For my first observance of Lent in 40 years, I joined a colleague at work and gave up swearing. As of Good Friday, the two of us had amassed $20.75 in the swear jar on her desk.
Each time a profanity was uttered, we agreed that $1 would be added to the swear jar. The 75 cents accounts for lesser degrees of the offence. Swearing after hitting one’s thumb with a hammer, for instance, was deemed to be an involuntary reaction, mitigated even further if nobody was present at the time of the utterance.
At the age of 19, after entering my recovering Catholic period, I became very proficient in the use of profanity. I knew how to swear, of course, but it was not until I became a Teamster loading trucks in a grocery warehouse that I elevated it to an art form. For that, I blame Walter, a particular trucker who had been in the international brotherhood all his life and was No. 1 on our local’s seniority list.
Walter, or “Number 1,” as we referred to him, was never satisfied with the way we had loaded his truck. After a run, you could hear him cussing as he walked onto the loading dock, his expletive-laden disgust rising above the whirr of forklifts and the barking orders of Marty, the burly dock foreman.
“Where are those dirty, (expletive), long-haired, (expletive), misfit, (hyphenated expletive) good-for-nothing (expletive) college kids who loaded my (expletive) truck?” he would yell. He accused us of tossing sides of beef on top of eggs, and piling frozen boxes of ice-packed chickens on top of cartons of toilet paper, which soaked up the sticky, rank-smelling, melting mixture of water, blood and fat like a giant sponge.
It was all lies, but who were we, mere serfs, to defend ourselves against the accusations of Number 1? Our education those summers while on break from school was to learn to play cards, pack trucks tightly so loads wouldn’t shift, drink whiskey and talk tough like Teamsters. [Emphasis added.]
Who says unions aren’t useful for something?
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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