Columns

Yes It’s True: We are easily misled into buying poop

Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.”

Between the lean years of 2008 and 2011, I was a substitute teacher by day and reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette by night. It helped to pay the bills.

I learned a lot about the horror and drudgery I suspect still exists with substitute teaching, especially when I note so many school districts are experiencing shortages of people willing to do that really difficult job. Not so a dozen years ago.

My best description of subbing back in those days was a scene from the classic 1954 movie “On the Waterfront,” starring Marlon Brando, in which he uttered the immortal lines, “I coulda been a contenda.”

The scene was a union straw boss in his shack poring over tickets showing what jobs were available that day. He stepped outside the shack and tossed the tickets onto the lawn and started laughing boisterously while watching desperate men wrestle each other for the tickets, rolling in the mud.

Prospective subs each weekday had to wake up at 5 a.m. and scour the sub service’s Internet site for openings that morning. If you weren’t fast, someone would beat you to it.

Sometimes you’d get a call about a job, but once again, you had to act fast enough to claim it because it would be gone quickly.

Getting a sub job in a field of study that closely matched what you did best was almost a pipe dream. The graveyard sub jobs were in band or in shop, where you didn’t know the subject nor the kids, who very easily would take advantage of you because you were a bottom feeder sub.

Times were hard for subs back then because the U.S. was reeling from the Great Recession that began in late 2007. Times are much different now, but I grew to understand why subs are hard to find in 2022.

So I was a cranky curmudgeon when I managed to land a job for the day. Which is why I sometimes tortured the kids with little games meant to teach them unpleasant lessons.

One of my favorites was asking all students to check the tags in back of their T-shirts to learn where they were made. Many of them would proudly answer, “Assembled in Mexico” or such exotic far away lands as Guatemala, Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Honduras, and most often, China.

On only one occasion, one student reported his shirt was made in the USA. I asked the remainder of the students in the room to give him a standing ovation.

I explained to the young folks that the United States once was a very powerful manufacturer of goods, but no more. Companies who manufactured and sold these commodities starting in the 1980s searched for and found cheaper places with lower taxes and lower wages, thus ushering in an era in which “money goes where it is treated best,” as asserted by Ranger Rick.

That’s the money spent and made by corporations and their executives who cared not a whit about patriotism, but plenty about profits. They located their factories and hired workers at the lowest cost, which most often was not in the U.S.

I rubbed it in even more by calling students the same name as the brand name that appeared prominently on their shirts — “Hey, Hollister, find a seat, you’re not supposed to wandering around.” Of course, the kids didn’t take kindly to being referred to as a product or brand name.

I then explained that in bygone days I coached a Little League team sponsored by Harding’s Market in Wayland. Store manager Lee Miller paid for the shirts and caps of the players, obviously with the idea he’d get something back with the advertising of the name. He also was generous in supplying our team picnics.

Yet these days, grown adults are somehow flim-flammed into buying at higher prices shirts loudly and proudly proclaiming brand names such as Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, Nike, Hilliker and the like.

So these days we working stiffs pay bigger bucks to the corporate sponsors for the privilege of advertising their products. We’re walking billboards.

No wonder I get so depressed so easily.

6 Comments

  • Good story. I’d like to think there’s been a bit of a surge of pride in American made products, but unfortunately, those products seem to only be found online. It would be awesome to support a local small business by buying something also made in America.

      • With parts made from the lowest cost producer. Most of “American” vehicles are made with parts from Mexico and overseas. Thanks to Clinton and his policies and exacerbated by Bush policies, manufactures were allowed to offshore production.
        Politicians will be the ruin of the country.

        • “Forty years of the Reagan Revolution’s libertarian experiment have brought us the predictable result:

          historically low tax rates on corporations and billionaires

          an impoverished middle-class

          devastated labor unions

          the highest rate of child poverty and maternal death in the developed world

          millions without access to healthcare

          one in seven children going to bed hungry

          our schools, roads, bridges and rail systems in shambles.

          • Mr. Annibelle,
            As usual, wrong again! The giant sucking sound was when Clinton signed the “Free Trade” legislation. Remember the hand grenade with the crew cut? Smartest man speaking the truth.
            Bush didn’t help once elected either. Politicians made millions while the public was screwed.

  • Wrong again angry man, looks like some one didn’t take AB advice about acting like a little fourth grade school girl With the name calling.
    Skoal!!

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