Pat's View: Conditions of Employment

By Pat Cashman

I sat in the general manger’s cluttered office nervously wringing my hands---my first-ever job interview was underway. There was an opening for a spot on the assembly line at my hometown’s major builder of mobile homes---and I was vying for it.

“Do you have any experience?” asked the G.M.

“Of course I had experience,” I thought, but did not speak. “Everyone has experience of some kind.” But I knew what he meant: Carpentry experience. I nodded vaguely, hoping that would be enough of an answer.
“Let me be more specific,” he said. “Have you ever used a power saw?” I thought about fibbing---and even bent my index finger down and under so that it appeared I might be missing part of it. But I finally answered truthfully, “Not really. But I’m a quick learner.” What was I going to say: “I’m a slow learner?”
“Never mind,” said the boss gruffly. “We can teach you what you need to know, But what we really insist upon around here is that you follow the rules.”

“What are the rules?” I asked helpfully.

“Mainly that there is no goofing around allowed here,” he said sternly, handing me an employee handbook. “This is a no nonsense, very dangerous business and we don’t tolerate horseplay.” I guessed that he was serious---I had not seen a single horse since I had entered the building.

But what I did see---because it was going on in the work area directly outside his office window (unbeknown to him)---were two male workers having a furious duel with nail guns. Yes, real nail guns---shooting real nails. One guy even had a nail sticking out of his shoulder. So much for rules.

Speaking of such rules, I recently ran across an old document dating from the 1910’s called “Conditions of Employment for Teachers.” It is noteworthy that the “Conditions of Employment” were aimed specifically at women---before females yet had the right to even vote:

“Teachers will not dress in bright colors.” (It is not clear why that was a rule in those days. Perhaps because dull colors are more conducive to learning?

“Dresses must be not more than two inches above the ankles.” (In Canada, that would convert to a scandalous 50.8 millimeters.)

“Teachers will not marry, or keep company with men, during the terms of her employment.” (Especially men who dress in bright colors.)

“She will not get into an automobile, with any man---except her brother or father.” (If her brother or father were a convicted criminal, no matter. Every other man would be unacceptable car company---including ordained saints. And if the teacher ever needed an ambulance, it should be driven by her brother or father.)
“Teachers will not loiter at ice cream stores.” (Notice there is no mention of bars, casinos, strip clubs or cockfights. It would seem to have been better for a female teacher to be caught slugging back a pint of Old Turkey---than a pint of Haagen-Dazs.)

“The teacher will not smoke cigarettes or play cards.” (Unless it is for demonstration purposes in teaching ‘Beginning Smoking” or “Card Playing 101.”)

“She may not dye her hair under any circumstances.” (It is not pertinent, but my dad used to say, “Never hang out with a red-headed woman. Red hair is OK---but not a red head.”)
“It is understood that the new teacher will attend church each Sunday---and either teach in Sunday school or sing in the choir.” (That one would be easy to comply with, because luckily---back in the 1910’s---there were no conflicting Seahawk games.)

And finally, this one: “The teacher will not leave town at any time without the permission of the Chairman of the School Board.” (Especially if she tries to leave town--- without her brother or father---with the express intent of getting her hair dyed in a bright-colored short dress at an ice cream store.)

But getting back to my job interview at the mobile home manufacturing place---I was hired that day after agreeing to the rules. I shook hands with my new boss and agreed to start work on the following Monday.
On the following Tuesday, I went to the doctor to have a nail removed from my left thigh.
Pat was a longtime cast member and writer on KING 5’s Almost Live---which continues to air in popular re-runs Saturdays following Saturday Night Live. He is a keynote speaker---and a fundraiser auctioneer---plus he co-hosts a weekly on-line talk show:

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