Drugs a Problem at Printing Plants?
Sometimes we have issues in our lives that are largely left alone because, quite frankly, the solution is more of a headache and/or heartache than the issue itself. The response is to tolerate the problem, ignore it or pretend you don't see it. Maybe all three. Addressing these issues fall somewhere on that to-do list between cleaning out the gutters and scheduling a screening with your proctologist.
Take an e-mail I received last week. The company and the city involved are both large, but identity matters not, for it could be any shop, anywhere. The names may be fictitious, but the message is true:
"I work for Superman Press, just north of Krypton, and the drugs flow openly. Everyone knows about it, including management, and nothing gets done about it. There are more drugs and drug dealers than downtown Metropolis. It's time to put a stop to this madness."
Now I'd like to talk about Michael. He's not a printer. Mike's goal was to be a rock-and-roll star. Guitar was his thing. Pretty good player, at least as good as Ace Frehley, but not along the lines of an Eddie Van Halen. Could he have made it on his chops? Maybe. Lesser lights have graced recording contracts. But borderline talents need luck and timing on their side. This is probably true in any competitive environment.
Unfortunately, Mike enjoyed having a belt or two onstage while playing. By the middle of his set, he was giggling and bouncing around the stage like a buffoon. The antics were to the point of distraction, but the audiences in the dives where he played were well oiled themselves. By the end of the night, however, when it came time to cover his favorite song—Skynyrd's "Freebird"—the inebriation clouds parted and a focused, skilled axesman emerged. The transformation was amazing.
Personally, I've always hated the song. But Mike's faithful flock ate it up. These were his people, for better or worse.
Booze was one of Mike's more desirable habits. At the dark end of the spectrum sat crack cocaine. Three years ago, the substance increased his heart rate to 290 beats per minute and he suffered a heart attack. A year later, another smoke sent Mike gasping to the living room floor, clutching his chest.
Some people opt for the snooze alarm when they get a wakeup call. As you may have guessed, strike three left Mike lifeless. Fittingly enough, he was chatting with the counter guy at a music store January 21st, perhaps buying strings, picks or whatever it was he could afford. The counter guy turned away for a second, and when he looked back, Mike was prone and unresponsive. At age 53, he had played his final note. He was thought to be clean at the time, so it may have been the lifetime of abuse that spelled the end.
Sadly, I never knew my brother was addicted to crack. He'd spent much of his life away from the rest of the family, popping in and out of our lives periodically. Knowing, would I have said something? Maybe not. Is a 50-something rocker not aware of the dangers that accompany substance abuse? Was it any of my business anyway, seeing as we were little more than strangers with a common past?
We all make choices in life and ultimately must reconcile ourselves to the consequences of them. Ticking timebombs, while we hope they never go off, always do. And if you never try to diffuse the situation. . .you get what you get.
Putting an end to the madness should not be difficult for printers. Fire addicts and dealers, immediately, and/or threaten to press charges unless they seek rehabilitation. You'll do them a favor and protect your interests from legal and liability standpoints, sans the conflict that accompanies dealing with a loved one. This is no less of a business decision than layoffs, consolidations or restructuring plans. The health of your company depends on it, in more ways than one.
As I said goodbye to my brother at his funeral, I thought of his wife, two children and three grandchildren. I thought about the life insurance he never purchased, and the borderline poverty in which he lived his life. I thought of the countless other decisions that brought him to this point in time, reduced to a pile of ashes in a repurposed household vase.
And I thought of the final lines in Mike's favorite song.
Oh, and the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows I can't change
Lord help me I can't change
Oh no, I can't change
He never did.