By Blaney Pridgen
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Long ago and not too far away, I endured work experience in two warehouse jobs. One involved stoves and refrigerators. Often, we would load right off of the box car and take them to newly constructed apartments. The other one involved cases of four one gallon cans and big contractor buckets of paint. We would warehouse them off of a big truck, reload them later on a small truck and off load again. I say “we” because at both jobs I was assisting an experienced warehouse man. Both of these guys knew how to lift, handle and move heavy stuff. I was by necessity a ready learner. How to do that has served me very well all my life. But, I learned other things from these two, that penetrated and trained my soft matter too.
Killer ran the appliance warehouse. Yes, “Killer.” He earned his nickname and prison term from an unfortunate knife fight. He took a blade away from an assailant and cut him with it. The man later died of blood poisoning for which Killer was convicted of some lesser degree of something, that cost him two years in prison. This was of a time and place and he was of a race when sentencing was brutal. Killer actually had a very kind and sweet spirit. He nicknamed me “Flying Cloud.” He often complained that my conversation and opinions were not down to earth. His were. Killer taught me how to live in the moment and focus on what matters most. When we got our pay, he would always say, “Go to the grocery store first and get whatever you want, then pay out the rest.” When we were loading, his mantra was, “Don’t force it, easy, easy.” That’s come in handy for all manners of heavy lifting in all situations. Freddie ran the paint warehouse. He was a devout member of the Salvation Army. He was way far not as earthy as Killer. He also taught me. His Christian faith was inextricably tied to service to others. His courtesy and care with customers, truck drivers, and co-workers were a sincere part of his essential being. He never got angry or hasty or critical, even when he had just cause. (We worked for and with some aggravating individuals.) When I asked him how and why he could stay so cool, he said, “I save my energy for other stuff.” Like What? He said, “Give somebody a reason to be happy and be happy yourself.” During the time I worked alongside Freddie, I was an angry punk, but he gently nudged me otherwise.
Life is filled with heavy loads that need moving. Looking back, I wonder how Killer and Freddie were able to do what we did in those warehouses into their 50’s and 60’s. What if they developed a bad knee or back? What if their bosses were unjust jerks who deprived them a sense of worth without a living wage? What if in their old age, not much was left after the grocery store? One would hope that the people they worked for and the government they pledged allegiance to would have treated them with courtesy and care and justly served them as they have been served by them in the warehouses of our lives.
To this day I approach heavy loads, the real and metaphorical ones, with Killer’s mantra; “Don’t force it. Easy; easy.” And, I sincerely want someone to remember that I was kind and caring like I remember Killer and Freddie.