NDAs Don’t Mean Anything – After A Few Decades

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Since all my bosses have gone to their heavenly reward I might just blab some other dumb things that happened when I was at Otaco on West Street south where the new rec centre is today. After all what are they going to do to me now? Fire me! Actually I wish they would, the severance would be quite healthy, that’s 35 years or 1820 weeks at $15 a week or whatever it was they paid me.

I remember one year I went to Winnipeg to visit my sister and was gone for two weeks. When I came back no one knew I had been away. It was about that time I started to realize that whoever the key man in the organization was, it sure in hell wasn’t me.

Actually I did get fired back in 1988. I was a personal supervisor, a supervisor with no one left to supervise. The company had sold off the seating division to American Seating and they had moved to the old Shakespeare Plant on West Ridge, which wasn’t called West Ridge at the time, most of the factory was closed and the foundry was down to just over a hundred or so employees. The place could run very well without me and it did.

In the wisdom of corporations I was enrolled on a week-long course for something or other (obviously it was important since I don’t remember what it was about) When I got back it was late on Friday and no one was there.

Monday morning, Tom Scoular, the Foundry manager, came into my office and said, “Did you get fired on Friday?”

I said, “Not me, I was in Toronto at a seminar.”

Tom said, “I heard from head office that you got fired.”

Just then Bill McLean, the Vice President in charge of the Orillia operation, came through the door and Tom said, “Did you fire Jim on Friday?”

Bill said, “No, but let’s go up to my office.”

A half an hour later I was unemployed.

It sounds like a disaster, but it really wasn’t. I knew I had to go and had been looking. There was a fairly decent severance package and I was out of work for about two days. Walter Henry did better that that; Walter got downsized in the morning and was working after lunch for considerably more money and a car. Later the City named a Park after him. There is a rumour that the City is going to put a statue of me where Samuel de Champlain used to be – so far that rumour hasn’t been confirmed.

This may sound racist; it isn’t. Whenever I am in a conversation with someone who speaks with a foreign accent, I have a tendency to speak louder I have no idea why I do that but I do. I was interviewing an East Indian guy for a job in the moulding department in the foundry. He had a trace of an accent, not much really but it was noticeable. A few minutes into the interview my volume kept getting higher and higher until I could probably be heard in Gravenhurst. My client smiled, reached across, touched my hand and said, “Jim, I am Punjabi not deaf.” That happened back in ‘86 or ’87 and I still think of that. That is probably the reason why I have never been asked to represent Canada at the United Nations. Nikita Khrushchev would be considered soft-spoken compared to me. I would have started World War 111 just by saying hello.

Working for company that employs three or four hundred people of both sexes (today there could be a half dozen more, sexes not people) guarantees dozens, if not thousands of stories, the odd one you can tell in mixed company, but not the best ones. I must tell you a funny incident that happened a long time ago. We had a guy who worked out in the plant, the shipping department I think, I’m old and can’t quite remember. He lost a hand in a lumber mill accident before he started at Otaco and had a steel hook where his left hand used to be. To make a long story short he went uptown one noon hour and went into a discount store on Mississaga Street across from the Opera House. He came into my office later in the afternoon and said, “I have to tell you what I did. There was a bin in the Byway store filled with winter gloves that were attached to each other with clips. I took two rights and hooked them together, paid the cashier and left.”

All I could think was some poor jerk would get home and his wife would say, “I knew you weren’t too bright, but do you realize you just bought two left-handed gloves.”

Now that I think about it I’m not sure which hand he lost

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