Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Big Red Coat.

The Big Red Coat.

It's wintertime in Chicago, there's snow and ice on the ground, whenever I wait by the bus stop there are no barriers save a few bare trees in Humboldt Park to quiet the wind's razor touch ... it's time to break out the Big Red Coat. The Big Red Coat got its name from my friend Kristina almost a decade ago, but it's genesis prefigures her appearance in my personal timeline by almost another decade.

My father was hit by the late-'80s economy and lost his position as the vice president of a home building company out in Maryland. The job market out East was terrible so he headed back to the Midwest -- where we originally lived -- to see if there were any better prospects. There were, so he moved the family back to the Chicagoland area and everything was terrific. Until he lost that job, and the market still sucked.

So my dad did what he had to do to support his family. He drove limos. He did temp work. And he worked the loading docks for Purolator Courier, a Canadian based transport company similar to FedEx. it was here that he acquired a heavy red jacket dispensed by Purolator Courier for wearing. He actually got a few, since they were built for different temperatures and therefore had different designs. The one I inherited was built for heavy cold and has nice fuzzy pockets I can slip my hand into if I forget -- as I always do -- to wear gloves.

It couldn't have easy for my dad to go from the world of white collar management to working on docks alongside folks who didn't have college degrees. And it must have been humiliating at times to drive a limo for someone whose position he held the equivalent of in the not so recent past. But he did what he had to do to support his family. Now, I don't want to make my dad out to be a saint. He could be infuriating, and at times it was his own conspicuous consumption his manula labor jobs were partially supporting ... but in the end he was willing to take whatever job he coould to keep his family bobbing along uncertain economic waters.

He later went on to get his law degree, and by the time he died we once again comfortably inhabited the white collar world courtesy his job as a corporate lawyer,and truth be told I think he lost a lot of the humility he picked up from rougher years which was kind of frustrating at times. but the Big Red Coat always reminds me that when pressed my dad did the right thing ... and I hope I do the same in times of trial and times of prosperity.

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