“Come on you stupid machine give me the damn pop!” Harold smacked the break room’s beverage dispenser. “You should have been traded out long ago.”
“Eh, it gives this place character.” The young man with tan skin and light brown hair was new to the break room.
Triceps extended as Harold pushed hard in to the machine. The rocking base sent an echo as it banged against the floor. An on-looker could argue that the vending machine had suffered repeated attacks from angry customers. Those attacks were probably the reason for its current condition. Machines are great assistants when they are used correctly. The vending machines were temperamental but had tenure in the plant, longer than some of employees. Finally, a can dropped out the chute. “Glad you see it my way.”
“I would not have believed a machine could be strong armed.” The new hire was impressed by the effort. “Is that what I will need to do just to get a drink?”
Harold gave a smirk to acknowledge the new guy’s comments. The machine spit out a second can. Harold’s soot covered hands reached to the second can. He turned to the new guy handing it to him. “Nah, it just gets stubborn sometimes.” Harold liked the fact they were bringing in new hires. The presence of fresh blood meant the rumors of moving overseas must have been exaggerated. “Here have a welcome aboard gift.”
“Thanks,” the younger man took the can and opened it. He took a solid swig of the beverage. Harold knew he was a new hire. The strong chemical smell he emitted told the veteran he worked loading the chemicals in the batch loads. “I am Antonio Dennie, just started here. I probably could drink ten of these things. I knew it was going to be hard work but was not really ready for all this.”
“It gets easier. You just have to develop a rhythm.” Harold knew what this Antonio represented. He was a picture of what Harold was when he first started here. The advice he was issuing was what he wished he would have heard his first week. “First job?”
“Yeah, just trying to make it, it is tough out there. The jobs aren’t exactly everywhere. This place seems like it could be a long lasting pay check.” Antonio was reminding Harold of when he had first started.
“Just remember it can get tough at times, but it will always beat not having a place to get that check.” Harold had witnessed his share of new hires quit when the work got tough. He did not understand why they would quit without having a fallback job. Harold just assumed they did not have a family or bills. The family man wondered what brought Antonio into this line of work. Harold knew the longer someone worked here the more he would learn their life story. Hard work had a way of loosening tongues.
“So other than roughing up pop machines, what do you do?” The new employee had a friendly curiosity. It could be the product of being offered the pop. The act of kindness created a need to repay the event to ease any sense of guilt. Harold did not mean to purchase the kid’s friendship but he recognized when someone was trying too hard to stay in a conversation.
“I guess I do a little bit of everything around here. Torturing machines is my unofficial duty.” Harold’s scratchy voice was always presenting a playful tone.
No matter what life had handed him up to this point, he was able to laugh it off and persevere. He found an open door every time there was a roadblock. Despite not going as planned, Harold felt he lived a good life. He could look at his children and see what he truly treasured. He did not know that when he made his plans in high school, that he would be happy with an alternate course. The family man knew Antonio was just beginning his own personal journey. Harold wanted to tell the new coworker it was going to be rough but in the end, it will be worth it.
“Well I better head back. There is still so much to learn.” The young man was eager and Harold appreciated that in him.
Harold wanted him to feel welcome. The presence of a new hire provided him with a bit of relief as it meant the company was most likely not relocating. “Hey man, after your shift I will show you where we all go to catch a real drink.”
“I would like that.” The fact he was instantly accepted made Antonio feel his time here would be easier. He felt he had earned something with this job. When he initially made his life plan, he knew there would be difficulties. Even when he was young in the eyes of the world, Antonio knew there was always going to be obstacles and boosts. The young Mr. Dennie knew the craving for a shortcut also created pitfalls. He wanted to avoid the latter. Being invited to drinks with the guys would at least endear him to his co-workers. He wanted to fit in as much as possible. The alternative created the obstacles he feared.
“Good,” Harold was happy he would not have to sell the bar as he had with other new hires. “We will pay for this round, but keep in mind, first paycheck is always celebrated by buying the drinks.”
“Maybe then you could tell me which machines can be extorted for drinks and snacks.” Antonio wanted to joke as much as Harold. He knew he still had to acknowledge and allow the senior worker to control the conversation.
“You know some secrets are best not revealed.” Harold replied coyly. All it would take would be for the guy in front of him to push the wrong machine. Harold did not want the guilt of seeing anyone flattened under a vending machine. He definitely did not want it to be his fault. “Tell you what though, I will show you where to get the best after work beer.”
“I can live with that.” Antonio was happy to be accepted.