Monday, November 21, 2011

A Koos Thanksgiving Tradition

It was a typical cold afternoon in late November at Koos Inc. All four of the production lines were humming, spitting out Safe Step Ice Melter® in packages ranging in size from 10-pound bags to 100-pound drums. All three of the forklift operators were flying around the plant, doing their collective best to keep up. They knew that if they didn’t, a line would stop and they would hear it from the Production Supervisor, namely me.

Okay, not all of the forklift operators were doing their best to keep up.

As I stood chatting with Will Meurer from the manufacturing department, veteran forklift operator Herb “Butch” Krienke screeched to a halt inches way from the two of us. Doing my best Arno Schubert impersonation, I bellowed, “What the f*ck is wrong with you, Butch?”

Most of the work force paused momentarily to see what had caused my reaction.

Krienke, without even batting an eye, yelled back, “Excuse me! I was just wondering if Danielson is picking up the stuff for Thanksgiving. You know it’s Monday already!”

This resulted in all of the crew in the immediate vicinity to cock an eye and wonder what was going to happen next.

Shooting a quick glance at Meurer, I replied in a firm, no-nonsense tone, telling Krienke that Danielson would be picking everything up on Wednesday afternoon so he can hand it out between shifts. Danielson was Arnie Danielson, the Plant Manager.

Noticing that I now had everyone’s attention, my voice increased in volume when I asked Krienke if he had let the office know whether he wanted a turkey or a ham this year. He replied, “Hell ya, I told them I want the ham. They can keep those turkeys.”

Meurer then told Krienke, “You’re nuts, give me the bird any day.”

As Krienke laughed and sped off on his forklift, I noticed that the rest of the employees had stopped staring and were now having “small group discussions”. I let them go for a bit before finally asking them why nobody was working.

After a short pause, a bagger whose nickname was Bonehead stepped forward saying, “Paul, most of us just started working here and we don’t know nothing about the turkey or ham thing. Hell, we didn’t even know we was getting anything for Thanksgiving!”

Remembering that the production at Koos was very seasonal and that over 50% of the laborers were indeed brand new; I ordered the lines to shut down and had an impromptu plant meeting.

When the machines quieted down and everyone had gathered, I asked the man they called Bull Dog to step forward. As he did, I asked him, “Dog, you’re a Union Steward, didn’t you tell the guys they had to make a choice between a turkey or a ham for Thanksgiving?”

Bull Dog looked perplexed for a moment, and then grinning slightly, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oops, my bad. Sorry Paul.” I told him not to worry, there was still time.

Catching the gaze of Krienke, Meurer, Bull Dog and several other Koos old-timers, I then looked at my watch before addressing the crew with my solution for this problem.

“Here’s what we are going to do”, I announced. “Since it is nearly 2:00 o’clock and break time, any of you who haven’t already made your choice, get over to the office and let Millie or Louise know what you want, a turkey or a ham.”

The word ham hadn’t left my lips when 15 or 20 dirty, dusty, hardhat wearing workers darted for the ramp, making a beeline out of the plant, across the parking lot and into the office to let the unknowing ladies know whether they wanted a turkey or a ham for Thanksgiving.

With all the novices over at the office placing their orders, Tyrone Walker, a veteran Koos employee of several seasons, walked past me and the other remaining veterans, shook his head and muttered, “You guys just ain’t right.”

As we burst into laughter, the phone in my office rang. Taking a moment to compose myself, I answered it. It was Millie, one of the secretaries from the office. Now Millie had a bit of a southern accent, so sometimes some of her words were hard to understand.

Not this time.

“You assholes did it again! A turkey or a ham! Happy Thanksgiving, Paul!” With that she hung up the phone rather firmly. I smiled to myself, knowing that the Koos Thanksgiving tradition had carried on for another year.

I hoped you enjoyed this holiday classic from the Koos Inc. vault. Next month you will be treated to that masterpiece, “A Koos Christmas Story”. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Until next time…from the booth.


sue said...

Ha ha - you little devil ! and no mention of Arno.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

We were devils! It worked every year!

Anonymous said...

You, sir, are testing the boundaries of artistic license. We both know that "my bad" was not in play in those days. Shame!

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

"Anonymous" (if that's really your name) I beg to differ with you. Steve "Blade" Hess popularized that saying in the mid '80s…

Anonymous said...

As I said to the butcher the last time he tried to thumb the scale, "No, weigh!"

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

As Lili von Shtupp, the "Teutonic Titwillow" said, "Oh, it's twue. It's twue. It's twue, it's twue!"