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Published: Saturday, 11/23/2002

Unhappy workers speak out


Warning to all rude restaurant diners, cheap-os who fail to tip the pizza delivery driver, know-it-all grocery shoppers, fast-food gluttons, impolite convenience store customers, and people of all stripes who don't tip, don't smile, don't do anything but grouse about the service: There's an entire army of waiters, waitresses, clerks, and work-a-day grunts who have nothing good to say about you, and say it with a vengeance on the World Wide Web.

Wow, talk about disgruntled: There are thousands of angry employees in the service trade who have many bones to pick with the people they have to put up with day in and day out. Turn to Steamiron.com/payday, then click on Gripe Pages. Your eyes and ears are likely to fry after you get a load of their complaints, which, despite the frequent profanity and sometimes obvious embellishment, are rooted in actual experiences.

Examples: People who try to cheat on their coupons, treat the servers like dogs, gripe about how the grocery store shelves are stacked, don't have house numbers or even a porch light on for pizza delivery drivers, and so on. The worst complaint of all, among employees who can't make a living without gratuities, is the deliberate or mindless failure of people to tip properly, if at all.

Some of the Gripe Pages speak for themselves: “Disgruntled and Proud,” “Catalog of Grocery Customer Species,” “The Stained Apron,” “Waiter's Revenge,” “Waitresses United,” “Disgruntled Servers United,” and “Just a Few Reasons Why I Hate Customers.”

There are a couple of other pages that don't quite fit into the general pattern, such as “Disgruntled Postal Workers” and “Mindless Jobs of America.” The latter is a playlist of bad jobs, accompanied by painful descriptions written by people who actually held them. Among them are high school janitor, cemetery repairman, grocery lot attendant, fast-food crew chief, dietary aide, car wash drier, projectionist, and telemarketer.

My favorite among the bad jobs was “Mine Button Man” - a job that entailed a man traveling 700 feet down a coal mine in a cage with just a helmet light, then having to walk two or three miles through the dark to his station. There, he awaited a shout from the supervisor to press a green button, which started a conveyor belt. Seven hours later, he was ordered to hit the red button, which stopped the conveyor belt. During those hours he mainly did calisthenics to kill the time. At the end of the shift he'd walk two or three miles back to the cage, only to repeat the excruciatingly boring routine the next day. He didn't last a week.

The Gripe Pages provide the best entertainment, but Payday is a very good site in its own right, devoting itself to exploring working-class art and life “from a working class perspective.” The editor is a Californian named Cheryl Cline who calls herself editor, chief cook, and bottle washer, and she offers more serious information for people interested in the genre.

For example, you can find bibliographies and anthologies of working-class literature and autobiographies of people as diverse as Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass, and Flannery O'Connor; fiction by such contemporary working-class authors as James Baldwin, Rita Mae Brown, Raymond Carver, E.L. Doctorow, William Kennedy, Ralph Ellison, and Norman Mailer, and links to journalists, pundits, and muckrakers ranging from Michael Moore to Dilbert, the poor shlump who labors away in his little comic strip cubicle.


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