Who forgets to order coal? Stan Gerber, that’s who. I wanted to cuss that man, but the teamsters were already cussing him with language fouler than I could rise to. I find that laborers swear with an enthusiasm ill met by any man who is more refined or better stationed. Those lower classes take all their feelings of rage and contempt, then concentrate them into three words, practicing and using those words over and over, up and down, like a trumpeter practicing scales. And like a trumpeter, those notes sounded perfect to my ears but never perfect to theirs.
Those teamsters worked outside in miserable weather like this, their coal stove in the corner being their only respite. Thus their hate for Stan Gerber. Between trucks, the teamsters gathered around that stove to find some solace from the weather and some companionship with their fellows by practice their cussing, only now they cussed together, like a jazz band, improvising their way through the same old tune, cussing with new and delicate variations. They cussed about the truck, cussed about the crates, cussed about fragile labels, and cussed about their wives, telling the unmarried ones to stay unmarried. This was their music, cooperation and competition at the same times. At least, this was music to their ears. To me, those improvisations were noise.
Meanwhile, I worked as the shipping clerk for that warehouse. Trucks came in, I transcribed numbers into ledgers, added them up, filed them, then never thought about them again. It was a simple job, but surprisingly few people wanted it. The clerk position wasn’t a union job, so I got paid worse than the teamsters. That didn’t bother me. I picked that job because I wanted to keep my head down and stay unnoticed. And honestly, I also liked the routine. I am a creature of habit and I like being a creature of habit. Most people are creatures of habit, too, but a surprisingly large number won’t admit to it. I don’t know what they fear, other than being identified as creatures of habit.