Working by Studs Terkel
In the preface, we get to Terkel's thesis by way of a steelworker:
If a carpenter built a cabin for poets, I think the least the poets owe the carpenter is just three or four one-liners on the wall. A little plaque: Though we labor with our minds, this place we can relax in was built by someone who can work with his hands. And his work is a noble as ours. I think the poet owes something to the guy who builds the cabin for him.
Terkel definitely has been practicing this for a while, as he knows his city and the people in it (or at least can get some of them to open up....
The whole thing is obsolete. It's on its way out. This work isn't ncecessary in the first place. It's so superfluous. It was never necessary. (Laughs.) It's just a hustle. Years ago, a black man at night spots and hotels would keep the place clean and whatever you could hustle there was yours. He did pretty good at it. Talked a little too much about how well he was doing. Well, people started to look into it. This could be an operation....
The concessions took over?
(a long pause)
Uh -- when did they start taking over?
(softly) That I don't know. It happened in many cities. I've wondered about it myself. I -- I don't know.
I heard the concessions gets twenty-five cents from every attendant for every two towels handed out...
(A long pause) That's what he told you?
Of course, it just rocks when people trot out the core of their jobs:
The cop on the corner took you across the street, right? Now, ten o'clock at night, he's still there on the corner, and he tells you to get your fanny home. He's not being nice. The next time he tells you, he's gonna whack you with the stick. In the old days, if you went home and told your dad the cop on the corner whacked you with a stick, you know what your father did? He whacked you twice as hard. He said, "You shouldn't have been there. The policeman told you to go home, go home." Today, these kids defy you.
You have to remove salesmanship from police work. Don't put me on a commission and say, "Every time you stop a guy, you get X amount of points." It takes a certain amount of points to reach a certain plateau. You can't go back to the boss and say, "I didn't see anything." He says, "I know they're out there. Go out and get 'em." So the policeman has to create a little something.
If you see a nice lady sitting there in a two-piece bathing suit -- if you work it right and they'll be laying on their stomach in teh sun and they'll have their top strap undone -- if you go there and scare 'em good enough, they'll jump up. To scare 'em where they jump up and you would be able to see them better, this takes time and it gives you something to do. It adds excitement to your day. If you startle 'em, they'll say, "You could've said something earlier, rather than just jumping up behind me yelling, 'Gas man'!"
You don't find allies on the basis of the brotherhood of man. People are tied into their immediate problems. They have a difficult time worrying about other people's. Our society is so structured that everybody is supposed to be selfish as hell and screw the other guy. Christian Brotherhood is Enlightened Self-Interest. Most sins committed on poor people are by people who've come to help them.
Everybody has problems. The successful person solves his. He acknowledges them, works on them, and solves them. He is not disturbed when another day brings another kind of problem...
The most stupid phrase anybody can use in business is loyalty... The corporation is out to make money. The ambitious guy will say, "I'm doing my job. I'm not embarrassed taking my money. I've got to progress and when I won't progess, I won't be here." The schnook is the loyal guy, because he can't get a job anyplace else.
I feel like I'm helpin' people. When you come into a crowd, and a guy's been hit by a car, they call you. Ambulance is standing there dumfounded, and the people are, too. When you give orders to tell this one to get a blanket, this one to get a telephone book, so I can splint a leg and wrap it with my own belt off my gun, that looks good in front of the public. They say, "Gee, who are these guys?"