But, but, St. Peter! I was on TV!
It wasn’t. The animosity between union and management was worse than I had ever seen before, and it was entirely because of the lame management. The managers would walk around livid at the sight of a worker, barely restraining themselves. I have a practical attitude towards unions, having been a member of three of them. They tend to be corrupt, but as a worker, you’re better off having one than not having one. They take away the "employment at will" vulnerability, and the pay tends to be better. The union in this case was the Communications Workers of America, and from what I could see, it was the most forthright, honest union of the three I had joined. That's probably why the management was so hostile. They couldn't buy the union leadership off.
But that was just my way of sneaking a bit of union lore into the mix. What made the phone company job a short one was the poor manner in which the service was set up. The reason customers have to wait so long to talk to a real person is – guess – not enough employees. The customers are already frustrated by not having their phones working properly. After the long wait, they can become fuming mad. I don’t do fuming mad very well.
The job had its humorous aspects. One night there was a wind storm in Michigan, and an older guy called, said his phone was out, his favorite tree fell on his roof, his dog got killed in the storm, and his house was flooded. He was a character, and after telling me his troubles, he said "I’m thinkin’ about callin’ Kevorkian!" I was at least able to get a service truck out to him. Different people react to their troubles differently, and it’s always enjoyable and heartening to talk with someone with a sense of humor.
That was my favorite call. My second favorite one, for opposite reasons, was a woman who called from one of the larger cities in Ohio, and said she had to have service immediately, because "I’m on TV!" I told her "That’s great! We have people from all walks of life who have telephones, and many of them are also on TV! But we won’t be able to get a repairman out until tomorrow." She replied, "But I’m on TV!" I told her that didn’t make any difference, and that priority is only given to emergency workers, like police, firefighters, etc. She didn’t like my answer, and I think I forwarded her to a supervisor. It turned out that she was a frequent caller, always said the same thing, and she indeed did work in television, either as a news anchor or on one of those "Live at 5" shows. She also never got special treatment, and was considered a nuisance.
I was thinking of this call over the weekend, after hearing so many "conventional wisdom" shows on public television and radio. Shows like "News Hour," "Washington Week," on PBS, and "Weekend Edition" on NPR have their own cadres of pundits, highly stylized know-it-alls who seem more "sophisticated" and "honest" than their commercial network counterparts. But only by degree, not by kind. They all refer to Bush as "President Bush," a telling ascription. They all know he stole two elections, that he is a criminal against humanity, and that he poses a serious threat to life on this planet. Why then, do they act as if he not only has legitimacy, but that there are real "policies" to discuss, a real "legacy" to be concerned about, and a real "presidency" for us out here in the hinterlands to bother ourselves about. Pardon me, all you important know-it-alls inside the "Beltway" in Washington, DC! We’re in big trouble! The "president" is on the verge of starting World War III!
Why, one might ask, are the all-knowing knowers in Washington, DC (and of course New York) bending over for the Bush crime family? It’s very simple. They’re on TV! And Radio! In newspapers! They may have to wait to get their phone lines fixed, but they dearly value their "place" in the hierarchy of American society. Tell the truth and you might lose your footing on the mountain, and fall down into obscurity. You might even end up like Gary Webb. Like it or not, the fortunes of our all-knowing punditocracy are tied to the fortunes of the Bush crime family. It’s kind of like the Stockholm Syndrome, except worse. The tradeoff is more craven: celebrity, a few perks, and attention - for your soul.