June 29, 2010
One of the first jobs I ever had was working at a pre-cast concrete construction company. They made pieces for buildings all over the region. My job was on a loading crew. The work was typical mindless movement for a few bucks an hour.
The only thing about the job I enjoyed was the people. I would arrive at 6:15 every morning to punch in. I had to stand in line with the other guys to wait my turn at the clock, this is where I began to get to know my coworkers.
Most of them didn't bathe much and I was treated to speech that I thought no one over the age of fourteen still engaged in. These guys were disgusting. They would speak constantly about spending their entire paychecks on weed and beer, then bitch and complain about being broke the following Monday. The topic they seemed to enjoy most was their breeding habits. I spent many days in line clocking in and out wondering what type of women would allow these guys to do the sort of things they would talk about. (it wasn't until many years later that the question was answered when I began working at a sewing plant with forty some odd women, and saw several of the guys I worked construction with coming to pick them up...) Trust me, I have worked construction with lots of men, and at that sewing plant with lots of women... Men do not hold a candle to women when it comes to being disgusting. I stopped more times in that sewing plant just to shake my head than I did at any other place I have ever been.
When it became obvious I would find nobody to speak with at the construction company I did my usual thing and listened. In that way I came to know several men that would influence me throughout life. There were four older guys that worked there that the other people referred to as the "work horses." They didn't complain, they just plodded along each day with whatever they were told to do.
The first one I met was an old guy that everybody called Boot. Boot was the smelliest person I have ever encountered. His aroma was a mixture of sweat and sewage. He always wore his hardhat, he had it on when he got there and kept it on all through lunch and left with it on each day. Boot and I were working together one afternoon when he took his hat off to wipe sweat off of his face. I was shocked to see that his afro had a perfect bald ring in it around his head where his hat sat. Being a straightforward person, I just asked him, "Boot, if your hat pulls your hair out like that why don't you wear a shower cap like the rest of the guys do with afros?" He just laughed and told me he was too old to worry about such shit as that. He went out of state on a job once with several of the guys and the supervisor that went with them told them that he was going to buy them all a big steak dinner on the last night of the project. He said to boot, "Boot... you're making my eyes water. I'm going to pull into this drugstore, and you are going in there and get some deodorant and when we get back to the hotel you're going to take a shower and put some on before we go out to eat." Well boot came out with a little paper bag and spoke nonstop about the good smelling stuff he got at the store. It wasn't until he got out of the shower, took the good smelling stuff out of the bag and began to put it on that anyone realized that it was carpet fresh....
Baker was another of the old guys I came to know. He was quiet and walked with a limp that he picked up fighting in the Vietnam war. Baker was a sandblaster, he would spend all day walking back and forth on a cat walk sandblasting huge stones while wearing a helmet and plastic suit so he wouldn't get covered with sand. I thought it was the worst job there until they let me try it with him for a few days. The helmet was air conditioned and had a radio in it, so Baker told me stories about Vietnam all day as we sanded each piece they put in front of us. I learned a lot from him.
Milt was the weird one. He had just a few teeth and never shaved. His voice reminded me of Scatman Crothers and he seemed friendly enough, yet he always worked alone. He never spoke to anyone at all. He was famous for getting into an argument with a teller at the local bank when she wouldn't cash his check one Friday. He had ripped the stub off his check and thrown it out of the window of the car on the way to the bank, only to discover once he got there that he was trying to cash the stub and had tossed his actual check earlier... I was pulled off of a job one day and was told that I was going to a site in Atlanta with Milt to fix some things on a building. We wound up on the Peachtree Plaza... Right on top... We were tasked to repair the concrete joints between the windows on several floors. I had to slide off the top of the building down to the scaffold before I could attach the safety harness, that was not fun. I spent several days up there with Milt and he kept to himself, I said little to him. The next time we were in the yard I asked the supervisor why I was going with Milt when I wasn't trained to do that type of work. His response was, "Everybody else is afraid of him, you're low man on the totem pole, so you drew the short straw." Then he walked away, leaving me nervous. The next day I couldn't help myself so I asked Milt, "I heard that the other guys were afraid of you.. Why is that?" He never looked at me when I asked him, he just kept right on working and said, "I had to kill a man once, so they're scared of me." I never asked him about it and never found out what happened, but after that day we spoke each time I saw him.
Beaman was the guy I liked. He could not read or tell time, yet had worked construction his entire life, putting each one of his children through college. His daughter had bought him a really nice watch once and he wore it proudly. Whenever anyone walked past him during the day they would always ask, "What time is it Beaman?" He would look at his watch and say the same thing each time, "Seven thirty." My older brother David was a supervisor there and once met a guy in the parking lot to buy some goats from him. Beaman, from that moment on, called him goat man. The day I started working there I was being introduced to him and he said, "What you know good fat boy?" That is how he greeted me each day from then on... He told me a story one day during lunch about a guy that worked there for years... "That crazy motherfucker was the nastiest sumbitch you ever met. Never did eat right, God damn nasty shit... He would bring one of those big ass cans of beanie weenie with him every week. He would eat some of it, then leave it out in the shop and put a napkin on it... The next day he would scrape off the hard part and go right back to eating it, with the same fucking spoon.... Did that shit for years.. No wonder the dumbass died of food poisoning..." He kept me laughing constantly when I worked with him.
Beaman still haunts me in several ways. Many years ago at a family gathering we were talking about playing with a Ouija board. The fad had taken hold a few months prior to that and was all the rage at the time. My cousin and older brother kept talking about it while we were eating and my cousin asked if we had one. I told her that I had several and she began bugging us to go see what we could find out about whoever we had been talking to. We all went downstairs and the two of them set up the board between them and began asking questions. The planchette began its usual slide around the board and was saying things about how it was dark there, but they were happy. David and I were standing in the back of the room listening to the conversation when the question, "Who are you?" was tossed out...
Everything that they were writing down was difficult to decipher because it was all misspelled. The answer to the last question was "bemen" David and I looked at each other. David said, "Ask him if he knows anybody in the room." The answer that came back was "gotman" and then "ftboy" everyone else in the room was confused. I was afraid of what was going on. I worked up the nerve and simply said out loud, "What time is it?" The planchette began to move...
David and I both walked out. We went down the hall and into the other room by the fireplace and stood there for a few minutes. There were several times that I almost spoke, but I kept quiet. Then I just said, "What the hell was that all about?" David looked at me and said, "I got a call last week, Beaman died.."
That was the last time that I was involved with a Ouija board. I have made a few, but have never used one since.