FLANGING 69

The plant supervisor Geoff L. used some of the employee relations money from Trinity to put up a basketball hoop in the parking lot just outside the break room.  And the union bought several balls.  The concept was sound.  Basketball is exercise, and exercise is good, right?  We’d wolf down our lunches, then go out and play until the whistle blew.  Most of us were playing in heavy steel-toe shoes, although some of the younger guys would change into sneakers.  But us in the clodhoppers could only hop around instead of jump, and bump into each other.  A lot.  When we played there were no fouls.  Ron H. wouldn’t even hardly dribble.  He’d just knock everyone aside as he bulled his way to the basket.  Some of the younger guys were good, but they couldn’t make a basket if they were laid out flat on their backs.  As you can tell, the games got pretty rough.

But it was fun, and no one got seriously injured.  Until the assistant plant manager Dale B. twisted his ankle.  I didn’t see it, it happened during second shift.  He and several others from the office had gone out after work for happy hour.  Then they came back to the shop to play some basketball.  The sprain must have been serious, because Dale was on crutches for weeks.  But he couldn’t make any kind of medical claim for it because he was intoxicated at the time, and drunkenness is not allowed on company property.  So I don’t know how he resolved the insurance issue.  But that was the first strike against the basketball hoop.

The second came from Cheryl K., our new personnel manager who had replaced Bob E.  She watched us play basketball one day.  Now females can be squeamish at the sight of blood, but she claimed she had never seen anything like it in her life.  Grown men bludgeoning each other fighting over a basketball.  She said it was much too dangerous.  So she had the hoop taken down, without even a third strike.

But we engaged in other sports at work.  Snowball fights were fun.  Heads and steel plates would be brought inside covered in snow, and soon the air would be filled with snowballs.  Remember the newbie I tricked by turning off the breaker for the overhead crane?  He got me back.  I was operating the polisher at that point.  More about that later.

But at one point during the process I would stop the machine and get down inside the head (we polish the insides of some huge heads) and use a patent wheel to grind out the deeper pits, then run the machine some more to blend these places in.  Anyway, when I do this I first locate all the pits and mark them with a yellow circle, because once I begin grinding them out the head fills up with dust and they are hard to see.  So one day I am down on my knees in a big head marking pits when I happen to look up and find him leaning over the edge of the head making little yellow circles everywhere.  I yell at him and run him off, then get back to work, only to look up and find him at it again.  I spent a long time on that head since I couldn’t tell the difference between my yellow circles marking pits and his yellow circles which didn’t mark anything.  But I got him back.  It was winter, and there was several inches of snow on the ground.  After work I caught him walking out to his car with his arms full of dirty work clothes he was taking home to launder.  So I scooped up two big handfuls of snow and ran up behind him.  He heard me coming, but there was nothing he could do with his arms full.  I plastered him in the face with the snow, then kept running.

Another fun game was tape ball football.  This took place on second shift, after the office people had left.  Since I was on first at the time, I never engaged in it, I only heard the tales.  A huge ball of duct tape was fashioned, that the players threw to each other.  The receivers ran elaborate routes, around heads and between machines and across stacks of steel circles.  Until someone nearly knocked himself out.  He was running a streak pattern down an aisle and was looking back at the quarterback and ran smack into a forklift.  He was hurt pretty bad.  So that took some of the fun out of it.  Although when snow wasn’t available people continued to throw tape balls at each other.  The supervisor who took over after Geoff L. retired, Mark L., got so upset over finding these huge tape balls all over the shop he called a meeting about it.  He showed us one he had found, and it did look wicked.  He told us they were too dangerous to be throwing at each other, and to emphasize his point he hurled it at a break room window.  It barely missed Felan R.’s head and shattered the window behind me, covering me in glass.  Then Mark stormed out.  He made his point, and the tape ball throwing stopped.  Shortly after, all the windows in the break room and locker room were replaced with glass block, impervious to tape balls thrown during meetings by enraged supervisors.

One pastime I never took part in was nail gun tag.  Shipping has a nail gun they use to build skids and crates.  I don’t know if anyone was ever stupid enough to shoot nails at someone else with this gun.  But one day after Geoff L. saw the floor covered in nails, some far from shipping, he called a meeting and announced anyone caught misusing the nail gun would be fired.  We’ve had meetings about some weird stuff.

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