Not too long ago, I took a walk along the San Pedro Harbor Promenade.
The fountain hydraulics were plock-plocking out lovely water designs, while a few fellow dog walkers fawned over each other’s furry pals, then continued down the sunny path.
I couldn’t help notice the neatly landscaped promenade was losing the battle to trash and debris that day, kicked up by high winds and thoughtless people.
I flagged down a yellow maintenance truck driving on the sidewalk. Two workers sat in the front seat with a huge stack of clear plastic bags between them. In the back of the truck was another what appeared to be a different size box of bags.
“If you give me one of those bags, I’ll pick up trash along the way,” I said. They looked at each other and laughed. I didn’t get the feeling they understood what I was saying. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look too much like a bag lady, but I flashed aging orthodontia at them just the same.
I pointed to the bags and repeated, “Could I please have one of those bags, I’d like to pick up paper and cups along the way.”
“Oh, no we can’t,” the driver said.
Disbelieving, I said, “You can’t give me one little bag to pick up trash?”
“Oh, no, we’d get into trouble.”
I looked around. There were no other people in sight from the Vincent Thomas Bridge to Fifth street. I was the only pedestrian on the promenade for blocks.
“Why would you get in trouble? I won’t tell.”
“We can’t,” one said. They looked at each other, chuckled and drove on.
If I was a cartoon, I would have had one of those talk balloons with a black vertical squiggle in it over my head. I eventually found a sizable bag in the pampas grass and picked up trash, anyway.
That episode reminded me when I worked in the Flying Tiger Lines airplane hangar back in the 1970s. We had a saying in the unionized workforce, “It’s not my yob.”
The word “yob” had metamorphosed from “job” because my friend Gus who was from Argentina couldn’t pronounce the “j.” Gus loved repeating “It’s not my yob” because every time he said it, he’d get a laugh.
The saying became so popular among the mechanics and stockroom clerks, to this day, I still say it when dueling over who is going to clean the pool or trim the bushes.
The “not my yob” jingle symbolized the nature of a unionized workforce.
The mechanics weren’t allowed unescorted into the stockroom to get a part without a clerk, and certainly, the stockroom worker couldn’t change a 747 tire. The lines were clearly drawn between jobs, and heaven forbid if a mechanic, who made about $5 more an hour asked a stockroom clerk to fill out a parts card for them.
“It’s not my yob.”
Although the harbor maintenance workers didn’t say it was against union rules to donate a plastic bag, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with job security.
And “job security” was another phrase, we bantered about in the hangar.
If a broken transponder was changed out of an aircraft or ran out of maintenance time limits, the part runner would deliver the new part to the plane and say, “job securiteee.”
If tires were “out of round” from hot landings, we’d roll the tires out to the brake shop, (yes, me too) and the mechanic would say, “Job securiteee.”
Never did I experience any sabotage at Flying Tiger. Union crews and employees stuck together, even during an icky strike or witnessing all the financial problems thrust on the company in later days due to inflated fuel costs, inept CEOs after founder and President Bob Prescott’s death, and lavish golden parachutes for the departing executives.
I do know that if someone wanted to pick up trash around company grounds, we would have definitely sprung for something like a trash bag from the stock room.
So, for the harbor maintenance workers not to hand me one little 3-cent bag so I could help spruce up the sidewalk, all I can say, is: “Keep America Beautiful.”
That IS our yob.”