Voices From These Times: ‘The Reprimand’

James Rushing

In These Times has partnered with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) to amplify the stories and struggles of ordinary people, including workers in the United States. This piece, part of an ongoing biweekly series, originally appeared in the Journal of Ordinary Thought, published by NWA. Find more stories and voices at the NWA’s blog.

I had been working at my place of employment for twenty-three years when this occurred. I’ll go straight to the point. On February 17, 2006, I found an envelope on the bulletin board with my name on it. Inside the envelope was an Employee Disciplinary report.

I thought, What? I’m being written up for what?!” Here was the reason: Failure to notify the building management that you were taking a day off. You must notify the security desk and management in advance, not 1-2 hours ahead of time.” That sounds great if you don’t know the situation and how it was handled or, in this case, mishandled. An angry employee told Management that I didn’t come to work and didn’t call. Management obviously listened, believed him, and ran with it.

What actually happened was an emergency that Management never acknowledged. When I left my house with my lunch and books, heading for my job, my car did not start. When I found that I couldn’t get it started, I looked for a northbound bus in an attempt to get to work. With no bus in sight, I started walking to the train. I was due at my job at 11:30 p.m. and it was 11:35 p.m.

I called my job and explained my situation to the only person there, who would have been stuck on the job had I not reported to work and not called in. He agreed to stay and cover my shift. We have worked out such agreements among ourselves for years. However, this meant he was working overtime. A third employee got angry about this and told Management.

So I had an emergency where I made an effort to make it to work in eighteen-degree weather, and Management had me written up in less than twenty-four hours without talking to me at all. They didn’t even talk to the person who covered my shift. Now! Where is the common sense in this situation?

My records will show that I haven’t called in sick for more than ten years, but my excellent record of attendance and on-the-job performance of twenty-three years was instantly, without question, tainted. I won’t even mention that I was responsible for saving that employee’s job once. Realizing that he is, in my opinion, young, immature, and inexperienced, I view his actions as plain stupid. Stupidity is not a person. But his actions hurt, and such wounds take time to heal.

Anyway, that’s all in the past and I know there at there is no future in the past. It is history. I’m moving ahead because if you don’t move on, surely these things will catch up with you and possibly take you over. Thank God for the ability to write this all out for the purposes of venting my anger and maintaining my peace of mind.

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James Rushing has worked for more than 26 years as a garage attendant parking cars at a condominium complex in Chicago.
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