Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Wilder and Miguel left Livingston County. First they headed south to put distance between them and Howell. Then they headed west. They were west of the West Branch of the Red Cedar river by the middle of the second day of travel.
They were presented with a dilemma; Split up or stay together.
A week earlier the two men had fearlessly strode east confident in their abilities. Since then they had lost comrades to internal dissent and, presumably, to their being kidnapped.
They decided to stick together even though it would slow down their scouting.
One would take the measurements of each bridge while the other would stand over-watch and record the measurements.
The two men were very different.
Wilder was unfailingly polite and spoke in clear, well modulated tones.
Miguel spoke street slang and many of the terms he threw around could be interpreted as deragotory.
Miguel challenged Wilder on his funny way of speaking the first night they were back west of the Red Cedar. “Why don’t you talk like a normal person?” Miguel asked.
Wilder raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question. “How do you mean?”
“You don’t say ‘nigga’ or ‘spic’ or ‘gook’. You don’t say ‘fuck’ or ‘mo-fo’, ‘puta’ or
‘ho’.” Miguel pointed out.
“That is not respectful.” Wilder explained.
“Why not. Niggers call themselves ‘nigger’ all the time.” Miguel said.
“I used to be in business. I never saw anybody put one extra dollar in their pocket by using that kind of language. On the other hand, I saw a few people lose their jobs and some lucrative contracts by saying ‘nigger’ or a word like ‘nigger’.”
“What about rap singers?” Miguel said. “They say ‘nigger’ and ‘mutha-fucker’ all the time and they make millions.”
“I don’t know any rap singers. Never met any.” Wilder said.
“Well, Jay Z is worth a billion dollars.” Miguel said with confidence.
“I doubt it.” Wilder said.
“I mean, before the plague he was worth a billion dollars.” Miguel corrected himself.
“I doubt it.” Wilder said.
“How can you say that?” Miguel challenged.
“I know some millionaires. Actually, I knew a lot of millionaires and none of them counted future income as assets.” Wilder said.
Miguel scoffed. “Sure you knew a lot of millionaires. Like you recognized them when you saw them at a ball game.”
“Nope. Not like that. I knew them like they would pick up the phone when I called them. Maybe a dozen with a net worth of more than $20 million.” Wilder said. There was no sense of exaggeration in his voice. Just a simple statement of fact.
“Still, how can you diss Jay Z?” Miguel asked.
Wilder shrugged. “Look at all the very biggest acts in Rock Music still touring the casino circuit. They aren’t doing it because they love music. They play casinos because they cannot pay their bills.” Wilder said. “I don’t see how rappers are any different than those guys.”
“Yeah, well ain’t nobody millionaires any more so that is not a good reason to talk all ‘whitey’.” Miguel said.
Wilder considered that for a minute as he watched the flames of the fire.
“When you call somebody ‘nigger’ or ‘cracker’, how do they know if you are mad at them or just being friendly?” Wilder asked.
“They don’t. You just gotta talks some more.” Miguel admitted.
“What if there isn’t time to talk some more?” Wilder asked. “What if the person you are talking to pays more attention to what you called them than they do to the message you are trying to give them?” Wilder asked.
Miguel was going to have to chew on that for a while.
“I want to tell you about Dave. He is one of those millionaires who will pick up the phone when I call.” Wilder said.
“Go on.” Miguel said.
“Dave sold ansels. Ansuls are those little spinny-sprinklers on automatic fire systems.” Wilder said. “The insurance company I worked for was underwriting a huge construction project by Detroit. Huge, meaning half a billion dollars of construction.”
“A huge snow storm shut down Chicago, Detroit and Toledo on a Friday night. The state and the city were in budget trouble so they refused to pay workers to plow the streets on the weekend.” Wilder said.
“The thing about fire suppression systems is that they are in the walls. The workers cannot hang drywall or ceilings until after the pipe and ansels are in place. The tile cannot go in until the drywall is hung.” Wilder said.
“The thing about a half billion dollar project is that every day it is delayed costs about $50,000 in interest.” Wilder said. “Oh, and they had run out of ansuls on the job site.”
“What do you think Dave did?” Wilder asked.
Miguel shrugged. He didn’t have a clue.
“Dave went out and bought two brand-new snowmobiles and sleds.” Wilder said.
“He paid his people to pack the ansels on the sleds and drive them into the project ten miles away.” Wilder said. "They did that from Saturday until Wednesday.
“And then he called a fellow business owner, a guy named Ralph. Ralph installed smoke alarms. He offered to cart the smoke alarms into the project. Ralph said ‘Hell yes’.” Wilder said.
“The storm was so bad that the trucks weren’t running and Dave ran out of ansuls. Dave had his workers cut the shrink-wrap off of pallets of parts they were going to ship to other projects and disassemble them to pull the parts the big project needed. Dave guessed, correctly, that the other jobs weren’t going to turn a wheel for at least a week.” Wilder said.
“I bet he lost his ass on the job.” Miguel said.
“Pretty much. He held a lottery to see which workers he would sell the snowmobiles to. In the end, he probably broke even and this was the big job that he was counting on to make it big-time.” Wilder said.
“So what is the point. Obviously Dave failed.” Miguel said.
“That is where you are wrong.” Wilder said. “That big hotel chain that managed the project...they were not only the biggest builders of hotels in the mid-West, they also build a lot of dollar stores. After that, every ansul they bought for projects in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio came from Dave.”
“And that guy who sold smoke alarms? He always put in a good word for Dave. Ralph even ended up selling his business to Dave when he retired.” Wilder said.
“Yeah, Whitey looking out for Whitey.” Miguel said. “It don’t work that way for people-of-color.”
“I never said Dave was white.” Wilder said. “He is African-American and he used to be a guard for the Detroit Pistons. But that isn’t why he is a millionaire. He is a millionaire because he lived his motto ‘I can’t be a success unless everybody around me is a super-star’.”
“And I never heard Dave call anybody a ‘nigger’ or ‘spic’ or ‘ho’.”