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Dying at work in Kentucky

Marc Munroe Dion In Kentucky, where the preachers are going to be busy for a while, a number of good employees died at work when a tornado hit a candle factory. Nothing closes the circle of the working life like dying at your job.

Some employees are saying management wouldn’t let them leave, although the same sources say a number of bad employees snuck out anyway. Some people just don’t have any loyalty.

While tornadoes are a terrible thing, what better way to find out who really respects the job than to see who will obey a supervisor’s order to stay at work in the face of a disaster? Companies should consider lying to their employees about disaster just to see who is loyal.

“Hey, Frank,” the boss could say. “The hospital just called. Your wife was
in a terrible car accident and she’s bleeding to death, but we need you today.

You leave, you’re fired.” If Frank sets his jaw and keeps his eyes on the computer screen, he is employee of the month material. If he runs for the exit, you don’t want him around anyway.

“Hey, Frank,” the supervisor yells as Frank barrels out the door. “It was just a test. There was no accident. Your wife’s fine. We just wanted to see if you’re a loyal employee. Keep walking. We’ll mail you the two weeks’ severance.”

Companies might want to consider including a “dying at work” clause in the employee handbook.

“In the event of a natural disaster, nuclear attack, catastrophic fire or anything similar, employees must remain at work until they die. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.”

That oughta do it. I’ve worked in places where nearly every sentence in the employee handbook ended with “termination of employment.” They weren’t nice places to work, but at least I was well aware of the 106 infractions for which I could be fired.

Perhaps some supervisory employees died in the candle factory, too. This is understandable, but there are always fewer supervisors than there are employees, so the odds are in the boss’s favor. Anyway, one thing I learned after 50 years as an employee is that, if you’re terrified of your boss, he or she is probably just as terrified of his or her boss. People don’t get nicer as you go higher up the chain of command.

Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s men lost the Battle of Little Bighorn and were shot and cut to shreds
by the encircling army of Native Americans, but the important thing is they didn’t run. They stood and died. Their boss may have been a fool, but they didn’t embarrass him or the nation for which they worked. If those brave soldiers could do it, then surely Shayla in shipping and receiving can. She’s a tough girl. She’s a single mother with two kids and a factory job. She has to be tough.

Work is so important to us that the job is high up in a person’s obituary. I met my wife at work. My father met my mother at work. You can’t do anything more intimate at your job, and if you do, you can no doubt be subject to disciplinary action, including termination of employment. The job is at least a third of your life, more if there’s overtime, forced or otherwise. It’s important.

So, when the big, twisting wind came, you stayed. They told you to stay. And, when the roof came in, you were crushed. You lay on the floor with $9 in your pocket, a wallet, a cellphone, a half-pack of menthol cigarettes, a red plastic cigarette lighter, and your house and car keys.

It’s not much, but neither is a job in a candle factory, and the national news people had to look
at a map to figure out where exactly you’d died.

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