Sunday, August 16, 2009


Did you know that most dictionaries regard slaw as a synonym for cole slaw? But that if you dig deeper, some will tell you that slaw is shredded cabbage? While the historically thoughtful few will explain that it’s a nineteenth century abbreviation for salad (as in “sla”)?

For some reason, probably traceable to the erratic manner in which I acquired the English language (on again, off again throughout my childhood), I thought that the word slaw was also a verb. And that it was shorthand for slaughter. You know, you can chop up somebody well and hard. Slaughter them. Slaw them.

I thought, therefore, that slaw would be an apt heading for a post on a day when I learned that a slaughtering may take place at my place of moonlight employment.

As the story goes (and believe me, I am not about to give more than a shortened and squeaky clean version of it), a co-worker did something that is not within company rules. And it was, most likely, an intentional act of defiance. For this she may suffer (appropriately, I think) the slaughtering I mentioned above.

This in itself is not an interesting Ocean story (especially since, due to privacy issues, I wont say more about it here). But what is interesting was my immediate reaction. I said this: how utterly foolish of her! Didn’t she realize that she would get caught?

Now, that may seem like an okay blurting of my incredulity at the lack of foresight on the part of the employee. But note that I did not say this: didn’t she realize that what she did was wrong?

I have two thoughts on my own reaction: the first is that I have joined the ranks of the fearful: our goal is to stay employed. That’s it. Do the job and stay employed. Don’t get in trouble and get fired. Hence the incredulity: how could you do this, knowing that you may be fired????

[It’s a good thing that I work for two entities (the university is my principal employer and the little shop on the corner is my secondary, moonlighting employer) whose ethical standards are quite exemplary, because I seem to rely on them to define for me what’s right and what’s wrong.]

Secondly, I’m thinking (hoping?) I was governed by a need to see justice done (“punish the guilty”) rather than by thoughts of finally rising to the second rung of the retail ladder (the bottom one being the last to be hired; if the offending employee is replaced, then I am no longer the one who knows least and is, therefore, worst at getting things right).

Retail jobs are, for so many, extremely short-lived. You get hired, you get fired, you quit, you go elsewhere. It is a world that I almost cannot understand. I'm thinking that the absence of loyalty to the place of employment is especially an American phenomenon. Though there are American company towns, where everyone and their brother work for the same employer, most of us move around as if there were infinite possibilities out there, each better than the last.

Fickle us. Tonight, I’m on the side of loyalty: do good work for the company that treats you well. (Shred and slaughter those who misbehave.)


So, I leave you with these thoughts on work, ethics and loyalty.

On the other hand, it could be that this post is, quite simply, about a boring walk home, where the only interesting thing to photograph was a crate of cabbage.