Will on May 7th, 2011
I used to work with a guy named Jeff Harvey. I had just moved back to Seattle and the need for cash was urgent. After being turned away by administrative temp agencies, I found day to day employment at a place called LaborWorks. They employed a lot of ex-cons and ne’er-do-wells. It was an exciting time of my life.
Jeff Harvey was 58. He had three children, all of whom, he claimed, were highly successful in the fields of technology, medicine, and higher education. His wife, he said, had left him for a younger man. Every day – and every day for the last three years – Jeff Harvey had showed up to LaborWorks shortly after 6am hoping to find a day’s job. Three years earlier he quit going to WorkSource and came to LaborWorks. He claimed they discriminated against his disability.
Although Jeff Harvey looked disabled, it was only his right hand that was legally defective. It had been crushed by a piece of machinery in an accident years earlier and although he made a strong recovery, he did not regain its perfect form. He was left in the tight grasp of a catch-22 where he could not receive full disability and no one would hire him because he was disabled.
I met Jeff Harvey because he and I were assigned to the same job site for an entire week and I had a car. Every morning I would pick him up and drive to the site and every morning he would tell me the sad story of being almost disabled. I resented Jeff Harvey at first. He was a poor worker with poor grooming and he smoked like an industrial plant with a breathing problem to show for it. It seemed we had nothing in common. But Jeff Harvey was not mad at the world. If he was aware that life had dealt him a poor hand, he did not show it.
Jeff Harvey can be told like a joke. He can be easily imitated (I have), he can be caricatured, he can be pigeon-holed. But Jeff Harvey, despite everything, despite even things I have not mentioned, was not bitter. He was a generally happy person. Knowing Jeff and knowing this makes me glad we met.