At the end of a morning safety briefing the acting supervisor told us. “As far as I know, the job will be abolished October eleventh.”
The meeting breaks up and the crowd murmurs. The big question has just been answered and with an actual measure of authority. None of the usual “I heard from my cousin in the office…,” or “My step-dad working in Rosemont told me…” This is a concrete answer from someone in know. No bullshit. The end is nigh. Questions take flight and flutter about our heads: What you gonna do? Where you going to go?
Most of the ground guys haven’t made the Driver and RMO rosters. We are low on the lists of seniority. The options for us are limited. We ask anyway, we repeat the above fact of our helplessness to each other, in frustration, for comfort. We join the din.
“Much as this sucks and I can’t wait to get out of here, I kinda don’t want this to end,” someone says.
He isn’t wrong: I hate the repetitive nature of the work and I’m sick of seeing the same faces every day and this has lasted way too long and I want a break. But not that the horizon is in view, I panic when I realize there’s more to it than I care to admit.
If this ends, what am I going to do without you guys?
Because this production job has lasted so long, (now in the seventh month of its life, four months longer than usual) the ground guys have spent a extraordinary amount of time together. I really hate to describe the relationship as familial but how else to define a group that a) did not chose to become a group in the first place, and b) accepts and includes all regardless of fault, flaw or conflict? The definition of a family member: one second you’re calling them an asshole, the next you’re punching someone in the face for calling them an asshole.
We’ve established several systems of identification to bond us in the work and, more importantly, against infidels. First names and surnames are altered and, in certain instances, changed completely. James becomes Jimmy; J. Crawford is twisted into Crawfish; Tommy D. is transformed into Rogue. Not everyone given a nickname. The christening is not an obligation. (My new moniker? “The Professor.”)
And like any isolated tribe a common tongue has developed between us, cobbled together from ripped slang, favored curses and inside jokes, our own language which solidifies our connections while acting as a shield, a distinct level of separation from the outside world. This is our code: It’s about to get real/I’m goin deep/Oyster crackers and Coloring Books/Gettin it/Little 307 dick stain/Stand up some bottles, bitches/Daywalkers comin/Signal head!/There’s a monster in my pants!/Sucka!/Mmm-Hmm/One rock, one rock/You just got blasted/He’s going blackout.