unmasking Rasputin the Racist, in a month of twilight shifts

A recent Benetton ad. Cheeky and creative. Unhate, indeed!

[ 2nd Note : This is a slightly edited version of the blog which appeared around ten hours ago before I left for morning shift, just a few added paragraphs to either aggravate or mitigate your view of the subject, and despite the inflammatory title above I remain quite neutral about such subject, thanks so much for reading ! ]

[ Note : I honestly don’t know how long this blog will be, am making it up as I go along (obviously).  I avoid negative blogs at all costs, unless there is a lesson to be learned.  Hope this one won’t be an exception to the negative rule. ]

NOT ONLY because I can’t think of a better alias sooner, but also because it’s strangely appropriate and alliteral, let’s call him Rasputin the Racist (in a non-accusatory and ironic way) OK?

I refer to my temporary bisor who’s been my shift partner the last four weeks since regular partner SuperBisor went to the Pearl of the Orient to collect his bride.  It hasn’t helped that due to production snags, our afternoon shifts have occasionally extended to late night and our night shifts to the wee hours, where the odd mechanical breakdown has been known to happen.

I perceived as ominous three senior colleagues telling me the same thing about my interim boss : the moment he gives you a hard time, tell me OK, so we can tell him off straightaway.  I nodded my head vigorously each time, but it wasn’t a promising welcome to working with Rasputin, who by the way is Kiwi and is as white as I am brown, although you probably already guessed that.

He hates that he does it, and he sometimes can’t help it, but he can’t trust people who don’t belong to his particular demographic, tends to blame the nearest non-New Zealander if and when things go wrong (which has  been me on a daily basis, since late March), and asks anyone who bothers to listen to validate his outrageous theories about alleged links between current national problems and immigrants (and related visitors) to his country.

In most dictionaries and search engines, his behavior would certifiably be defined by the R word, but to my everlasting cluelessness, I have continued to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially because I will be his subordinate.

Quite frankly he has more flaky ideas than he can handle without being labeled a bigot, xenophobe, or intolerant (actually all those terms are just a step short of the R word), and I’ll give you just three rather amusing examples.

As a dedicated cyclist, he thinks that motorists should pay a special tax (he obviously hadn’t thought of the road user’s tax) because all their cars eff up the road quality for other users.  He says this to a room full of car owners  who don’t care for his opinion, but are forced to listen because it’s tea time.

He is one of the only two people (the other is even odder than him) who feel that joining the union is a waste of time; he honestly thinks the National Operations Manager and Human Resources generalist will take the time annually to individually negotiate his compensation package.

And this is a bit personal, but he thinks no one will smell the slight, almost imperceptible aroma of alcohol on Mondays that lingers with him when he’s had a bit too much to drink on weekends.

There is actually a fourth example of his outrageous flaky behavior, and I hesitate to put in on electronic paper, but for posterity’s sake : Remember Ondoy and the resultant national calamty that visited the country?  A wire report was carried in the local paper, and of course it caught our attention, but Rasputin reportedly blurted out, after hearing that quite a number of our countrymen perished in the typhoon, that (the storms) should’ve finished off the lot of them!  Such a statement, whether or not it was serious, was certainly in poor taste, and only cemented the work family’s low regard for this person.

All these have earned him copious amounts of derision and disparaging laughter from the rest of the staff, but the irony is he’s all right with me when we’re alone.  He turns to normal when there’s no one else, probably because he thinks he has nothing to prove to an Asian like me, particularly one who is his subordinate.  I have no problem with that, as long as I am able to finish the shift without issues.

And thankfully, besides the sporadic outburst about reserving available jobs for Kiwis, the paranoia with not being able to fix a breakdown ( he is the least experienced among the supervisors) and his obsession with safety (he has a constant fear of dust explosions), we got along quite well the last three weeks.

The second-to-the-last week of our shifts together, I admit I committed a rather huge boo-boo.  I didn’t check the condition of the tape measure before measuring a wheat bin.  It was quarter to seven on a Friday, and only 15 minutes separated your tired kabayan and the restful weekend.

Plop went the lead weight and chink into the wheat, 10 meters below.  My family jewels went straight to my throat, as the tearing of the tape spelled out instant disastrous consequences for me.  Organizing a climb down to retrieve the weight would’ve taken at least half an hour, not counting the paperwork (confined space permit, health and safety assessment, etc).  Going down without a safety lookout and on my own would’ve been tantamount  to instant dismissal.  But failing to report the incident would’ve been unthinkable, think food safety and all the catastrophic results of having a lead object the size of a ping pong ball in the conveyor.

I already expected Rasputin to chew me out, insult me for ruining our Friday night, and moan about it all the way to Monday.  And truth to tell, I deserved it, stupidity and carelessness were the kindest words I could use to describe my actions.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Instead, he quietly asked me to tell him how far the tape measure was from the ladder before it tore (so he could assess how far away from the ladder the weight had dropped), quickly filled out all the forms, and went down himself (he is not afraid of heights in the least, I quickly learned). Eventually we found the weight, but my respect for his professional and non-emotional respnose to minor emergencies grew by leaps and bounds that day.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

It’s our last day today as shift partners.  90% of the staff still think he’s a jerk, and he’s a candidate for a race sensitivity course if ever there’ll be one scheduled, and I coined the term in the title only half-seriously because nobody likes him, but he survives in the mill due to his utility and the fact that he will do jobs when everyone else (qualified) is on leave.

But today at least, I will shake his hand at the end of the shift and thank him for a stress-free four weeks.  And I will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt, notwithstanding his sometimes tasteless jokes and mindless comments.

Thanks for reading !


2 thoughts on “unmasking Rasputin the Racist, in a month of twilight shifts

  1. Pingback: is “effing Asian sh_t” a race-insensitive term? | YLBnoel's Blog

  2. Pingback: my last shift with rasputin the racist | YLBnoel's Blog

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