Fiction: Transit

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

September 12, 2011

Atlas sculpture, New York City, by sculptor Le...

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Jerrod punched out. He wiped the sweat from his brow, and walked to the locker room. Walking to his locker, he thought about the stories his dad told him of unions in the 2010s. It was interesting to consider how much had changed in the last 60 or so years. How much society had advanced and where they had to go.

Jerrod had read some old classics, and stumbled upon the famed capitalist enthusiast, Ayn Rand. He found her cynicism towards people interesting and was glad society, for now, was able to prove her wrong. Although he disagreed with her negative premise and her presumptions of politicians and people, many of the sentiments expressed in Atlas Shrugged, he found himself living daily. Like his father, and his grandfather, Jerrod was a tinkerer. He loved working with his hands, learning how a thing worked, tearing it apart, and putting it back together again. His father had even been diagnosed with the passe Attention Deficit Disorder. Scientists in the last 40 years had proved that people really just needed to move, and there was no sense trying to enforce chair-ridden tasks when someone’s body was telling them to move. So, as someone who needed to move, Jerrod, his father, and his grandfather, all found themselves doing manual labor jobs.

Jerrod grabbed his towel from his locker, and nodded hi to a fellow worker. It was 5:30pm. It was considered late to be leaving work, shift work was abolished more than 30 years before. While some jobs required later hours, it was decided on a per-business basis. No longer were manual labor jobs and shift work synonymous.

Jerrod loved history, and he loved the stories his father told him. He was fascinated with how things worked when company’s sent off all the work they needed, routinely to different businesses often in different countries. It got to the point, so said his father, that “companies” consisted of a few puppet figure heads while all the work, even office work, was done often offshore. Jerrod’s dad painted a picture of the ridiculousness of the idea, all in the name of profit, while quality control was the major sacrifice. Quality control, fair wages, justly treated employees went out the window with outsourcing.

Jerrod was equally fascinated with the things that were still done, like regular meetings and punching in and out. He was always interested in how regular he was coming into and leaving work, so it was a task he didn’t mind. The steadfast labor-rites abhorred any and all forms of tracking, stating that it only demoralized the worker and was a horrid way to hang onto the past.

Some things, even in Jerrod’s job still hung onto the past, and with good reason. Take, for example, how the buses and trains were largely motorized now, but they were mechanical, and needed fixing. Which is where Jerrod fit in. You had this very automated process that was fixed with human hands. A blend of the past and the present. It was a general societal agreement that the human hands found the problems and could take this scientific art to a new level with its beautiful maintenance. And, Jerrod, he fixed those elegant people movers.

Another interesting hold onto the past was how about 25% of the trains were built with the antique street car in mind. All the buses were sleek and shiny, and aerodynamic. None had any similarities to the past. The antique streetcars, though, even had drivers, although the process was automated.

The vehicles were run in shifts, so no one had to work evenings. The vehicles were all automated, so they ran all day and night, a shift lasting about 24 hours unless there was a mechanical failure en route. When they came in for the 6am shift change, a few early morning employees corralled the vehicles for their daily maintenance and cleanups. Jerrod did this job on occasion, but now that he was seeing Annie, he preferred the day shift so they could share meals. Jerrod and his crew were responsible for cleaning and maintaining the previous day’s vehicles. A job that was done from 8am to 5pm. A job that Jerrod enjoyed in its regularity and interest.

It was 6:00pm. Jerrod arrived home. Annie had roast chicken and vegetables on the patio table. He grabbed a beer, one he and his father brewed a few months before. Annie was sipping her favorite regional Pinot. After they ate their dinner, Jerrod grabbed a few pears from their tree, and they had dessert. All the while talking and enjoying each others company. After they cleaned up their dinner, they would play a game of cards with their neighbor and start the day all over again. Jerrod was always a little surprised at how comfortable this routine had become, especially given his restlessness of his 20s.

Off to Billy’s they walked.

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