By Studs Terkel, Ballantine Books, 1974, 0-345-32569-9
Classic. Short interviews with people about their work and their life. The Protestant Work Ethic really comes through.
[p366] [Conrad Swibel, meter reader] I’ve been bit once already by a German shepherd. And that was something. It was really scary. It was an outside meter the woman had. I read the gas meter and was walking back out and heard a woman yell. I turned around and this German shepherd was comin’ at me. The first thing I thought was that he might go for my throat, like the movies. So I crouched down and gave him my arm instead of my neck. He grabbed a hold of my arm, bit that, turned around. My arm was kinda soft, so I thought I’d give him something harder. So I gave him my hand. A little more bone in that. So he bit my hand.
I gave it to him so he wouldn’t bit my throat. I didn’t want him to grab hold of my face. He turned around again and by that time–they usually give you a three-cell flashlight, a pretty big one–I had that out and caught him right in the mouth. And he took the flashlight away from me. I jammed it in his mouth and he just ripped it away. I jumped a six-foot fence tryin’ to get away from him, ‘cause then I had my senses back. It was maybe in five seconds this all happened.
Terkel: ``Were you hurt?’’
No. Just a hole right here in my arm. (Indicates a livid scar.)…
Usually they’ll say,
Don't hit the dog.'' If it's bad enough, I usually hit him in the head with the flashlight, to knock it away. Then they'll say,Why did you hit it? The dog’s not gonna bite you.’’ I say,
It's jumping on me, it's scratching me.'' And she says,All it’s doing is scratching you?’’ It’s weird. It’s not biting me, it’s scratching me. (Laughs.) So that’s ok.
Terkel: ``When nobody’s looking…?’’
You kick him down the stairs usually. (Laughs.) Usually the dog will follow you down the stairs and back up. That’ll give you a good chance, ‘cause the dog’ll try to pass you. So you would kick him down the stairs. (Laughs.) Even if he just follows you down the stairs you try to get him for the one you missed a couple of houses back. Many people will report you if you abuse a dog. But what about me? …
[p370] If you see a nice lady sitting there in a two-piece bathing suit–if you work it right and they’ll be laying on their stomach in the sun and they’ll have their top strap undone–if you go there and you scare ‘em good enough, they’ll jump up. To scare ‘em where they jump up and you would be able to see them better, this takes time and it gives you something to do. It adds excitement to your day. If you startle ‘em they’ll say, ``You could’ve said something earlier, rather than just jumping up behind me yelling, `Gas man’!’’ You have to make excitement for yourself.
Jesusita Navarro, housewife, [p403] How are you going to get people off welfare if they’re constantly being pushed down? If they’re constantly feeling they’re not good for anything? People say, I’m down, I’ll stay down. And this goas on generation to generation to generation. Their daughter and their daughter and their daughter. So how do you break this up? These kids don’t ask to be born–these kids are gonna grow up and give their lives one day. There will always be another Vietnam.
There will always be war. There always has been. There way the world is run, yes, there will always be war. Why? I really don’t know. Nobody has ever told me. I was so busy handling my own affairs and taking care of my children and trying to make my own money and calling up welfare when my checks are late or something has been stolen. All i know is what’s going on here. I’m an intelligent woman up to a certain point, and after that…I wish I knew. I guess the big shots decided the war. I don’t question it, because I’ve been busy fighting my own little war for so long.
Elmer Ruiz, gravedigger, [p660] They ask me if it is true when we bury somebody we dig ‘em out in four, five years and replace ‘em with another one. I tell ‘em no. When these people is buried, he’s buried here for life.