O: Jim’s Factory


I once heard a story, about a boy who got into more trouble then he knew what to do with. He fought with his brother, avoided his mother, and watched his father in the garage. As years past the boy sat in class, mastered his skills, but rarely interacted in the rooms. He knew the pot dealers, held his own parties, and even found a way to charge admission with his brother. He was a gear head, a grease monkey, always trying out a new idea. Unfortunately, like every other soul in the world that wishes to move on he too had to find employment.

At 16 years of age he started sweeping paper. Just scraps, pieces of paper cut from massive machines, something his father had worked on. Tireless, without complaint, he made his money, swept his scraps, and kept working day to day. As he grew older, the company of paper continued to expand and he increased his involvement within the company. He worked as a die cutter, a pressman, and even in the glue room occasionally. He joined the Teamsters Union, not fully getting what the point of that was, and made friends with those who came and went with this company, but he always stayed. Sure, there were other job openings, new beginnings around each corner. From church cleaning to box packing; there was something always available, but he always stayed with the company. In recent years, with economic woes, he took the hits, watched his friends leave, but kept his family his priority. He continued to work. In the building with no air conditioning, the building that smashed his fingers, and even caused him to fall off a stage onto the concrete floor, he always worked. He took his friends fishing once a year for several years, just a weekend on the lake. As the years passed, one by one those friends disappeared, but even without them or even the fishing, he kept working.

Thirty years and more passed, his loyalty never waved. His wife laid in the bed with cancer, and he made it a priority to work in the factory, drive sixty miles south to the hospital, stay with her all day, and head back to work the next day, for months. His family came first, and he stayed with the company to ensure it.

As age came, so did changed, the company switched ownership, new clients came in, and the presses kept running. Every so often there’d be a hiccup in the financials for the plant and paychecks were hit, but that never stopped him from working. 8 hours, 10 hours, even 12 hour shifts ranging from five to six to seven days a week; he never stopped working, always followed orders, and would get up no matter what hour of the day it was.

33 years since the boy brushed the papers along the floor and he still stands there today. He’s a pressman, running one of the massive machines in the plant. He’ll do it for 19 more days.

It was announced last week that June 7th, 2013 would be the last day the company existed. Many clients outsourced to the state of New York from the new owners of a couple years. Everyone would be let go, pensions are practically gone, 401k’s are non-existent and retirement is out of the question. Severance packages would exist, but that massive box at Leonard Road and Easton-Saxton will not make a noise again once that day passes.

With 30+ years of experience, technical school training, but no college degree, where will he go? What will he do to ensure his family stays number one?

Sometimes in life I really do wish that soccer was the only stress that I experience. I’m sure everyone else would agree to have that one item to stress them out, but for everything else to run smoothly. I’ve been thinking over the past several days about this post, and the anger that comes with it. I was informed last Tuesday that Jim’s plant; Climax Packaging [St. Joseph Packaging] is closing on June 7th, 2013 for good; leaving Jim without a job. It has been eating at me for days, even causing a lack of sleep in several instances. I’ll brag on him in this post [because he’d never do it himself], he is one of the hardest working blue collar individuals I’ve ever met. When I first met him [when I was 5] he had a black beard, cut-off black t-shirt, overalls, and carried his lunch in what used to be a tool box. He was one terrifying dude, and to this day that unspoken respect still stands in my mind at a level I didn’t even know existed. He tied my shoes before my first ‘competitive’ mile, made my breakfast nearly every school day for six years, and was the person who took me to every single recreational soccer game as a kid [MC had to work on Saturday’s at that time, so don’t judge her]. Rather quiet, he unintentionally made  a impact on my life of what a God fearing leader looks like. They don’t always have to be loud with words, because their actions easily make up for them.

The story of Jim and the company, which is very real, translates directly into my approach of soccer. Jim is quiet, from the inner section of St. Joseph, Missouri, wasn’t born with a lot of money, never had a lot of money, never complained about not having a lot of money. He sacrificed so much to put up with a high school brat, while his wife…who he loves unconditionally…was dealing with her body trying to fight cancer; three years before being diagnosed. Those hours he worked, noted above? He worked second jobs throughout the seasons to cover expenses and try to latch onto dreams of a better future for him and MC. He never gave up, was never intimidated by the white collar world, rich jerks, or anything else of the sorts. He is Phil from Duck Dynasty in ways that appear frightening.

I’ve felt gut wrenching awful since hearing about the plant closing. A few days later he was moving my girlfriends car to get his motorcycle out, and the car slipped off the jack and wound up denting the radiator. He called me, explaining what had happened and he’d find a way to buy a new radiator for her. I mean…that poor man felt terrible. After already being crushed with my divorce [he took it worse then MC did], he’s careful with my current relationship [he has no reason to, she love him]. So, I tried to calm him down, she tried to calm him down, MC finally got him calmed down and my heart broke that much more. The world of this man, outside of his family, was spinning out of control and it wasn’t his fault. I mean, he stopped smoking cold turkey just because MC asked him too before they got married. He has his flaws, like all of us, but I’ve never met a human to give so much, sacrifice so much, and believe so much in people…period. He knows very little about soccer, but he loves the Kansas City Shock. He talks about, which just about puts me in tears every time, because I know I’m making him proud.

The Kansas City Shock is in many ways a gift to Kansas City, that was the idea, but it was also a gift to my parents. They’ve watched this thing, they’ve seen the errors, misfortunes, and heartache, but they still believed in me. I work hard, and I lose sleep, because I learned from the best. I learned that you work hard, complain little, and try to help as many people around you as humanly possible. Jim’s behaviors and lessons are dotted throughout this program. Everyone is welcome, he’d never turn someone away. Sleep is lost getting work done, because Jim would do the same thing. The program, unlike so many other soccer programs, isn’t catered to the rich, soccer elite of the area [there, I finally said it]. It’s designed for the hard working, back breaking people who believe that they’re never noticed. They’re like Jim, getting tossed around, but trying to better their lives and those around them. Many of our players would relate well with Jim.

I guess I’m proud to say that I’ve cried through the typing of this entire thing tonight. I could barely keep myself together at MC’s and his house tonight. Why? Because it hurts. Because this guy gave me so much, and the one time, the one time he needs help; I can’t do anything. I can’t save the plant, I can’t buy the company, and I can’t even find him a job. If there is anyone that deserves vacation it is him and MC. I’m not overly sure how to do it, but I’ve got to give back to him. He deserves the attention, recognition, and the peace. Is it alright to say that I just want to help? That one day I just want to present a massive check to my parents and say, “Enjoy the relaxation. It’s taken care of?” Doesn’t Jim deserve to breathe a little easier? Laugh a little more? Actually go fishing again?

I thought this piece would go in the direction of anger; lashing out at the stupid company that outsourced the jobs in Jim’s plant, closing the place down. I am still angry about that; especially on the business side of things. However, thinking back to all of it; I made sure that I was free tonight after work to relax at my parents house. No matter how old I am, or bad mood I’m in, I know I’m safe there. I know that Jim will reheat his coffee, he’ll sit in his chair, and Scamper [his cat] will hop up on him and go to sleep [affectionately referred to as ‘sweep-sweep time’]. That’s comfort, that’s home, and I don’t want the stupidity of someone else put any of that at risk.

I just want Jim to be happy, happy, happy.

-D-

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