Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Circus Wagons Roll into Bangladesh

by CHARLES ORLOSKI

Last night, I returned home from work, in particular cleaning-up a “non-Hazmat” used motor oil spill upon an asphalt parking lot in New Jersey.   Was late when I entered home, my wife Carol greeted me, she made cup of tea, and asked if I’d like fried-onions on my hamburger.   Selected onions, and Carol moved to place a tablespoon of honey in my tea.   After giving thanks, she retreated into our laundry-room, began to toss wet clothing into our Kenmore dryer.  My 60-year old feet were  sore and wet, and it was quite a pleasure to listen to a switch being turned to Medium Load, and then the sweet hum of a functioning machine.   I imagined work clothes delighting in warmth, and sipped hot tea, and I began reading last week’s Scranton Times-Tribune news-story about the fire-tragedy in a Bangladesh factory.

How lucky I was in America, the land of refined-OSHA laws, a nation where workers are well-protected from occupational hazards and occasional tasks which sometimes resemble risks inside carnival cages and job demands upon skilled Lion Tamers of bygone days, equipped with whips as “protection.”   Hamburger & onion digested, showered, Lipitor pill down hatch, I retreated to our bedroom.   Alone, I turned-on Turner Classic Movie (TCM)  channel.   Carol tied-up with next load of clothes, I had sufficient time to view parts of the 1941 film, The Wagons Roll at Night, featuring Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie, and Eddie Albert.   Carol hated circuses and Bogart reminded her of our crabby-old Home Heating Oil delivery-man.

The health & safety (H&S) attitude at play in The Wagons Roll at Night was much different than the approach I am accustomed to since last Century’s great act of passing Hazardous Waste Operations regulations which governs life in the emergency response world.   Notably, in 1974, I started as a swaggering Teamster dockworker at a huge “break-bulk” terminal located in heart of the Pocono Mountains.  Those days, OSHA only a dream, workers like me were sent inside trailers to clean-up spilled fuels, acids, solvents, Et cetera – you name it, workers were given a dust mask, shovel, rubber gloves, and told by a foreman, “go at it buddy…toss the crap into the hopper.”  And into the hopper went all kinds of toxic stuff.

Prone upon back, in bed, safe, I watched Bogart as circus-manager “Nick Coster” try his best to awaken circus-show Lion-Tamer # 1, “Hoffman the Great,” played by burly actor, Sig Ruman.  Either very tired, drunk, or dead, Hoffman would not flinch.  In response, Bogie (“Nick”) tossed cold water upon Hoffman, and totally breaking 1941 workplace sensitivity policy, he tipped-over Hoffman’s bed, to no avail.    A definite crisis for Bogey, one to which any CEO across America can identify:   Hoffman unresponsive, a packed & anxious circus crowd, Bogey had to  immediately inspire back-up Lion-Tamer # 2, actor Eddie Albert as “Matt Varney,” a young farmboy, and Hoffman the Great’s apprentice.   One look at Varney’s face — memories of facing down a pool of concentrated sulfuric acid upon a tractor-trailer floor, atmospheric fumes, 25-years old, I donned rubber gloves, a dust mask, entered the scene.   In perspective, Hoffman the Great’s defiant slumber made much sense.

As I fought sleep, and hoped Carol remained tied-up at the dryer, Bogey made an incredible business pitch designed to inject confidence and courage into the rather apprehensive and stunned Matt Varney (Eddie Albert).   The circus-act featured three lions, one was quite nasty, and taking the long view with regard to life and future, Varney tried his best to convince Bogey that it was a bad management decision to place him in the cage with such beasts, and so little training, experience.   Bogey’s knock-out girlfriend (not Lindsay Lohan) pleadingly took the side of Varney, but the show must go on; a packed house, and Bogey emphasized that this was Matt’s big-chance to “make good, moment of lifetime, start a career, have girls aplenty eating out of your hand… all ‘ya gotta do kid is get the lions to move around & jump through rings of fire.”  That’s all – that was Varney’s assigned “scope of work.”   Hell –  did not Bogey’s show pay better than those daring-delights staged at Roman Coliseum?  Did not Bogey’s workplace have better escape routes than the Bangladesh clothing factory, consumed by fire?    Matt Varney did the right thing, gravitated toward Calvinistic right-wing attitude, and  circus crew suited him-up, top-hat fit, Hoffman the Great in dreamland, I was not far behind, and Matt Varney took breath, entered the lion cage, crowd roared

In the 1970s, single, quite irresponsible, perhaps spoiled, I was sort of a bad boy Teamster dockworker.   Never all that inspired by humping freight for 8-10 hours a day, I became radicalized and began to organize our workplace affiliation with the hated Teamsters for  a Democratic Union (TDU).    Thought I was Spartacus among cargo rebels.   After rabble-rousing on the dock on behalf of the TDU cause, purportedly evil and socialist to core, packs of Lions in the form of corporate managers and Teamster Business Agents began to pounce and tried to gnaw-off my head.  No joke, I received enough “disciplinary” letters & suspensions to wall-paper a kitchen-wall.   In 1984, they succeeded in forcing my resignation after 10 years of stacking freight in trailers, those memorable words, “keep it going high & tight, kid – and protect your job.”  Much is arbitrary and subject to chance?   In The Wagons Roll at Night, Eddie Albert, playing role of a scared farmboy, succeeded in entering a cage, tasked with  making lions romp around and delight a crowd.  He succeeded – Varney even got the nasty lion to jump through a hoop-of-fire.   This was a very sweet way to vicariously end an evening after work, December 2012.   To date, nobody made me enter a lion’s den, and every factory I enter in the course of day’s work have Health & Safety plans in-place, MSDS  information tacked to a bulletin board, escape routes in effect and communicated to workers.  Prior to sleep, I listened to my clothes spin-around in dryer, T-shirts and jeans purchased at Wal Mart.   Carol came to bed, she requested a channel change.   She did not like Varney’s getting clawed by the nasty lion.   Changed channel to a Criminal Minds re-run, Agent Rossi and Penelope hunt a mad-man, I wondered if Bogey’s circus wagon will ever roll into Bangladesh.

Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pennsylvania.  He can be reached at ccdjOrlov@aol.com                                                                                     

 

 

           

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]