The irony of mockingly sad goodbyes to an unhealthy, fatuous food is not lost on me. But there is no irony to the nearly 18,500 jobs lost—most of them middle-class, union positions—perhaps because one of them was mine. After 25 years of waking before 3am, this Saturday I awoke at my usual time but without a truck to load and deliver. I tried to go back to sleep, but no luck. Like so many Americans, I’m suddenly unemployed, faced with the challenge of where to go from here.
One change: living in west Sonoma County, I will no longer have to deal with the responses to the way I earned my living, which ranged from reticent disapproval to laughter to outright hostility. Only being a drug pusher could have earned me more disdain. Yet often, privately, people admitted their nostalgic, guilty pleasure, a confession to a knowing priest, and I absolved and even indulged their transgressions. Clandestine vanilla Zingers, powdered Donettes, chocolate pies and Texas Toast handed over in hushed reverence.
Another irony is that for such a nonsubtle food source, our dissolution was amazingly complex. Numerous corporate buyouts over the course of my tenure, two chapter 11 bankruptcies in eight years, a takeover by vulture capitalists, the cooperation of all unions in accepting harsh cuts except the bakers, who didn’t seem to understand the court-negotiated contract was inflexible. Striking meant liquidation, and they struck anyway. While I was driving home without a job, a baker picketing Oakland’s closed-for-good plant late Friday said, stunned, “I guess they’re playing hardball.”
More complexity for those gleeful that Hostess went under: Americans have not had their last Twinkie or slice of Wonder Bread. The labels and recipes will be sold in liquidation; they are still popular across America. What are not popular are unionized workers making a middle-class living. But they play hardball, even with Ho Hos, and they struck us out in the bottom of the ninth.
Dave Dulberg lives and writes in Sebastopol. He drove a Wonder bread truck for nearly 25 years.
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