Wednesday, February 25

a treatise on the state of american manufacturing

I have seen many spectacular, humbling, creepy and idiotic sights over the past few weeks, yet some of my favorite experiences have been with the people I've encountered along the way. While the Vibe was getting an oil change in Wyoming, I sat around chatting with a few locals who were there for the early bird oil change special as well. In fact, when I walked into the lobby and began looking for a magazine to read, a grizzled old man a few feet away remarked, "The least they could do is give ya some fucking cups. Amateurs." Apparently there was coffee but no cups, a world-ending predicament for a retired miner at eight in the morning. When he saw the Vibe we got to talking about the economy and the state of the American manufacturing sector. And if you hadn't figured out by now, this man makes Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau seem like BFFs.

Through our profanity-laced conversation I learned that the auto industry is on the ropes because we keep buying cars made by "Those damn Chinamen." I corrected him. "I think the Japanese are more of a problem than the Chinese." "Fucking-A," he countered. "All of those Chinamen are stealing our jobs and shipping car parts over here to be built. We can't compete with no damn Chinaman who works for nothing. We gotta start charging huge tariffs on them parts when they get shipped here on them damn boats."

A slightly younger man sitting next to the old man also happened to be retired and was just chuckling the entire time. When asked his opinion he replied, "I used to own my own business and..." "You're a capitalist dog, a corporate raider!" the old man interrupted.

By now I was resigned to nodding and laughing at the continuous stream of nonsense coming from the old man's mouth. When I said I live on the East Coast he asked, "Which part of Greenwich Village?" I was actually a little offended he
associated me with a bunch of latte sipping, rabidly liberal hipsters from New York City. I thought my unshaven and unclean appearance would disguise my obvious suburban roots.

When my car was ready, the other man pulled me aside and said not all Wyomingites have dreadful personalities and that I would be welcome back at any time. I laughed and told him I frequently deal with unsophisticated brutes in the allegedly more civilized Washington DC. The only difference is that in DC we pepper our speech with large multi-syllabic words in order to prove we got our money's worth from years of education. I rather enjoy the rugged landscape and people in Wyoming; it makes me feel like I'm truly out West. With that I shook his hand, said farewell, and was back on the road.

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