Chapter Seventeen: The Lecture

Manchester South High School was closed for Spring vacation. At 5:15 on Wednesday morning, Jennifer picked up Steve and Yesenia. Yesenia’s parents were still sleeping. Jennifer drove to the Labor Ready office in Manchester. They waited in the car until 5:30, when a man pulled up and got out. After he opened the office, dozens of ragged people walked in. Jennifer, Steve and Yesenia walked in. They poured themselves complimentary coffee and took seats in the waiting room.

At 6:00, the dispatcher started handing out job tickets to workers. But Jennifer, Steve and Yesenia did not sign in.

At 6:20, the dispatcher called the names of three men, saying to the one who owned a car, “I’m sending you to the construction site in Bedford where you worked yesterday. I’m sending these two also. It pays eight dollars an hour, you guys, and it starts at seven o’clock.”

The two men without cars spoke to the one with the car, who replied, “Sure, I’ll give you a ride, but you’ll have to make the usual payment for gas.”

“Can we pay you when we get back? We’re broke.” one replied.

“Well, okay, as long as you agree to be paid in cash, not a check, so you can pay me here in the office.” the man offered. Both men agreed to the deal.

The dispatcher asked, “Do any of you guys have hardhats?”

They looked at each other and one replied, “Nope.”

The dispatcher issued them hardhats on loan. “Required on any construction site.” he said.

By 6:30, half the waiting room had been dispatched to jobs. Jennifer, Yesenia and Steve overheard one man lament to another, “I could have gotten sent out yesterday, but I didn’t have bus fare.”

At 8:00, Jennifer said, “Let’s get in the car.”

Steve asked, “Why did you bring us here?”

Jennifer answered, “Because I wanted to show you what drugs do to people. Liquor is a big one. These people’s idea of job security is a repeat ticket where they need them all week. Any kind of vice, whether it’s gambling, drinking, cocaine, leads to that dead end, and it’s pretty tough to pull yourself out of it. You two have your whole lives ahead of you. Yesenia, did you watch the final game of the 2004 World Series, on 27 October 2004?”

Yesenia was puzzled by the question. “Yes, I did, but what does that have to do with it?”

Jennifer said, “Manny Ramírez is from the Dominican Republic. What did he say when they handed him the World Series MVP trophy?”

Yesenia remembered, “Something about how, in this life, you pick your own destination.”

Jennifer noted, “That’s right. He speaks Spanish better than he speaks English, and I think he meant, destiny and not destination. But the point is, it’s your choice. Steve, you’ll have it pretty tough at first, if you’re working at a job where you have to stand all day, or walk all day, because in school, you sit. But take pride in doing a good job. Wherever you work, look out for the employer. You’re on their side, unless they’re doing something wrong. Be a contributor, not a drain. Pull your own weight, and then some, and always have a back-up plan, or that’s where you wind up.”

Yesenia said, “That’s especially true now that the government welfare programs are being shut down.”

Jennifer said, “That’s truly a good thing. People who don’t want to eat at a church soup kitchen don’t mind collecting food stamps from the government, because they feel they’re entitled to them, by law. But it’s a hand-out, either way, and it’s bad for you, bad for your self-respect. It’s also bad for your freedom.”

Steve asked, “How are hand-outs bad for freedom?”

Jennifer replied, “When the tyrants want to make an unjust law that will put you out of work, violating your rights, you protest less if there’s welfare you can fall back on. Lawmakers themselves feel it’s okay to vote people out of jobs, because there’s welfare available to them. You two don’t want welfare. You want jobs.”

  Copyright © 2004 Tom Alciere