BE American

Don't Just BUY It!

Andy Bolig - May 02, 2013 10:00 AM


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It is trumped, only by the broader and ever-more important, “BE American!”

On this damp, dreary Sunday morning in January, I find myself sitting in a booth at a Bob’s Big Boy in Michigan.

On a recent trip to Detroit, I decided to stay in nearby Grand Blanc, with plans to do some visiting in the area after I fulfilled the main reason for my trek to the Motor City.

Amid the clanging of dishes and the cacophony of voices, as vintage tunes pour from the overhead speakers, both customers and employees interact with each other in a cozy setting, once common on almost every street – Main Street, U.S.A.

On this Sunday morning, it’s fair to say that the employees are more hurried than those to which they attend. All that will likely change by morning as those who fill the various booths and tables today will possibly find themselves toiling away at the GM Weld and Tool plant just a stone’s throw down Saginaw Street. Today though, thoughts and worries of the workplace are reserved mainly for those wearing the aprons at Bob’s. They interact with their customers with surprising intimacy. As an older couple in the booth next to me begins to sit down, Marcie, their server, already has the decaf poured and is on her way to automatically answering her question, “The usual?”

They know them, because they are one of them. They live and breathe in this community alongside those who find themselves building the automotive portion of the American Dream. Without them, the greater Detroit area wouldn’t be nearly as great.

We focus on the cars mainly, because we’re auto enthusiasts, but we do a grave injustice to those behind the welders, wrenches and yes, even the dishwashers, that have allowed the automotive industry to thrive and endure. Ever since the first automobiles have been assembled through a concerted effort of more than one person, generations of assemblers, enthusiasts and the folks who feed them have worked diligently to keep the dream alive, even if it is someone else’s dream.

No man is an island, and the same could be said for any company, whether they sell cars, or burgers on Sunday. They need each other, possibly more than we commonly acknowledge. With trends moving toward big box stores and “efficiencies” being a key word with the ever-present bottom line, both corporations and cooks have been forced to cut back, making sure that the ink stays black and the bean counters happy. Even in this leaner-meaner paradigm, they will continue to do so, only if we support them in much the same way that they have supported each other through the decades.

Generations of workers have flowed through the doors of both the assembly plants, and the businesses that support them. Everything from greenhorns to gray hairs are necessary to keep the vitality, ingenuity and, of course, experience, that is required to give any entity the forward momentum to forge ahead, and wisdom to keep it on track amid the changing tides and waves.

That became increasingly obvious to me, sitting in a booth on this dreary, damp Sunday morning. Maybe it was my un-native presence in the Motor City that struck a nostalgic chord with me. Maybe it was the reconnaissance run that I found myself on, checking out some of the famous automotive namesake places such as Fenton, Flint, Pontiac and so on. Either way, this trip has had a profound effect on me. I’ve been here before, but on this particular trip, when I was less preoccupied with metal and chrome, I had the opportunity to notice the folks who make it all happen on a daily basis — the people.

The patriotic outcry, “Buy American!” continues to be upheld in America’s automotive heartland. It is trumped, only by the broader and ever-more important, “BE American!” Don’t forget to tip your server.