Even though it was January, the sun was shining and there was only 45 minutes left in the shift. This Friday afternoon had everything necessary to make for an outstanding end to the week. Well, an almost end to the week because we had to work on Saturday from 6:00 am to noon. Besides the shift being nearly over, there were twenty party pizzas from Infusino’s Pizzeria being delivered for the plant meeting scheduled at 4:00 pm. For once, the production area at Koos Inc. would actually smell good. There was nothing that could spoil this outstanding Friday afternoon.
What could possibly go wrong? The pizza party masquerading as a plant meeting was to celebrate the successful completion of the last quarter of the K.E.E.P. incentive program. The acronym stood for Koos Employee Empowerment Program. I know it’s kind of corny, but it wasn’t my idea. Oh wait, yes I did.
Besides having enough pizza to feed a small country, the union employees were also receiving considerable bonus checks for achieving the goals set for them at the beginning of the quarter. The bonus checks, combined with their overtime checks, made for a very happy workforce that Friday afternoon. There was nothing that could spoil the jovial mood.
This meeting was going to be epic. Every plant employee would be in attendance. Union and management. That was the reason for the 4:00 pm start time; it was thirty minutes before first shift ended and thirty minutes before second shift began.
Not only would all the plant employees be present, but the entire office staff would also be in the factory for the event. We’re talking the owners - Peter and his wife Judy, the vice president - Larry, the traffic manager -Jim, inventory supervisor -Jerome and all of the “office ladies” – Louise, Laurie, Millie, Sandy, Christine, Kristy and Kim. Everyone on the Koos payroll would be there.
The plant was humming with excitement. The first shift crew was cheerfully cleaning up while the smiling second shifters were steadily trickling into the production area. When the plethora of pizza arrived, the humming soon turned into an enthusiastic buzz. There was nothing that could spoil this special occasion.
Arnie, the plant manager, grinned as he looked out the window of the small supervisor’s office. He remarked, “Looks like Pete and Judy are getting what they wanted from this program.” I nodded in agreement. The morale at Koos Inc. was definitely at an all time high.
Before I could respond to Arnie, Jim and Jerome entered the office followed by Larry who was beaming. Unable to contain his exuberance, he exclaimed, “Look at those guys! This is great!” There was no denying it; nothing could spoil the atmosphere created by the success of the K.E.E.P. program.
Then the euphoric bubble suddenly burst. Jeff, the 2nd shift supervisor, burst into the supervisor’s office and shouted out, “Freddie is drunk on his ass again.” Freddie was a 2nd shift employee who had a propensity to come work intoxicated or as Jeff so eloquently put it, “drunk on his ass”. He was suspended recently and given a final warning.
The collective smile left the room as Arnie told Jeff to bring Freddie into the office. The moment Freddie entered, the 10’ by 12’ room reeked of alcohol. Although the boozy stench was overwhelming, what came next was even more offensive.
“F#ck you guys!” and “Get f#cked!” were some of the more pleasant phrases that came out of Freddie’s mouth. Intertwined with his profane tirade were accusations of racial prejudice. The fact that Freddie was Hispanic had nothing to do with the situation. The problem was that he was a violent drunk. And his alcohol-induced onslaught was getting increasingly more volatile.
To make matters worse, Freddie wasn’t going anywhere despite Arnie and Jeff insisting that he had to go home. Instead, he just kept cussing louder while the stink in the small room got more unbearable. The shocked look on Larry’s face was unforgettable.
The situation was deteriorating rapidly. With the owners and the rest of the office staff due to arrive any second, it was obvious that someone had to do something to get Freddie out of the plant.
Seeing that Freddie wasn’t listening to Arnie and Jeff, I grabbed him by the shoulder, pushed him toward the door and bellowed, “You were told to go home, let’s go!” Remarkably, he didn’t offer much resistance and left the supervisor office as I guided him with my hand still on his shoulder.
As I led Freddie through the stunned employees assembled in the production area, I looked back over my shoulder hoping that one of the other supervisors would join me. Much to my chagrin, not one of them made an effort to assist me.
The fact that no one came to my aid did not please me. Freddie was a good-sized guy and was no shrinking violet, especially when he was all liquored up. I had no idea what he was capable of once we were alone. When we left the production area it would be just the two of us for over 100 yards before we got to the front of the building. To say I was concerned would be a gross understatement.
When I slid the door open to leave the production area, I did so with much trepidation. Not knowing what to expect, what happened next astonished me. As I took my hand off of Freddie’s shoulder, he broke down and started sobbing, “Paul, I know I f#cked up, but I can't lose my job.”
Completely dumbfounded by this turn of events, we continued to walk to the front of the plant. I told Freddie that he was in no condition to debate the issue. I suggested that he go home and sober up and come back tomorrow to discuss his situation with Arnie and Jeff.
When we finally arrived at the front door, Freddie shook my hand and thanked me for listening. I reassured him that this was his only hope of keeping his job. When he left, I quickly made a beeline back to the production area. And it wasn’t to get some pizza.
As I threw open the door to the supervisor’s office I roared, “Thanks a lot!” Arnie and the other supervisors dropped their pizza, caught off guard by my outburst. Jeff asked innocently, “What’s wrong, Paul?”
Shaking my head in disbelief, I told them in no uncertain terms that I would have appreciated some help in escorting Freddie out of the building. Arnie chuckled briefly before telling me, “Come on, Paul, Freddie is harmless!” Frustrated, I grabbed a piece of pizza and left the office to a resounding chorus of “He’s harmless.”
The next day, Arnie and Jeff fired a sober Freddie. He never worked at Koos Inc. again. But it wasn’t the last we heard of him. There was an article in the Kenosha News about Freddie a few weeks later. Evidently he got into trouble while babysitting his girlfriend’s children and was arrested.
It seems the youngsters were playing with their pet kitten and Freddie also wanted to play with it. When they wouldn’t let him join in, he became furious and cut the kitten’s face off with a large kitchen knife. The horrified children called 911 as Freddie finished murdering their pet, smashing its faceless, bloody body repeatedly against the wall.
Harmless. Ya right…
Until next time…from the booth.