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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail