Just after my father served a two-year stretch in the United States Navy, assisting the Allied Forces in defeating Emperor Hirohito's army, he returned to Philadelphia to search for employment. For reasons only known to him, my father entered a Penn Fruit supermarket and inquired about filling the available position of apprentice meat cutter. He was hired and soon began to be taught the ins and outs of slicing up stripped cow and pig carcasses into consumer-tempting cuts of meat. He worked long and dedicated hours, honing his craft, as well as honing his knives. As time moved on, he became extremely adept in his ability, deftly gliding that blade through the marbled flesh, with the result being a beautifully-appealing roast or chop that would become some lucky family's dinner.
With his apprenticeship behind him, my father was promoted to full-fledged meat cutter. Working alongside others in his profession, my father churned out stacks of cut beef, pork and poultry at an astounding rate. He rarely moved from his position in the "cold room," working like a machine, only stopping every so often to grab a quick cigarette or a cup of coffee in the alley behind the the store. He would return to his work as quickly as he could, adjust his bloodied apron and continue stacking cuts of meat on pressed paperboard trays with expert precision.
This went on for years and years until he was once again promoted, this time to meat manager. In his new position, he would still perform the physical act of cutting and packaging meat for sale, but he was also responsible for ordering product, dealing with suppliers for the best prices, scheduling staff, preparing weekly specials for inclusion in the store's advertising, as well as any number of incidental tasks that would pop up along the way. He liked being in charge, but he loved working at cutting meat. My father was transferred to different stores around the Penn Fruit chain, quickly adapting to a new commute and a new store configuration. A new location, however, never impacted his work ethic or his allegiance to the company that paid him at the end of each week. He did what his company asked him to do and he never questioned their decisions.
Another promotion came for my father. This time, he was made store manager. Although it was a gesture of trust on the part of Penn Fruit, my father accepted the new title with reluctance. As manager for the entire store, he would no longer be able to ply his meat-cutting ability on a daily basis. His new job would keep him busy with figures and reports and scheduling and customer service. He would still venture into the meat department regularly, even picking up a knife to separate a steak from a strip of errant fat spotted during a routine inspection. During his time as store manager, my father was also transferred more often. His competence as a manager meant his skills were needed to increase business at more stores. His stints at stores would be for shorter periods of time, sometimes even under a year, until he was sent to another location to bring up sales. My father was happy to be wanted and his dedication seemed to be appreciated, though it was never overtly stated.
But Penn Fruit's overall sales began to slip. They made some poor investments and bad business ventures into previously-untried territory failed miserably. Then, Acme, a rival supermarket chain, waged a vicious price war against Penn Fruit, sending the once-dominant chain into a financial tailspin. They scrambled, quickly selling off non-grocery holdings and even resorting to closing some lesser-producing markets. But it was the way they closed stores that was so... so... devastating, callous and thoughtless. The modus operandi of the corporate representatives was to drive up to a store as it was closing and demand the keys from the store manager. The corporate rep would lower his car door window and bluntly state to the unwitting manager, "Hand over your keys. This store isn't opening tomorrow."
This is how my father was relieved of his employ after twenty-five years of blind loyalty.
Conrad Van Orten, Sean Penn's character in David Fincher's 1997 thriller The Game, put it so eloquently when he explained the nature of corporations and the business mindset: "They just fuck you and they fuck you and they fuck you, and then just when you think it's all over, that's when the real fucking starts."
Don't forget that.