“You can’t miss another day, okay sweetie? You only have four hours left.”
The sweet Southern lilt came from my case manager at the temp agency. I missed part or all of 3 out of 5 days last week, and I expected her to be annoyed. Instead she was sympathetic, telling me how her family had been sick over the weekend and that she wanted to check my time with me.
It’s nice to have a boss who doesn’t treat me like I’m trying to get away with something.
Because I really was up at 4am leaned over the toilet bowl. No alcohol was involved. My period hit me like a train and I just really feel awful.
And last week I had two important appointments that existed before I started there. I’ve missed quite a bit and it might look pretty bad.
It’s weird to have someone from a temp agency treat me with respect where actual bosses tend to fail so badly. But I still have to put my money where my mouth is.
….So of course the next morning I was late. I really tried to be on time but halfway there I realized I had forgotten my safety glasses. I had to turn around and was 10 minutes late, but no one seemed to notice.
It’s difficult to get anywhere in boots that weigh 10 pounds apiece. And it doesn’t help that I hate the place and hate leaving the little life I brought into the world what feels like yesterday. I know it was 16 months ago but it feels like a betrayal to disappear on him. Tuesday night he lay in my arms at bedtime breathing fast and furiously suckling his pacifier. I had only been home about an hour and a half and he seemed nervous that I would leave again while he slept.
Which, of course, I did.
The factory itself is like something from a dystopian science fiction movie. They don’t allow pictures inside but I found a few that give you the idea. It’s a well-known company that makes many things, you almost certainly have a few in your house.
This place fabricates and manufactures electrical boxes.
As a non-religious person, I’m using Hell as a literary device. But I don’t know of a reason why Hell wouldn’t be completely covered in concrete and full of loud, toxic machinery. Hot and dry and monotonous, simple repetition becomes torment when your joints protest and your boots turn on you.
I asked our teenage girls the other day if Hell would have water fountains.
At first they both said no.
“But if it did, you could be there longer.”
I think I blew their minds a little. The younger one asked everyone she met that day and she said her results were 50-50.
It is probably a square mile of concrete floors. Cinder block walls hold posters about safety. One half of the place is dedicated to making the pieces and the other to putting them together. It’s been there for 40 years and the dayglo logos shining through layers of grime on the massive machines are witness to this.
But the first thing you notice is the noise. Whishing of machinery, voices shouting, forklifts beeping at every corner. Massive, distant thudding like the approaching footsteps of a giant.
Standing in the assembly cell is okay. Most of the big machines are half a factory away and you might have a little conversation with someone. But it’s still noisy, and we went from rushing to finish everything to having absolutely nothing to do and back to rushing again. Rinse, repeat. I was told an assigned place but only actually worked there two and a half days.
One person puts a couple pieces and a couple screws into a plastic frame and hands it to you. You screw in a couple more pieces and place it in a press that melts plastic lugs around your pieces. Warm chemical exhaust blows in your face as you are onto the next unit. Earplugs deaden the hiss of the hydraulics but the thump hits you in the chest every time.
Wednesday I was on time and was rewarded by being sent to the fabrication side of the facility (AKA the loud side) to Paint Hang for the entire day.
This ritual involves dangling metal pieces from little hooks on racks as they parade by on a conveyor chain. The holes in the pieces are equally tiny and the conveyor keeps getting higher off the floor before disappearing into the ceiling to find a paint sprayer somewhere.
It doesn’t seem like a hard job until you miss a couple and you’re running after the rack holding 10 pounds of sheet metal over your head hoping your aim is better this time. Then you get behind and the next half hour is spent this way. Scrambling to hang metal high on little hooks before they march past and up into the ductwork.
My supervisor told me to report back over there Thursday morning. Thursday I had a doctors appointment and the way my back was feeling, I was heading straight toward throwing it out for the third time. Hating the place is one thing, I can do a job I hate. But being laid up for days because I’m out of shape is not worth it.
I feel like shit about it. I really want to give my husband the support he deserves. Conversations with other women remind me how lucky I am to have someone who is loving and hardworking. I want to live up to that standard and contribute everything I can to building stability for us.
As soon as my background check comes through I will be a substitute teacher. I will proactively sign up for spots and I have been told it can be a decent supplemental income. I want to get a Child Development Associate credential and maybe work in a daycare.
All I really want to do is spend the day with my baby. For that I would happily do housework and cooking and I don’t care if that’s not progressive.
But wages are shit and everything is expensive. And hubs and I are both victims of the 90s – he went to school for aviation and I for audio. Not exactly in-demand in the modern economy. They said we could be anything, so we became working class.
He’s in school and I’m trying to find a direction. Teaching and writing seem to work together, most writers have to do something to pay bills. The older I get the more I like kids, for whatever reason. And it’s something that matters, to one person at a time. That’s exactly what I do best. A class might be full of students but they are each an individual. A few words with them can be powerful.
Encouraging kids to grow is a positive thing. Not that building electrical boxes is negative; it’s meaningless. Putting my energy into encouraging growth lines up with my personal values and goals.
Meanwhile I have to budget and kick some ass.