Thursday, April 30, 2015

An insider’s view—sometimes there’s no solution, guest blogger Chris Botkin from Ohio

I work as a laborer in a sandwich packaging plant. I've been there 17 years. The sandwiches go to convenience stores, and vending machines, and institutions like schools and prisons. My little group tapes the boxes of sandwiches shut, separates the boxes by item, stacks the boxes on pallets and records the daily production. It's physical; today we handled about 10 tons of product. There are four of us, three (including yours truly) do the hand-stacking.

It's a different world than many of you inhabit. My coworkers start at $8.50 an hour. Many have felony records, mostly for possession, but some much worse. Turnover is insanely high: the work ethic is not, let's say, universal.

Today, one of my crew had to leave at noon for an emergency doctor appointment he received by phone at about 10:30 am. He has a nightmare of medical conditions I won't go into, the call today was from an oncologist. He tries hard, he has his own business on the side (a bait shop on a nearby lake). He is 25.

Today, another of my crew left an hour and a half early. He is the archtypical good-ole-boy: big, rowdy, randy and without much common sense. Multiple layoffs, multiple arrests, he needs off early once a month (not today) to meet his parole officer. He is trying to turn his life around. We'll see. He's a loose cannon. But he left early today because his mother is in the ICU on life support for advanced pneumonia. He had just received a call from his dad. He looked very upset.

For me, these situations shed a somewhat different light on the health care debate. Without a time machine or assistance, there is no way these folks can pay their medical bills. Hospitals and physicians deserve to be paid. I am highly skeptical that Obamacare is helping, but something has to help.

I'm as old as both these guys' ages combined, and yet I totter along relatively unscathed: all original parts and enough sap to get through the day. I feel it at night, and I need my weekends to recoup, but no complaints. Today made me think about retiring, though. Life's too short. If only I could afford to retire.

I'm posting this  because none of my coworkers will see it, and it reflects at least peripherally on political debate, and it's on my mind tonight. Sometimes, life's just a bitch.

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