A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I have to watch an OSHA video on safety
before I can report to work
the video stars and is narrated by David Ogden Stiers
who played Major Winchester on MASH
he talks to workers who demonstrate
the right way to lift a box
to drive a forklift
to evacuate a building
although he never does any of these things
I’m pretty sure Major Winchester
never had to lift a box
or work a twelve-hour day
in a diaper factory
where the information that is being given
is irrelevant to tasks being done
do you think Major Winchester ever had to catch
sixty diapers in a bag, every thirty seconds
put the bag through a heat gun, send it down the line
while grabbing the next bag, sheathing the metal
sleeve that fires out more diapers?
do you think he had to do that four days a week
from 7 am to 7pm
then get 4 days off
before going back to work
swinging to 7pm to 7am?
do you think he ever got nosebleeds as he worked
from all the cotton fiber in the air?
do you think his ears ever throbbed with the machinery drill
as he walked home, black out
dreams of humming machines?
ground control to Major Winchester
this is another pointless exercise in another pointless day
I have to tolerate this to make seven dollars and fifty cents an hour
I have to sign a paper that says I watched this
so I can work some shitty with hours constantly changing
Major Winchester I can’t come off the night shift schedule
so I get 4 hours sleep a night for a week
drool all day, try not to pass out standing up
god forbid I catch a nap, sleep with a bag of diapers under my head
when the line goes down, like it does every day for at least an hour
besides twelve hours is too long. I’m always tired
so I won’t give a shit when they lay me off in six weeks
I won’t answer the phone when they call me
back after a week so they don’t have
to pay me unemployment. I’ll duck their calls
for a few extra days so I can sleep while making money
it isn’t fraud Major Winchester it’s common sense
when you call in for unemployment and they ask
Were you available for work when work was available?
you always answer Yes!
Jason Baldinger lives and writes in Pittsburgh.
Copyright 2019 Jason Baldinger. An earlier version of this poem appeared in The Studs Terkel Blues published by Nightballet Press.