Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Cleanserve Incident Part I

The Cleanserve Incident

I’m not a troublemaker. Maybe that’s my problem. If I were more of a troublemaker then I’d spend more time getting myself out of trouble than seeing how much trouble I could get into. For example: The Cleanserve Incident. The Cleanserve incident makes for a good story, a modern fable on capitalism at its worst. When thieves and exploiters meet on opposite sides of a buck there is always drama and the Cleanserve Incident is no exception. Large scale flooding is the perfect setting for insurance fraud and it’s also where looters make their rent. If you want a story where human kindness prevails then I suggest buying something with Oprah on the cover.

This story begins before I even entered the picture. Around February 25th a violent wind and rainstorm lashed the Seacoast. Trees fell and basements flooded. In a bad coincidence, a pipe burst in the University library flooding a floor or two. So, as a popular flood response company called Cleanserve was busy pumping water from basement apartments and flooded warehouses, they were called upon for a large scale, immediate rescue of a State University library. Cleanserve doesn’t carry permanently hired employees because they can’t guarantee a permanent supply of messy suicides and floods and broken septic pumps to justify such a crew. Since the days of hiring Mexican laborers off the streets vanished with the arrival of injury lawsuits and worker’s compensation premiums, Cleanserve now relies on local temporary agencies to provide workers for the intermittent disasters. Most temporary agencies have pools of skilled workers like secretaries, welders, shipping clerks, janitors and drivers. Cleanserve needs someone who can carry a 60 pound plastic bag full of water soaked carpet all day long, for minimum wage, not ask questions, and not complain when they get short changed on the hours…and that type of worker can only be found at Work A Day whose motto “Work today, Paid today” attracts everyone from musicians looking for a quick paycheck to hippies on a road trip trying to fend off starvation to escaped convicts trying to get out of town. I’m sure there are some responsible, skilled individuals who are proud of their work and choose to labor intermittently, for the minimum wage, in unpredictable but mostly dangerous environments, with no training, under negligent supervision…but I haven’t met them yet. They must be in another hall. In my experience, the Work A Day office is home to all manner of society’s mutts, crippled, uneducated, undernourished, ugly, impersonal, violent, easily pissed off, misunderstood, diseased and lacking all long term planning ability. They need money because their parole officer will give them shit if they don’t show they are working or they need money to pay for child support or they just need money to survive. The Work A Day employee pool should be your last stop for reliable workers but it is the first stop for Cleanserve when several large-scale floods exhaust their normal pool of on call help.

Since the University crisis happened during a storm the Work A Day office was empty when Cleanserve called with their request for workers. You or I might be stymied by such a problem but Work A Day has learned that there are two places they can look for workers. The first is to call anyone who didn’t show up that day. They might corral one or two workers sober enough for work that way and if that isn’t enough they will call the transitional housing complex known as Crossroads to see if anyone wants to work. Crossroads, I should remind you, is where you go if you are released from prison or are living on the street. A man I’ll introduce later is homeless but chose to live in a wood stove heated tent by a bog on the old air force base because Crossroads “Is all fucked up.” Lets just say that Crossroads is where you are forced to go when a bear evicts you from your cave. That’s also where Work A Day hand picks their Team Rainy Day Rescue. Work A Day doesn’t feel any loyalty to Cleanserve, they don’t actually care if they get enough men to work. But they do care about the end of the month numbers. If they can gather more men to work then that will translate into a bigger net for the company and I’ll eat my hat if there isn’t a bonus to the dispatcher crew who breaks a certain number of hours worked. Who worked those hours makes no difference. The only thing that matters is the end of the month hours. So a call goes out to crossroads and maybe two or three guys aren’t doing anything and they’re bored so they get a ride to Work A Day sends a car to pick them up and the quota is met and the men are assigned to the job.
“You’re going to the University library. Meet your supervisor in the parking lot. He’ll give you uniforms. He says you’ll need rubber boots so take some now.”
Boots and gloves are provided by Work A Day.
“That’s right.”
“Will we have to whisper?”
“It’s closed.”
“Good. I hate libraries.”
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.