I don’t remember his real name. I called him Crash. We were both forklift operators at Farkus Mail in Boston. Being a forklift operator is one of those stupid jobs. I did a number of them (painting, laborer, lifeguard). The irony is, even though those jobs do not require a lot of skill, they do require focus. If you don’t focus when you are painting, you make a big mess and you have to do a lot of work over again. If you zone out when lifeguarding you might end up watching a five-year-old turn blue as you pump his little chest. Driving a forklift, picking up palettes of mail and packages and loading them onto trucks or stacking them, moving them around, is not exactly mentally challenging, but you really have to keep your eyes open or you might cause a lot of damage, not to mention, extra work for yourself. When you do focus on the job at hand, the day goes by pretty quickly and things run smoothly.
Crash either had trouble focusing, or maybe he just didn’t care. He was always driving too fast into the back of a truck or stacking boxes off-kilter so they toppled or driving his lift into a wall. To top it off, whenever he crashed, he’d laugh wildly. I mean it was funny but kind of annoying, and it drove the bosses crazy.
Plus, Crash was that he was always smiling. He had this goofy look on his face like his job didn’t matter, and of course, he was right, it didn’t really matter, but if there is one thing the bosses hate, it is someone who does not take their stupid job seriously. Older fans of the Red Sox might remember an outfielder named Dave Henderson. He always had a smile on his face and it drove management crazy. He was a good hitter, but he wasn’t great, so they traded him. Believe me, the Pats would trade Gronk in a minute except that the guy is phenomenal. I went to school with a dude named Dennis Martin who was one of those people. He couldn’t stop smiling. He was kicked off teams even though he was a natural athlete. Eventually, he was thrown out of school. The people in charge call it a bad attitude. He has a bad attitude, they’ll say. What it really means is he didn’t take things seriously enough for the people in charge.
One day Crash and I are sitting at lunch, at Mama Mia’s, right around the corner from work. I’m enjoying a meatball sub with provolone cheese and hot peppers and a long-necked Bud and Crash is chowing down on an Italian.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he says.
I stare at him and shake my head but I have to smile. Here we are in this sub shop, working this job with no future while the bigwigs rake in the big bucks based on our hard work, but in a way, he’s right. My meatball sub is delicious. The beer tastes fresh and cold and right then, we don’t have a worry in the world. We can just sit there and enjoy our lunch.
“Best subs in Boston,” he says.
“It’s a great country,” I say.
“Fuckin A,” Crash says.
Crash is tall, about six-two, with medium length, unkempt blond hair that falls into his eyes. He wears a Red Sox cap that is faded and rumpled. He sports a Bruins’ sweatshirt and frayed jeans and black high-topped Converse. There are food stains on his sweatshirt. He’s actually a good-looking guy but the women who come in just ignore us. They are secretaries or bank clerks and nicely dressed in skirts and heels. They are interested in the guys in suits.
“Where did you work before this?” I ask.
“At the airport, parking cars.” He says grinning.
“One time, I crashed a Cadillac into an Audi.” He shakes his head.
“How the hell did you get this job?” I ask.
“My dad is a big client of Farkus Mailing. Anyway, I wasn’t even fired for that.”
“I was fired for smoking reefer at work.”
We finish up, clear our table and head back to work.
“Do you have a good source?” I ask him. “For reefer I mean.”
So, I started getting my dope from Crash. I’d buy dimes from him every couple of weeks. It was good quality, and he’d give me free papers. Meanwhile, work hummed along. As a rule, I didn’t smoke on the job but waited until I went home. But every once in a while, Crash would light up a joint on a break and I’d take a couple of tokes just to mellow out.
I have to say, I have a soft spot for the Crashes among us: the fuck-ups, the goofballs, the flunkies. Guys like Crash are always up for a good time, willing to light up or get a drink or hop in the car and go for a ride. Hunter Thompson was kind of like that, driving his rental car ninety miles an hour, popping open a beer when he is pulled over by a state cop. Their god is Loki, the god of mischief. For Plains Indians it was Coyote. Then there’s Chaos — the one there before the beginning who eventually ended up somewhere down below Hades. You have to be careful what you ask of such gods. They are always happy to oblige you but there’s a price.
Anyway, you can be a fuck-up in this world and yet be kind of high-functioning. Of course, you don’t want to put someone like that in charge. You certainly don’t want to elect someone like that to public office in order to just blow it up, as Susan Sarandon carelessly said about Trump before the election.
You can see where this is heading. One afternoon we were loading up a truck parked on Farnsworth Street. We’d lift half a dozen palettes, drive them out to the street, pull around to the back of the truck and load them. By 4pm we were just about done. I had pulled my forklift into the garage and gotten out. I was going to direct Crash cause traffic was picking up on the street. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and out of the corner of my eye, I see a Maserati — a slick and beautiful gray number with that low big cat growl to the engine. A chauffeur with a black hat and jacket sits at the wheel. He pulls up behind the truck, jumps out of the car, and opens the back door, and a beautiful babe steps out, long legs and heels first. It’s the owner’s daughter — Elizabeth Farkus.
Right then Crash zooms out of the garage with his forklift loaded. He has that ridiculous grin on his face. At first, I’m afraid he’s going to run right into the owner’s daughter, but she screams and jumps clear, and Crash smashes into the rear door of the Maserati and just crushes it. The palettes and all the boxes fly off the lift and onto the car. Total mayhem. Meanwhile, the owner has pushed open the other rear door and launched out, landing on all fours in his gorgeous blue silk suit. The chauffeur is hugging the daughter who is crying. All I can do is shake my head.
About an hour later, Crash and I are in the owner’s office. Everyone is OK: the daughter, the chauffeur, the owner.
“I’m going to have to let you both go,” the owner says, brushing some street dust off his pants.
I start to object, but then I realize he has to fire me because I’ve seen him crawling in the street. He just can’t have that. His chauffeur he won’t fire because he has probably seen worse, and it’s hard to get a good chauffeur, but it is pretty easy to find forklift operators.
I shake hands with Crash outside. He slips me a couple of joints. I watch him stroll down Farnsworth Street as I stick a doobie in my mouth and light up. The other joint I place on that brick wall beside me: an offering to Loki.
Photo by Elevate on Unsplash