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Jason Baldinger: David Ogden Stiers

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.

Loading dock in diaper factory

One comment on “Jason Baldinger: David Ogden Stiers

  1. Janet
    October 16, 2019

    A very meaningful poem ! It’s great ! As an RN , whose taken care of 40 patients at one time, working nights in nursing homes , I understand . ( BTW , it’s not humanly possible to care for 40 peeps at one time . Before work you pray for God’s help for yourself and everyone working that night , and pray you don’t miss anything vital. Then you do the best you can. Afterwards , You pray and ask and asks God look after what you couldn’t get to. )

    Liked by 1 person

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