soliloquy of a baggage handler


Feb 15, 2006
soliloquy of a baggage handler

I Remember when I first started , it was many years ago . Our company was called America West airlines and there was still optimism still hope , I had self respect for the work I did . Now , things have changed and I’m not so certain .
When I was first new this was an experience like none other for me , I came from an indoor world of classrooms and work places to an outdoor world of giant aircraft and thousands of employee’s . I had no idea what it was that a baggage handler actually did besides load bags in an aircraft .In class they taught us about the different goings on at the airport and how things would work once we got there , we spent about two weeks in the training department’s offices taking tests and reading various materials , it all had a very family like feel to it , turned out that there just happened to be a guy I had gone to jr high school with in my class , but our reacquaintance was to be short lived as he failed to pass one of the tests and was quickly washed out of the training program , that’s one of the things I recollect most vividly about my training days long ago , how many wash outs we had . If you arrived one minute past 6 am, the door to the class was shut and you were washed out , I still remember listing to some of the new hires pounding on the door to get into class . Sometimes I wonder if our hiring practices have gone down hill ? The crop that I came in with stayed around longer in general than most of the other classes before and after us .With today’s current classes I hear you’d be lucky if you had 50 percent after 2 years .
Once I got to the airport ramp it was like stepping into another world , a very loud , very busy world . They went about splitting up our class and distributing us around the ramp , in this manner I got to know many of the people who were working . Back then people were more friendly toward the new hires , even eager to train us . They treated us like human beings , today I wonder if we still do that with our new people , more often than not it seems like we see them as helpers to take some of the load off our backs during the day .
I learned a lot from the people who trained me on the job , I ended up being sequestered with a group of men who taught me what it meant to work hard and take pride in everything you do while at work .I was lucky that I was started on a ramp that had these so called “supermen and women “ Before I started this job I had thought I knew what hard work was , and that I had a so called “work ethic†now years later , I truly know what those words mean .To regular people the time you got off of work meant that you stopped doing what you were doing 20 minutes before your sign out , to these men and women the time you went home meant the time the job was done , and if you had to stay an extra 5 or ten minutes over your signout you did it . Honesty , integrity , all things that were demonstrated to me in my beginning years . I’d see 3000 dollar laptops spill out of bags along with pocket change and watch as my co-workers would carefully put the items back into the bags along with the every last penny of change , and this was behavior coming from men not making more than 9 dollars an hour . Working here restored my faith that there were actually honest human beings .
There was an optimism many years ago on our ramps , for a lot of the guys out here the old TWU ramp contract was still farley new , and so the future looked brighter than ever .A sense of pride and accomplishment permeated any discussion whenever the union and contract were mentioned . Sure the contract they had won wasn’t the greatest , but it was their first and for us it meant we were unified and that things could only get better in the next contract .
The work wasn’t as hard as it is today , or maybe it just didn’t seem that way , back then we had staffing shortages and you’d only get perhaps two agents working on a 757 on a bad day , but as the morale was high it didn’t seem to matter , you’d feed off of your fellow workers enthusiasm .If we ever did have problems or gripes you’d keep it to yourself because work was in many respects almost a game at times , you’d constantly be trying to compete with your co workers or one up them, it was very macho .There was a basketball net at our hanger and in the very old days the workers used to play baseball in the now built N one concourse . I even remember running around throwing water balloons at passing conx runners and then the next day getting the favor returned .Work was then in many ways FUN , you’d look forwards to coming in and seeing your friends and co workers , to spending time working out in the beautiful environment of the ramp .
If people who only looked throu the airport windows knew what kind of work we do I wonder if they would be envious or empathic of us .It’s liberating to work out side , to have the sun and the moon shine above you as you move about doing your work , to have the breeze of the wind in your face as you drive , or the light sprinkle of the rain in the mornings .That sense of freedom also extended into personal liberties that you don’t have at many other jobs , if your supervisor really pissed you off you could yell out to him to go $%^& himself and not have to worry about him writing you up or being fired because he would yell the same thing back at you , if not worse .Men are generally not an emotionally expressive sort , but in this environment it was allowable , almost normal .
There was a lot of good in the old days , so much so that the low wages didn’t seem to matter as much .When I think back years ago I can still smile at the memories .
Today , I don’t smile much , and mostly it only occurs as I’m leaving my job .Getting up in the mornings to come to work has gotten harder and harder for me as the months and years pass and the process of coming in takes longer and longer with ever new security procedures .The daily work load feels as if it’s tripled and the newer workers just don’t seem to measure up in my mind .Maybe I’m paranoid , maybe I’m depressed and just don’t know it but I think more realistically I’m just feed up and burnt out .The weather in Arizona seems to get hotter every year , and the once clean air that came throu our airport has bee replaced with a brown smog .Working was once a fun bearable experience , now much like the mesa workers , I want to be here less and less … There are times when as a ramp worker I’ll be expected to do the job of two men , and do it both quickly and accurately . For those of you who don’t know what ramp work entails ,let me paint a picture for you . Your sitting on your knees inside of a dark , dirty , smelly aircraft bin , that perhaps is 4 and a half feet high . You have a time line to keep no matter how heavy or full this bin your in is going to be packed . First comes the cargo , sometimes the cargo weights more than 3 times your body weight , and your expected to push it 15 or 20 feet to the back of the bin , there are no wheels , there’s no oil slick inside to ease the push , it’s wood frame on metal floor with your sweat dripping everywhere , and if the cargo they send to the plane isn’t absurdly heavy , then it’s absurdly high in volume .So instead of pushing a 400 pound box 20 feet ,you end up stacking 600 pieces of mail , one after another after another .
After you finish the cargo it’s time for the luggage , and work quickly now for your time to load the plane and get it out is diminishing . Did you know the baggage belts you see outside of the aircraft have variable speeds ? Today they always end up in the FAST position , your other co workers will begin to put the luggage on the belt where it goes shooting up into the plane , you never know how light or heavy each bag you receive is going to be , sometimes they look like women’s purses , only to have motorcycle engines hiding in them ,other times their large brown packing boxes filled with pillows . Irregardless you lay one row of bags upon the floor of the bin and then you proceed to stack bag upon bag in a neat row towards the ceiling of the bin , it gets harder as you go higher because your having to lift 70 pound bags 4 feet high on your knees , sometimes in the bent out or stretched over position . Remember to stack tightly because after you’ve loaded all that cargo you barely have room enough for all the passengers bags , don’t forget that no matter how fast your working or what your doing , its always hotter than hell in and outside of the bin . When the high is 116 degrees for the day , the high on the ramp is at LEAST 120 … We work in nothing less than the proverbial concrete jungle , with metal planes and concrete tarmacs it’s still blazing even AFTER the sun has set .

Have you ever been to heaven ? Neither have I , but I bet if you’d have gone, earth wouldn’t seem all that great anymore . I’ve been getting around lately , seeing different manners of work , different ways of living , that’s one of the nicer things about this job , the travel , you get to see how other people live and work . Do you know what I’ve found ? those of us in the west are ill treated and poorly compensated . It struck me one day as I came into work just how horrible our condition was , here it was 116 degrees out , and I was expected to do my job just like a normal day … Do you know what the company does on the ramp when it gets unbearably hot ? They send around a Kool-Aid cart with giant 5 gallon containers … You know I appreciate the fact that someone was considerate enough to think about doing such a thing , and I also appreciate the fact that the company spends perhaps 100 dollars a day in kool -aid for it’s workers , but you know what I don’t appreciate ? The fact that the seats on most of our ramp vehicles are a type of black plastic that seem to absorb heat and radiate back at twice the temperature received . It’s not like we have covered parking outside , our tugs sit in the sun for HOURS , so when you look out the window look closely because you’ll see people driving around ass up out of the seat …. To do otherwise would invite second degree burns on you butt …
In our country work is part of the fabric of our lives , talk to a relative and they will ask you how’s the job going ? Go into any bar and strike up conversation and see how long it takes for the question of “ so what do you do for a living “ to come up …. Once long ago in a far away land any job in the aviation industry was considered something to be proud of, something cool and adventurous . Would you like to know how women in a bar react when you tell them your a baggage handler nowadays ? Well there are many reactions , sometimes their friend wants them to go to the bathroom and so the girl your talking to has to go as well , or maybe her phone rings and she has to “take this call “ or better yet she might say something like “ oh my boyfriend used to do that “ …. In fact , I no longer tell any prospective girlfriend that I’m a baggage handler , at first I used to feel unease at lying , now it’s nothing less than second nature . My point is , not only do we baggage handlers suffer disrespect from our company , but from the world at large which for the most part dismisses our labor . I could go into larger societal issues on why our profession lacks any respect from just about anyone , but I won’t because that would be straying off topic .

Which is that I am not here ….. I come to work everyday , do my job , and then I go home .. I may be here physically , but I am now emotionally disconnected from my job . I admire and respect the people I work with , but I’m no longer connected to them …. When we merged with US AIRWAYS , the baggage handlers union sold us out to the other new union that we had only heard horrible rumors about . One day I was a TWU handler , the next an IAM member . The IAM has promised us many things …. Chiefly that they will free us from our utterly horrible and oppressive TWU wages that we are even now at this minute still making … Every union post is followed by another saying that things are “very close “ to being better , that the new day is about to dawn for us … That we will no longer have to live in third world poverty in a first world nation … for years we west workers have been shafted by our own company , right now , in some west field station some poor bastard new worker is making 7.50 an hour to start …. The united states congress just declared that the new minimum wage is 7.50 …. We feel shafted by our new union which has drawn the very hope out of us …. And feel shafted by our new east brothers who send us dead bodies with the body turned in the improper fashion so that the embalming fluids leak out into the aircraft , forcing us to work on our knees in the fluid …
Outside of work , I’m a man , a human being , but inside the confines of the airport I’m an automaton …..

Call me when the new day dawns…
Is there a point to this topic? How about a readable & edited version so I can read it without having to reserve a two hour block to finish?
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Is there a point to this topic? How about a readable & edited version so I can read it without having to reserve a two hour block to finish?

to your first question ,here is the defenition of the word soliloquy .


so·lil·o·quy [sə lílləkwee]
(plural so·lil·o·quies)
1. talking when alone: the act of speaking while alone, especially when used as a theatrical device that allows a character’s thoughts and ideas to be conveyed to the audience
2. section in play: a section of a play or other drama in which a soliloquy is spoken

[14th century. From late Latin soliloquium , literally “a speaking alone,†from Latin solus “alone†(see sole2) + loqui “to speak†(source of English eloquent).]

To your second question , hey nothing i can do ,it looked good on mircosoft word , but when copied and pasted doesn't transmit the same .
I know what a soliloquy is. My point is that if someone were giving a speech and read that, by the end the audience would be either absent or asleep.

My brother-in-law is a baggage handler at AA, and I was interested in reading this to see if it's different at HP/US, but I'm not reading all that. It's five times too long.
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Well i would agree to edit some of it , mainly putting the different paragrahs in a more ordered form , and i'd also correct the part of it where i say "To do otherwise would invite second degree burns on you butt … " i mean to say on YOUR butt ...

But alas , it appears after you post the OP , you CANNOT return and edit it , there IS no button for me to edit showing on the screen , if i had known that , i might have been more carefull writing it the first time , oh well live and learn .

Since there are too many words let me summarize it for you in something you might better be able to read ..


lol :lol: