The hidden years in Canada 1

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Thursday 05 March 08:52


The new start

The new start

‘You're doing it all wrong," said Louis the Lip, "were you stillborn?’ I shook my head. ‘I'll show you only once more, pay attention, for crying out loud then if you do it wrong, I’ll kick your ass.’ Louis had a distinct way of speaking and was very present. His IQ must have been at minus 500 and he radiated that. He compensated for that by explaining the work in a very physically way. ‘Hey,’ his focus was away from me now , 'you there' and he pointed accusingly at another new guy. "Are you a candy ass, is your ass really covered with sugar, you lazy bastard. Well damned so help me God, get your ass in gear and if see you once more just standing about than I’ll kick you right out of this joint. ‘King Louis’ had spoken. We chuckled a bit with our head down and gave it all a little more speed. I had been working here now for  three weeks. I had seen people work and leave after half a day. You were paid by the hour and you could leave or be fired by the  hour. You had rights in Canada, but if you used them, you were fired. Louis gave folk a lot of lip and did not want any back talk.

We were the lowest of the lowest, we were totally unskilled and we worked for a construction company. It was our dream to be someday an apprentice plumber or plasterer helper. We were the most ignorant of the ignorant. The company had a shed with a platform at it’s side where a locomotive occasionally left wagons behind to be loaded or unloaded. The new boys were unloading. You should try to avoid the closed wagon which always contained rolls of glass wool insulation. Large bales of yellow wool.  Everything was manually loaded and unloaded. We were cheaper than machines like fork lifts which you had to lease.We did not require maintenance and when you were sick or if you were late, you were fired. Everyone called each other by weird names. Richard was named Rico and I think it was to forget the misery, because the work was monotonous and the slightest things become gigantic jokes.

The first week was a time of memorable roughness and I had understood that you had to keep your mouth shut and let everything simply come over you. You had to make sure that you did not draw attention. Richard looked me up briefly in the break time. ‘I'd rather you call me Rico, this is a strange world, and it looks like nothing they teach you in school. Richard is too genteel and then there is always one that will beat the daylights out of you, for being posh. They like that, they are all heavily frustrated. ‘He was right, I could not have imagined that these sort of work conditions existed and the colleagues of this kind. New ones were terribly bullied and if you were still there after a week, or two weeks later than you belonged to the core group. The number of folk being sacked or quitting was enormous.


Here the men worked who had left a wife and children in another state and had come across the state border to escape alimony. We had 3 'jailbirds', one had committed a robbery and was just back from the prison and the other two had mistreated a bunch of Indians severely and were just out. The rest of the core group were drifters. They worked here or there and were displaced. They worked to drink and that’s what they did every Thursday night. Wages were paid Thursday afternoon and were handed to you in a linen bag. On Friday there were less than drifters. They that slept off their hangover, knew that they did not have to come back, because you got fired per hour and if you did not show up then another drifter took your place . You behaved only sort of normal if your mate was still there after a week . He earned your respect and you his, that you were still there.

San Daniel March 2015

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