Biff America: It’s not easy being mean |

Biff America: It’s not easy being mean

Joe Dumas was one miserable SOB; everybody said so.

I knew this about Joe years before meeting him, and in our family, Joe’s SOB’ness was legendary.

My Dad operated a small trucking business with his three brothers; a company with which Joe was employed. It would have been difficult to find anyone, worker, management, front office who had anything good to say about Joe Dumas. He was difficult to employ, painful to work with and generally unpleasant to be around.

All my siblings and I were employed in some capacity, at some time, by the family business – usually during the summer and holidays.

My sisters would answer phones and do some secretarial work. According to them, Joe was a dirty old man. He never did anything that would rise to the level for dismissal, but he would just stare at them, up and down, whenever they had cause to go on the loading lock to deliver phone messages.

It was from my older brothers I learned that Joe was a mean, lazy, angry guy who complained incessantly and tried to get others to do his dirty work.

My Dad’s company was a union operation all employment was based on seniority. My brothers and I were only allowed to work when there weren’t enough full-time union employees to fill the need. We all worked as dock workers, and Joe drove a truck. Our working days consisted of riding around with Joe to factories and mills picking up freight, then bringing it back to a warehouse. There, we would unload it and put on other trucks, with various other freight, to be delivered to stores’ warehouses.

Anyone who worked with Joe would have to listen to his dirty jokes, malcontent ranting, backstabbing assessment of management and co-workers while at the same time watch him attempt to shift the work burden on the shoulders of whoever his partner was that day.

My brother Mike, being the oldest was the first of the Bergeron boys to have the pleasure of spending an entire day with Joe.

Mike was the nicest one in our family. He had saint-like patience and, to this day, is one of the kindest people I have ever met.

He drove Joe crazy.

Before his first day, my mother cautioned him not to let Joe upset him and push him around. Joe was famous for demanding his helper fetch him coffee and pay for his snacks. No other driver did that, and it was totally out of line, but some of the new guys were initially fooled into believing it was what was expected of them.

My mother loathed Joe from the day, at a company gathering, he complimented her by saying: “You are fattening up nice, Mrs. Bergeron.” She even suggested if Joe asked Mike to get him coffee he dribble something unmentionable into it first.

Mike would have no such foul behavior. Rather, he killed Joe with kindness. He sympathized with his complaints, smiled at his insults and when Joe told him to go get him lunch, Mike explained that he had no money but had packed an extra bologna and beet sandwich for him in his lunch pail.

At the end of the second day, Joe went to the dispatcher and demanded another helper. “I can’t take another @#$%-en day with that freak.” He said, “it is like working with the @##$%^%$%^ Christ Child.”

It was only a few years later when my next oldest brother, Mark, was forced to suffer Joe’s company. Mark was the polar opposite of Mike – Mark was a big guy, tough, with a bad temper and no patience. There were no witnesses, but Joe filed a complaint with the Union Steward that Mark dangled him over the edge of an 8-foot loading dock by his jacket and threatened to drop him if Joe spoke another word to him for the rest of the day.

My penance was soon to follow. Lacking Mike’s kindness and Mark’s strength, I did my time.

It was no walk in the park, but I learned a valuable life lesson while working with Joe Dumas. Yes, there are a fair amount of miserable SOB’s in this world, and I would argue that most of them can’t help it; they just see the world through angry, self-pitying, eyes. I also learned that in the case of every miserable SOB, it is worse to be them than to spend time around them. I also learned, after working for two weeks with Joe Dumas, that if someone demands you get them coffee and the coffee tastes funny, they won’t ask you again.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at

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