Starvation Wages

Horses

A beggar walked up to a well-dressed woman
shopping on Rodeo Drive and said,
“I haven’t eaten anything in four days.”
She looked at him and said,
“God, I wish I had your willpower.”

***

A blonde bought two horses and could never remember which was which.

A neighbor suggested that she cut off the tail of one horse, which worked great until the other horse got his tail caught in a bush.

The second horse’s tail tore in the same place and looked exactly like the other horse’s tail.

Our blonde friend was stuck again. The neighbor then suggested that she notch the ear of one horse, which worked fine until the other horse caught his ear on a barbed wire fence.

Once again, our blonde friend couldn’t tell the two horses apart.

The neighbor then suggested that she measure the horses for height.

When she did that, the blonde was very pleased to find that the white horse was 2 inches taller than the black one.

***
A man and a woman who have never met before find
themselves in the same sleeping carriage of a
train, after the initial embarrassment they both
go to sleep, the woman on the top bunk, the man on
the lower.
In the middle of the night the woman leans over
and says, “I’m sorry to bother you but I’m awfully
cold and I was wondering if you could possibly
pass me another blanket.”
The man leans out and with a glint in his eye,
says, “I’ve got a better idea … let’s pretend we’re married”
“Why not”, giggles the woman.
“Good”, he replies, “Get your own fucking
blanket!”

***

A couple are rushing into the hospital because the wife is going into labor. As they walk, a doctor says to them that he has invented a machine that splits the pain between the mother and father. They agree to it and are led into a room where they get hooked up to the machine.
The doctor starts it off at 20% split towards the father. The wife says, “Oh, that’s actually better.” The husband says he can’t feel anything.
Then the doctor turns it to 50% and the wife says that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. The husband says he still can’t feel anything.
The Doctor, now encouraged, turns it up to 100%. The husband still can’t feel anything, and the wife is really happy, because there is now no pain for her.
The baby is born. The couple go home and find the postman groaning in pain on the doorstep.

***

How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb?
It depends on what we are trying to change it into.

***

How many gorillas does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Only one, but it sure takes a lot of light bulbs!

***

I asked my friend why he walked away from his last job.
He said the pay was so poor that he couldn’t afford a car

***

 

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Flash Fiction #97

Telecommuting

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

FULL PAST – EMPTY FUTURE

I’m not sorry I’m retiring tomorrow. This train station used to be a bustling, interesting place, a social hub, full of people coming and going to actual places, meeting and talking to other, real people, doing the same.  Train travel was interesting, exciting, educational.

Then, along came the Internet – and telecommuting, work-from-home, and stay-cations. It’s no better over at the bus terminal.  Nobody actually goes anywhere anymore.  They all just sit at home, in front of a different idiot-box, staring at pictures that somebody else took of all the great things that this country has to offer.

I’m outta here! 😦

***

Here’s a YouTube link to Arlo Guthrie’s song, The City of New Orleans, an elegy for the passing of a time when trains were so important that some of them even had names.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Flash Fiction #45

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© Jennifer Pendergast

Title Yard Sale – Read the following short story, and then pick the title you feel best applies.  No extra charge.

IRONY
DICHOTOMY
REDNECKS IN TRAINING
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
IMAGINE BUM-PING INTO YOU

****

SAME SEX MARRIAGE??!  Over my dead body – better still, over theirs.

These filthy fags parading around – “I have a job.  I pay taxes. I want the same civil rights as everybody else.”  They’re worse than the niggers and Jews.  Niggers are just weak-minded jungle bunnies.  They don’t know no better.  The Jews may be Christ-killing heathens – but these perverts are sinners.

Civil rights??  I say cut their junk off and throw them all in jail.

Here we are at the church.  Take a look at the sign Bobby.  What’s Reverend Larkin’s sermon theme today?  “Love One Another.”  Awww – that’s nice.

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story

They Paved Paradise

So said Joni Mitchell, some years ago.  The same thought was echoed by Chrissie Hynde, when she wrote, My pretty countryside had been paved down the middle, by a government that had no pride.  The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls.

Travel/transportation is another technology which has advanced greatly over the last couple of centuries, and especially the last 50 or 60 years.  Some will say that’s a good thing.  Some will claim it’s necessary.  It has definitely opened up North America, and Americans’ social eyes, but old guys like me still miss the old days a bit, even if they weren’t “good.”

Travel used to be difficult and time-consuming.  BrainRants can rant about taking 36 hours to get from Afghanistan to Kansas, but it’s not too long ago that it would have taken 36 days, and before that, 36 weeks.  I’m reading a series of books about a Virginia town, transported back to 1632 Germany.  In those days not many people travelled more than 20 miles from where they were born.  The Americans found travel particularly difficult, because of what they had been used to.

Twenty miles was about as far as you could go in one day.  The word journey comes from the French word, journée, a day’s work or travel.  Most people had to walk.  A lucky few had riding horses, somewhat faster and less tiring, but not terribly comfortable.  Merchants and the like had wagons, but roads were rutted, pot-holed, and often muddy, and wagons had no shock absorbers.  It was rough on the butt and back.

The Romans built a bunch of good roads which lasted, but were still hard on the feet and spines of travellers.  It was not until the 1880s that the idea of mixing tar or asphalt with sand and small stones allowed the construction of “permanent”, smooth roads, and speeds and personal comfort to increase.

Even a hundred years ago, most freight and passengers moved around the country on trains.  The U.S. has maintained a lot of track, but sadly, much of Canada’s has been torn up.  Both countries now rely heavily on motorised vehicles.   To serve them, roads and parking areas have burgeoned.  The big, multi-lane highways are fenced off, preventing both humans and animals from crossing.  You can’t get on, and you can’t get off.  They’re finally getting smart, and building animal overpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway in a couple of the big National parks

In the areas of Michigan where I’ve driven, instead of blacktop, they’ve built their roads from poured concrete.  Concrete expands and contracts differently from asphalt.  It is laid down in 50-foot sections, with rubberized joints between them.  This creates a most annoying tick, tick, tick, as you drive over them, almost like the steel wheels of the old trains.  The concrete lasts longer than asphalt, but when it does need repair, pouring concrete into a pothole is more difficult, it takes longer to set, and the repair falls apart faster than blacktop.

The American Interstates, and Ontario’s 400-series highways didn’t come into existence until the mid-60s.  As a child, about 1950, I hadn’t even visited the little neighboring town, 5 miles away, and my Father took us to Niagara Falls on vacation.  Nowadays, it’s a four-hour, 200 mile trip.  Back then it took most of a day; even paved roads were only 2-lanes, they ran into and out of every little town, signage was poor, or non-existent.   I don’t know how Dad managed to find the place.

We rented a little cabin for an overnight stay.  Dad was paranoid enough, that he put his wallet under his pillow.  The next day we crossed the border to visit some relatives in upstate New York.  It wasn’t until Dad tried to buy some gas for the trip back, that he realized his wallet was missing.  Two adults, and two little kids got into the States without a shred of I.D., almost no money, and not a bit of fuss raised.  Imagine trying that at the border today.  The owner of the cabins was holding the wallet when we got back.  An honest cleaning lady had turned it in.

If only roads went only where very little grows.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Here in Southern Ontario, and many other places, 10 and 12 lane super-roads are eating up hundreds of square miles of the best farmland in the world.  Recharge areas for underground aquifers which supply drinking water to our cities are being paved over for roads and parking lots.  All that black paving sucks up the heat of the sun, making cities up to five degrees C. hotter than the surrounding countryside.

As a small-town boy, I appreciate the ability to get to interesting places quickly and easily.  I like having all the conveniences that a city can provide, but there are an increasing number of times I wish we could go back to a simpler, more pastoral time.  Do any of you feel the same way?  Residents of Newfoundland need not reply.  Void where society is already 50 years behind the times.

Archon – The Early Work Years

My mother worked every day of her life, both as a mother and wife, inside the home, and later, as a fellow-wage-earner, outside it.  This was before automation, and often before electrification.  She instilled in me early, a strong work-ethic.  Between ages eight and twelve, I had three paper-routes for two different newspapers.

The first job I remember her having was as a waitress at the lunch bar/dining room of a local hotel.  Since she worked from 11 till 3, my brother and I ate our lunch where she worked.  I remember a lot of hamburgers and fries, or hotdogs and fries, and the reduced cost of our meals came out of her earnings.

She eventually developed a circle of people she cleaned homes for, both year-round residents and summer visitors.  She was requested to do more than just clean.  She cooked food for soirees, and served as waitress.  A tiny woman, there were often things she wasn’t strong enough to do.  From 12 to 16, I occasionally worked with her, taking down shutters or storm windows, putting up screens, cleaning out garages or storage sheds, mowing lawns, trimming trees, and sweeping or shovelling sand off sidewalks and driveways.

One customer my mother had, was a grumpy old fart who owned a convenience-store and eight cabins near the beach.  He made most of his money during the summer months.  Since my birthday was in September, and I had to be 16 to get a summer job in a factory, she arranged for me to work for him in the summer of 1960, for the lordly sum of 50 cents/hour.  Nothing difficult or complex, a retail clerk.  I took money, made change, directed customers to product, kept an eye out for shoplifters, stocked shelves, swept up and hand-dipped ice-cream cones.

One slow, hot afternoon, I made myself a cone.  The old man came in the back door just as I was putting money in the till to pay for it, and asked me what I was doing.  When I explained, he told me of the girl he’d had the summer before.  She just about ate him out of house and store.  Pop, chips, candy bars, ice-cream cones, and never thought to pay for any of it.  He was impressed with my honesty.

The next year, my father arranged a summer job at the R.C.A. Victor plant where he worked.  For the first week, I moved raw material, sanded some edges, and wiped dust off cabinets about to be packed.  For this, I was paid $1.27/hr.  After last summer’s 50 cents, I was rich.

They moved me to the spray-finishing department.  TV and stereo cabinets came in on rollers from a half a dozen assemblers.  I was to take them off the rollers, and place them on large trays which would carry them by chain-drive through the spray booths.  One of the sprayers came over to tell me that, I could probably move the individual TV cabinets by myself, but the five and six-foot long stereo cabinets needed two people to move safely.  While they liked a mix of big and small on their line, he told me to accumulate several big ones at the end of the rollers, and call him or one of the other guys, who would help me load up a batch at a time.

While I got an hourly wage, these guys were paid piece-work.  They lost money every time I called them.  About the third day, a little light went on.  I walked up the line, and gave the next empty tray a pull.  Sure enough, the drive pin to the chain wasn’t attached, it was merely pushed.  I could pull a tray forward till it touched the end of the previous one, and it would just sit there till the drive caught up to it.  This gave me lots of time to swivel one end of a big cabinet out, and place it at one end, then move to the other end and safely repeat the process.

About the end of the next week, my spray booth guy suddenly commented that the cabinets were randomly mixed and I hadn’t requested any assistance.  When I explained my process, he was thrilled.  They could do it that way when they didn’t have an assistant, and could teach next year’s intern.

Next year I worked there again, just not in that department.  The wage scale had increased to $1.34/hr.  I was rich as Croesus.  Good thing too, I had a car to support.  The plant shipped most of its output in train cars.  I and another young lad were given the job of loading the boxed cabinets into the cars.  The work was sporadic.  A batch would be inspected and packed and sent down a delivery belt, to a set of rollers.  It was our job to roll them out and stack them in the car. 

Often we would finish one lot before another came down.  Since the shipping department was right outside the office, it would not do to have us standing around.  The shipping foreman told us that, if we weren’t loading, we were to be in one of the cars.  He said that we could eat, read, play cards, go across the street to the store, even sleep, but when he stuck his head in to say there was another shipment, we’d better be there, and ready.

My assistant got a case of the runs one day, and was gone for a lonngg time.  Another batch started and was piling up on the delivery belt.  I used the same system I had the year before, only vertically.  I pushed a row against the wall, then another row in front, then lifted the next one up by one end and pushed it back.  Put another row in front and pushed some more up, then repeat, using layer two to lift layer three.  By the time he got back, I had packed the entire lot myself, and the foreman never even knew he was missing.

I was just too damned dedicated.  If there was a job to be done, I was the fool who done it, but I think it made me a better me, and helped me get jobs later in life when I badly needed one.  I feel my work ethic shone through.

Frankenstorm

We’re fine!  Thanks for asking.  The whole East side of North America went through the storm of the century, and all I got was this lousy, wet tee-shirt.  One woman in Toronto was struck and killed by wind-blown debris.  A guy in our northern twin city was slightly injured when a large tree crashed down on his house.  A family in town had a large evergreen tree uprooted and neatly deposited lengthways down their in-ground pool.

In the last year, we have had a new roof installed; that was timely.  And we had all new windows and doors put in.  There was a lot of wind and rain out there, but, out there was where it stayed.  While the dregs of the storm may linger for a day or two, it appears the worst is over and the water is starting to drain off, all except my rain-water collection barrels.

I had been using watering cans to take water from the barrels, and pour it around our Mulberry bush (where our weasel pops), the Magnolia bush, and four Rose of Sharon bushes.  It’s been such a dry summer that the wife suggested deep watering, soaking the ground, for better growth next spring.  I had emptied the two single barrels, but, even before this big storm hit, we had had rain about every second day.

The three ganged barrels beside the house just kept refilling.  I finally gave up.  The soil around the bushes is as soaked as it will ever get.  I have a faucet installed on one barrel, so I just hooked up a garden hose, ran the end down near the front sidewalk, and turned the tap.  They refill faster than the hose can drain them, but eventually I will get to disassemble them and invert them for the winter so that ice formation doesn’t damage them.

One that I had inverted blew around between the houses, but nowhere I couldn’t find it.  The young father in the other half of our semi had assembled an eight-foot high wooden *castle tower* play set for his two young daughters.  It had another two-foot high nylon parasol on top, for sun protection.  It’s now lying in his yard.  I may have to volunteer to help him right it.

The son was just thinking of getting ready to leave for his Monday, midnight shift, when his supervisor called to say it had been cancelled.  Day shift worked.  Afternoon shift might have been sent home early, but they worried about overnight.  The winds and rain were picking up.  If they had a power outage, there would be no buses or taxis for workers to get home in the middle of the night.

The gal next door can telecommute for some of her job, so she stayed home Tuesday.  I met her outside, and she gave us a 12-pack of new pint canning jars that someone had given her.  We’re the only people she knows who can anymore.

The area of Southern Ontario between my home town and my current address is one of the most stable, fortunate pieces of real estate to live in, in the whole world.  We don’t get hurricanes, we don’t get tornadoes, we don’t get earthquakes, and we don’t get floods….usually.

Earthquakes occur five hundred miles away, near Montreal, or south of the Great Lake, in Ohio.  We sometimes feel a little edge of a tremblor, but no shaking houses down, or even rattling dishes.  If we hear of two tornadoes in a season, it’s unusual.  They mostly occur a hundred miles south and west, and only knock down small trees, or the occasional cow.

We were driving north several years ago, to visit my parents for the weekend, when we ran into a fierce storm.  Rain so hard I could barely see the road, then we got pounded with hail so big I worried about damage to the car finish.  The wind was howling like a freight-train.  The wife peered out her window and said, “I think I see a funnel cloud.”  I told her, don’t be silly, it couldn’t be, we don’t get tornadoes up here!

When we reached the parents’ place, there was Dad, watching his TV on the weather channel.  He informed us that Live Weather had just reported a small tornado where we had just driven through.  Had we seen anything?  Yikes!  Yes!  My ass getting blown into some farmer’s barn.

The last time I saw a perfect storm this bad, in this area, was back in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel came to visit.  She brought lots of wind, and tons of water.  One of my uncles lived out on the edge of town.  You turned off the highway and crossed the railroad tracks that paralleled the road, to access his property.  Back then, we still had train service.  In fact, that far back, the engines were steam-driven.

A hundred yards past his house there was a large steel culvert under the highway, for rainwater to flow down to the lake.  It just emptied into an earthen ditch.  Years before, there had been a wooden trestle over the large ditch, but it had been replaced by a concrete version, solidly planted on both banks.  With the amount of water flowing, the bridge was still solid, but the two banks had been badly undermined.  When the afternoon train slowly rolled into town, the trestle looked good, but the weight of the engine crushed it, dumping it into the creek.  The engineer and the stoker both died of steam burns, a horrible way to go.

Even as I write this, the clouds to the west, behind me, have broken, and sun is streaming in the window, making it difficult to see the computer screen.  I’m going to go look out the back windows.  If I see a rainbow, I’ll know the worst is over.  The storm really didn’t bring us much trouble.  We are very fortunate.  I just hope that all my good blog-friends were as safe and lucky.