I grew up in a middle class suburban area. By the time I started working at OMT I’d worked quite a few dead end low paying jobs. I had found out that realizing the American Dream was a lot more complicated for most people than it had seemed when I was twelve. I had learned that managing to live indoors, eat regularly, and have clothing were trickier than I had thought. I was happy that I had managed to keep a car and have some used stereo components.
I started to think that I was catching on. I was mistaken. OMT taught me the three most important things in life. In descending order of importance they are: drinking, gambling, and sex. Drinking, by far, is the most important.
Big Dick’s question, “Are you a drinking man?” opened the door to item one. I soon became accustomed to seeing people at OMT drunk. They were not tipsy, not high, not getting a glow on. They were trashed, plastered, wasted. They had slurred speech, and unsteady gait, and were prone to vomiting.
I had been a pizza parlor manager for nearly a year. I’d dealt professionally with things like that before. I was accustomed to saying things like “I’m sorry, sir, I’m afraid I’ll have to cut you off.” or ease them out the door by saying “Sir could I talk to you over here?” and end up on the sidewalk. I’d then slip back inside and hold the door shut. When the owner taught me that one I was amazed. It worked. I never tried it on a biker.
I wasn’t used to seeing my boss behave like that. I don’t know if I got used to it but I learned to expect it.
Steve the night shift foreman when I started, exemplified the OMT Way. He was blonde haired and a bit below medium height. His short neck and broad forehead gave him a toad like appearance. He had acne, unusual for a man in his thirties that added to his toadness. He was born in a medium sized city in Minnesota. He learned heat treating in a midwestern city noted for its large manufacturing industry. He had worked in one of the largest commercial heat treating plants there. Steve had been on probation in that state. One night he and some friends were getting drunk. They ran out of beer. Steve volunteered to go to the store. He managed to drive to a convenience store and brought a case of beer up to the register. Suddenly it dawned on him. He had no money. He told the clerk he needed to get his wallet from his car. He came back wielding a tire iron. The clerk triggered the silent alarm.
Steve was a mean drunk. He was rude and cantankerous. Two of his favorite expressions were “snake dick” and “fist fuck.” He used them as epithets without concern for their real meaning. For example, instead of saying “Well I’ll be darned,” he would say “Well, fist fuuuck.” When he came to work and talked with the swing shift foreman about what needed to be done he would say things like “Fuck you, you old bastard, I’m not gonna do that.” He was insulting and competitive and needed to be Right. He loved to be nasty for the sheer fun of it. Since he spent a lot of his free time in bars and wasn’t big, strong, or a good fighter he got beaten up more often than most people.
Steve liked to come to work well prepared. When he had a car he liked to bring in a twelve pack of beer and a pint of whiskey. When he didn’t have a car and depended on someone picking him up at the Buckhorn, his favorite bar, in the company truck he’d send someone to the store later.
When I worked on the swing shift, sometimes I’d stay after work to smoke dope and drink a beer or two with Steve and John, a friend of Steve‘s from the midwest who’d landed at OMT. John was, apart from being a drinking man, a decent person. His wife had gone to high school with Steve. Steve was the smartest person in her class. One night Steve was walking from the back of the shop to the front, a distance of nearly a block. He got about half way, stumbled, vomited, and stood up straight and walked the rest of the way as thought nothing had happened.
Steve eventually got a job at a forge shop in Berkeley where they paid union wages. When he left OMT he had to work an extra two weeks in order to pay off the advances he’d taken on earlier pay checks.