It was probably going to be my last day working for Green Associates. The employees in the union who worked directly for the stadium had nothing to worry about. They worked for the stadium in jobs that some of them had been doing for decades. I wasn’t one of those lucky individuals.
You could tell who worked for the Mean Green and who didn’t. It was in how they moved. Garbage glided down garbage chutes for union employees with smooth enveloping strokes, a side comment or sly observation often accompanying their light loads.
Mean Green dirtbags had to be stuffed to near overflowing, And hustle? We moved faster than any union guy. What a life.
I always dreamed of being famous. The easy life where garbage wasn’t my companion. Eldridge knew how to get the most out of us. He tried to cushion the blows. Green bosses would harangue him about spending too many employee hours, carving him up in our office.
"I want a turnaround!" The door to the office screamed. I imagined paper rustling as Eldridge played for time. We’d find a reason to be near, soaking up any sound, while pretending to snatch soda pop containers and candy wrappers.
“That extra swatch of time is for cleaning up after the concert.”
“Then explain why you couldn’t have waited to clean until a new week started so we wouldn’t have to pay time and a half!”
“Stadium staff get on my case when we wait.”
“Well, you deal with that. I don’t want to have to pay for the time and a half!”
Eldridge would promise something. He would have to. Then once the boss left, he’d come out and lay off work for a while to cool down. We’d gather around. It wasn’t his fault.
As each union member retired or quit, they would be replaced by a Green Associates employee. When I started there were only twenty or so of us, mostly on call. Now more than fifty of us work regular hours with the union guys. We got along all right. The union guys had their part of the stadium and we had ours. The fact that we were cleaning a larger and larger part of the stadium didn’t seem to bother them. There had been talk amongst some of the guys that we should organize and negotiate with Green Associates for better working conditions and pay, but nothing came of it, the bosses seemed to always get wind of this stuff. They’d show up and have a meeting with Eldridge. Then certain guys in our group stopped showing up for work and the union talk would go away. I learned to keep my mouth shut.
But you had to wonder why the union gave up on protecting all the cleaners at the stadium. They didn’t care about how badly Green Associates was treating us? The union got the raises they wanted in exchange for allowing Green Associates to do the hiring and managing of all new employees. A sweetheart deal for the union at our expense.
But the moment I had been dreading finally came. Eldridge called me into the office.
“Now I have everything ready for you. Unemployment papers, your severance, and a letter of recommendation. It's all here.” He slid a packet across to me.
I let my eyes do the talking. Eldridge knew I needed the job. It was no secret. We all did. Eldridge had hired two young men and a third one wanted work. Someone as old as me couldn’t keep up.
Yeah, I had one question. Where was the justice in letting an older employee go when there was still work to be done?
It was getting late in the day. About two hours to go. I still did my job. It was a matter of pride. The other guys would come up to me and wish me luck, saying things like, “See you on the flip side” or “We’ll all be like you sooner or later.” It was all over the stadium that I was let go for no good reason. Letting me go would make the other Green employees bust their humps more!
It was super hot. I mean July hot with humidity like you wouldn’t believe. Eldridge told me to clean the suites on the upper deck. I was too much of a distraction. He wanted me away from everyone. The air conditioning was turned off in those suites when there wasn't a game or event. So, imagine my surprise when a blast of cool air greeted me when I turned the key. It was a super huge one, the most luxurious of them all, with multiple rooms, the most comfortable seats, and large very clean windows. High-class people didn’t throw things on the floor like in the cheap seats. Or maybe everything was cleaner because the corporations had their own people who took care of their clientele. I could hear some women arguing in the room furthest from me.
“This venue is too small, too down market!” said one female voice.
“I’ll tell you one thing. We’re not that interested in returning,” said another.
Then there was this voice I recognized. It was the stadium boss lady; I was almost sure of it. She was the one that would complain to Eldridge about problems with the cleaning of our section of the stadium.
“I would urge you to reconsider. Your concert was sold out in a matter of hours…”
The boss lady kept talking and talking, reeling off a spiel that sounded so fake and practiced. I got distracted and stopped cleaning this spotless room. No point. There was a concert program on one of the tables. Splashy colors, great shots of the band that had played for the crowd whose mess we were cleaning. The songs were listed, and the environment, global warming, and other topics were highlighted. This was no ordinary band.
Then the talking stopped, followed by pounding footsteps. The stadium boss nearly ran into me.
“Oh! I didn’t see you there!”
I kind of looked at the floor a bit. Me in my dirty blue pants, and sweaty short-sleeved shirt, with its garish “Green Associates” logo. She was dressed to the nines. Hair perfect, fortyish, with a sharp black business suit and an impatient manner.
“Don’t get in their way!” she barked. Then she stomped out before I could reply.
So brave for the guys, so empty inside. It all came out, sorry for myself, finally. Tears. I collapsed into one of those comfortable seats.
I guess I didn’t notice them. She crept up, down the aisle behind me. When I was wiping my face on my sleeve, I turned around and saw her.
“Here,” said the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. She handed me a tissue.
The best songs are about ordinary people. So, the band made a habit of talking to people like me. They even looked forward to it. They called it “real life," and they would document people's lives so that the lyrics to their songs would be realistic. They wanted to know everything about me! They even told me to write them and someone who worked for them would keep track of how I was doing.
And guess what? I got my job back. One word from them was all that was needed. Who knew? I was almost famous.