Monday, November 29, 2010

A Warehouse Story

It comes from (again) The Truth About Cars. I still find this site endlessly interesting... thoughtful and sincere. Ronnie Schreiber just posted up an article titled "Was GM Design Head Bill Mitchell A Sexist Bigot?" The answer to that question is "yes". I didn't need the article to tell me that. I've read and watched enough on GM history to know about Mr. Mitchell. What's interesting about the article is the readers, through the spectrum of today's world around them, trying to figure out if this was just the way it was back then or if the guy really had a alcohol / womanizing / temper / racism problem.

He was cut from the same cloth as car guys that came before him. These guys were highly intelligent, rough, type A or red personalities. Mitchell seems to be a cross between Henry Ford and the Dodge Brothers who was caught in the middle of a changing world. In some ways Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino seems to be modeled after him. Most episodes of Mad Men steal from his exploits. Heck, even part Ian Fleming's Bond could be attributed to him if Fleming himself were not more Mitchell then, well, Mitchell.

My comment of the article comes from "Mikey". I can't get enough stories like this. It's the kind of thing that should be explored more. While it's interesting to read about ivory tower men like Mitchell I'd much rather read about the every day stuff from folks working where the tire hits the road. Howard Zinn, take note.
A hard drinking, profane, sometimes bigot. Sounds like a Foreman I had in the early Seventies. Foremen were instructed to fire any hourly employee that was late or absent during thier ninety day probation period.

At the time I was in the pit, on gas tank install. A two man operation, it was, and my 18 year old partner was a black guy. The older guys called us the salt and pepper team.

Well… my partner came it 15 minutes late one day. I could hear all the guys up top hollering, ”here comes the boss, thats the end of the salt and pepper team”

So there is now three of us standing in the pit. Were running at 45 jobs per hour building full size Chevs, and both Canadian and American Pontiacs. The pit is four feet wide five foot deep,and you got maybe 20 ft to get the tank installed. The foreman is a good 6’2″ with massive shoulders. So he says to my partner “you know I’m supposed to be down here to fire your b—a$$ out the door, My buddy nods,and we go back to grab the next job. The dude had to be down there 10 minutes. “WTF is he doing” my buddy says. My guess? he was looking at scenery. The next job down, the assembler had to feed three gas hoses through a bracket welded to the body. Then push the hoses onto the steel gas line and the secure the clamps. The girl doing the job was maybe 5’2″ and had to reach to her limit to get her job done.

Finally the boss turns to us and says “I’d look forward to going to work if I could look at that all day long, and I woudn’t be f—ck late."

It isn't so much the point of his story, it is the way he describes the job he was doing nearly 40 years ago. It gets to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you are an expert in this field, you really got some great points there, thanks.

- Robson