There isn’t a whole lot of intellectual discussion going on in a factory that makes batteries and if you think about what some batteries are made from, that being cadmium and nickel, there aren’t too many people with good sense that would take the job to begin with. Cadmium is some really bad stuff to breathe and if a person could get a better job they were very likely to do so. That left those of us desperate or uncaring enough to fill the jobs and that was where I was.
Dave was one of those guys who could have been thirty or eighty but looked weathered and worn enough to be on the upper scale. I was to find out much later in life he was closer to eighty but it was hard to tell. Dave sold pot as a side business and I never bought any smokable drug from anyone who worked around Cadmium dust. It just seemed like a very bad idea. He and I would share a court room one day but that’s another story. Dave taught me much about our justice system and why as a black man he assumed he was screwed if he had to go to court. It had nothing to do with drugs, by the way.
Curtis was Dave’s biggest buyer and one of the two people, me being the other, of the seven man crew who didn’t smoke cigarettes. In fact, Curtis’s big vice, other than weed, was grapefruit juice. He drank a quart before work and a quart at our lunch break. I thought he had to be slipping Vodka in it, but he never showed any signs of being drunk.
The odd thing about Curtis was he was one of the most avowed and severe racists I had ever met, and let’s face it, if you were raised in South Georgia during the sixties chances are you had run into a racist or two. Dave did miss a lot of work but he didn’t have a car and Curtis never gave Dave a ride unless he was out of pot. Dave and Curtis were the only two of us who lived out by the Interstate and Dave never asked anyone for a ride anywhere at any time. So he missed work if it rained or if the weather turned too cold. Or if he got in some great weed. He made seven bucks an hour and could sell pot for one hundred bucks an ounce. Do the math.
Curtis’ thing about blacks was he thought all of them were on food stamps and all of them were thieves. Of course, Curtis never said any of this around Dave, but I had a feeling, which was later confirmed, that Dave knew what Curtis was about. Curtis also didn’t trust his wife. We had thirty minutes for lunch and Curtis lived ten minutes away from the plant. He would race home during break and park in the road in front of his trailer and check the driveway for fresh tracks and then race back to work. He would wolf down a pack of crackers and chase it with grapefruit juice. Oh, and he admitted that this was what he was doing. Curtis said the two kids at the house were not his; that they happened while he and his wife had broken up.
But she was the real story here. I met her about a year after she and Curtis broke up for real. She started dating another guy on the crew and we discovered Curtis never married her because that would have cut into her food stamps. All the rants and raving he had done about blacks robbing us blind on welfare and all the while he was drinking that damn grapefruit juice that was bought with food stamps.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit