My father once met a man that he used to help with homework, and who had inherited a paper mill, and my father asked him, in the course of their conversation, beside a shopping centre car park — why?
Why he not only employed east Europeans but actively flew to these countries promoting himself to their employment services, offering potential recruits assistance with relocation, six months in one of his multiple apartments. Why he explained that while wages might not be as attractive as those in a big city, the overall affordability meant they could accrue a similar pot of savings, a nest egg. All with the benefit of small town living, miles from the urban mix which these folk might not be accustomed to.
Why did he do that when so many locals, including my father’s own grandson, who had recently left education and was looking for a reason to rise from bed, were routinely unemployed and open to misdirection?
His former classmate sunk a hand across his chin and said my father’s name slowly, and then he told him about a register. A tall book to document resource issues, such as absenteeism, within the firm.
If I open that book at any page I won’t see a single Lithuanian, he explained. It’s all locals. One hour AWOL. Had to drop Ash at the clinic. Jingles needs a vet. Poor Nan’s fell again, bruised herself. Eleven on a payday, right when the Cambridge opens. You could sync a fucking Fitbit to Nan’s blue arse. It’s a history of half-excuses and hangovers, back talk and cheek. They’re a crock, the man confirmed, without a smile. In fact, a laugh was forming, and it fell out freely. Locals are a crock.
Father studied the mini roundabout, pressing at a key to open his car, with a despondency about him. His grandson was a crock. Locals, all of them, a crock. British workers, plainly, were neither up to it nor into it. Unappreciative of chances to begin their career trajectory. Soft lads and stroppy madams. Muckers, game boys and bud-monsters, lathered and laughing over snooker tables.
They have families, he shrugged purposefully at his friend. Responsibility. Connections. They’re people people. Such a defence began to weaken and trail away, though, when he realised that connections like the ones he was highlighting, within a workplace, eventually amount to baggage. Lithuanians — alienated, agile, severed and keen.
From the driver’s seat he watched the businessman, his school friend, disappear into the crowd. And he searched for his seat belt, thinking and concluding. Pay another kid to do your homework, and be bloody ruthless.