed.
   Whenever any alumni, who had donned the uniform, visited Camp Bowie, The Boss heckled them. Joked about killing, riot control, prison camps, indoctrination, whatever popped in his brain. He couldn't help himself.
   Enlisted was not exclusive. Any government agency was fair game. "How much tax dollars have you spent on mind control this year?"
   Some souls never even worked for him. They were someone's boyfriend or girlfriend. They were marks, nevertheless.
   Ken was the convenient whipping boy. He was National Guard.
   Some members of the Guard were patriotic types, others wanted extra income. Ken worked two jobs and he did freelance writing, in addition to his National Guard activities. I suspected a need for cash.
   The Guard, the military, none of that disturbed me, nor most of the crew. I had been in ROTC for three years before realizing I was much too the wayward soul to follow. That was me, though. For others, OK. Besides, there was a chain of command. Above the military or law enforcement were political leaders. Elected by us. The mob. Responsibility always laid ... with us. We were The Man.
   Anyway, The Boss kept pouring it on Ken that morning. Ken had just spent a month on Guard maneuvers. Shooting babies. Women & bayonets. Blindly following orders.
   "Hey, you know what?" Ken muttered. "We're done."
   "Quit. Finished. I'm done working here."

   He untied his apron. Placed it on the counter. Clocked out, started walking.
   "Hey, c'mon, I was only -- "
   "Don't bother calling me for awhile, either."

   Marched out the door.
   The Boss turned to me, attempted more humor. I was already heading towards the schedule to see who we could phone for coverage.
   Ken returned ten days later for his check. He and The Boss remained close friends.
   He never worked in the store again.

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