Monday, February 15, 2010

Ambition - Labor pt. 4

With the Winter Olympics in full swing up in Vancouver, the culmination of four years of training is coming to fruition for Olympic athletes. Some have only this platform to showcase their talents and unique sports, giving a new meaning to the sporting mantra of pacing yourself. The desire for gold drives the ambitions of many like American Hannah Kearney, but for a lot of athletes, including the Jamaican bobsled team of '88 (strangely denied participation in the past few games), just getting to the games and crossing the finish line is a victory in itself.

Recently, in a rare, warm spell here in Colorado, I played basketball with a blind student on CU's campus. His name was Ethan, and he came up to me and asked if I wanted to play one-on-one. Hungry for some real competition, I, of course, indulged. He wanted me to play him like I would anyone else, but I couldn't bring myself to unleashing my normal buffalo mode. I did have an impressively hot hand from the perimeter that day, however.

Surprisingly, the final score was not a shutout. Ethan was able to dribble the ball to within four feet of the basket and make lay-ups and baby hook shots even with my arms stretched in the air scoring around seven points. This was possible due to his ability to distinguish black and white shapes, and shadows of movement. When he was guarding me, he was able to tell when I dribbled the ball through my legs or when I posited a spin move. He was also able to tell when I swished a shot calling it "the greatest sound in basketball." His sense of hearing helped him identify a stray rebound, closing in on the bouncing object, or when he wanted to pass it to me, he asked that I clap, and he would sling the ball with decent accuracy in my direction. He asked for any tips, but sadly, because I've never sat and thought about such a dilemma, I was unable to offer any enlightenment other than practicing free throws because of the straight-on, fixed nature of the shot. I also said something about the practicality of handoff plays if we were playing a team game. (I will save these tips for my coaching debut at the special Olympics).

Ethan's favorite team was the Lakers, his favorite players Kobe and Shaq, hearing of their dominant exploits back in the early 2000's when he arrived in America from Ethiopia. He's gone to games, where he listens to the commentators with headphones, hopefully sitting close enough to hear actual sounds from the game e.g. shoes squeaking, players and coaches calling out plays, the substitution and shot clock buzzers, and of course, the rim shots and nothing-but-nets. Above all else, Ethan is a successful example of being able to follow your passions with the proper drive and confidence in your abilities just like the Olympic athletes.

Now that the inmates are gone, the ghosts here in MRFtown are whispering. They're saying we need to start hiring some folks to reward production goals met and to boost our product quality. Somewhere in the last couple weeks we were able to diminish our tipping floor piles, monstrous mountains of trash, that when I arrived and up until a couple weeks ago, were overflowing out the door. I'd like to think that my gophering efforts to help fix machinery, (and the massive dent I put in Eco-Cycle's shop maintenance budget), had a hand in this, but the true saviors of MRFland are the laborers who put work in to catch up with the production curve. I'm hoping a worker appreciation barbecue is in order. Somehow finding myself in charge of the employment task force and with this lull in material coming in, I need to keep pushing the Operations Manager, Jerry, on the bbq, but mostly to hire a few of the better contract workers, some who've been here for nearly a year still technically working for a labor source. These guys are determined to have a job, and if the recession has had any visual impact for me, it is most evident in the struggles of our workers.

I can't tell you how many little struggles I've heard when a worker comes in to the production office with a story. One forklift operator had something stuck in his eye for two weeks, and the dusty environs of the MRF irritated it even further. One of the line leaders didn't come in to work for a week with mental health problems amounting to depression and suicidal thoughts. Another guy whos been here for a year is considering another job that pays a dollar more an hour, but hates starting new jobs, especially when his wife's ex-husband is the business owner. Misplaced checks, multiple family members working different shifts, lunch/small theft are all a reality of working here. These guys must have immense determination to come back to work here every day amidst all their personal problems. Struggle brings strength, and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It has yet to be seen whether this saying applies to economic theory, or perhaps even labor relations.

In other news, a massive flock of blackbirds returns daily to feed on our outdoor glass piles where we dump our compactor residue around lunchtime. One has to wonder if or when the little bits of glass cullet, inseparable from any existing food residue, will kill them.

1 comment:

  1. great writing once again...the last paragraph was great in some sort of metaphorical way. the blind kid was truly inspiring and made consider why i don't use sense more when playing ball