The Loading Dock Manifesto by John Hydukby Art Jacobson on Jul. 02, 2011, under The Writing Life, Unions, Working Poor
America isn’t long on working-class intellectuals, but surely John Hyduk is one of them…although he would be scornful of my calling him one. He’s a working guy who happens to write. Not a lot, not enough to quit his night job on a beverage company loading dock
“You want something higher, a prickly Everyman speaking half-truths to power, go scare up Joe the Plumber. All I know is this: I am a schlub walking a high wire between paydays in steel-toed shoes. And my name is legion.”
His wonderful essay on what the working life is, and its values, was recently published in Esquire.
“I grew up in a blue-collar Cleveland neighborhood, a little bit of Old Europe transplanted onto a bend of the Cuyahoga River. The men — Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Ukies, Hungarians — were scrappers and needed to be. Their wives stayed home, had gardens and babies, and could see the future in the bottoms of teacups.
I never needed a fortune-teller to see mine. It came shuffling past our porch every evening at 5:25, toting a lunch pail. At eighteen you were swallowed by the python and made your way through the beast like a lump. At the other end was a mill pension, casino trips on a bus charter twice a year, and church bingo every Wednesday.
You don’t always have work. After losing a job, five months went by before the loading dock job came up.
Once a month I update my résumé. Why, I don’t know exactly. When I was looking, five months spent on orange plastic interview chairs, with my livelihood hanging on reliable transportation and a willingness to pee in a stranger’s cup, that was the mantra. “Make sure you keep your résumé updated,” some hiring clerk would tell me.
So I walk the hall of mirrors. There I am at the beginning — my hair is black and my back is straight, and I’m sliding into my first Ford, heading off to work. “Honky Tonk Women” is on the radio. Then I’m gone, pushing, pulling my way down a tunnel. A page later you look up and that gray-haired daddy o’ mine is … you. That’s the working life.
No illusions: The only way I will ever see Paris is on the Travel Channel. I will never taste cassoulet unless they put it on the menu at Sheetz. I’m okay with that. One day you stare into the bathroom mirror and Willie Nelson is staring back at you. I’m okay with that, too.
You tote a lot more to work in a lunch pail than Ring Dings. You pack alimony and autism diagnoses and car notes and the rest of the workingman’s grind. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. Also braces, a better school, and a down payment on that spring field trip. And you chew whatever has been dumped on your plate in silence.
You don’t go into therapy. You go to work.