As I look ahead on the road of life I see final exams in the distance, just in front of the horizon line and waiting for my approach. Looming large in the rear and side view mirrors is my midterms…one midterm back with a 94 (yes!) and I am still awaiting my grade on the other (fingers crossed). I’ve plotted out my educational trajectory and by 2015 I should be eligible for graduation, and while that date seems very sciency fictiony and far off, it will be here before we know it. I also think I am personally experiencing some kind of personal temporal distortion field, I honestly think I perceive the earth’s rotation at a faster than actual rate, or rather as I get older time seems to pass by much more quickly. The same relative moment just whizzes on by now, however I have memories of being 15 and gouging my eyes out in algebra class because I felt as if I was sitting there forever.
I can think of a few instances in my earlier life when time moved as slow as molasses in a January snowstorm. One time in particular comes to mind when I was 19—I had a factory job that was so boring each eight-hour shift seemed like its own eternity. Looking back, that factory job was definitely one of those defining moments in my life when I really took in what was going on around me. There’s something to be said for epiphanies that come from observations. Towards the end of my tenure at that factory, I took a good look around and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t end up doing something like that later in life.
I’ve worked at a couple of factories in my life and each experience shared a common theme of being a brief and demoralizing experience. The factory job that stands out the most was in Florida; it was a plastic mold-injection manufacturer. And I worked the graveyard shift, which made it an extra weird experience. On one hand, the night shift was good for cooler temperatures. The machines generated their own special heat and also this facility was not climate controlled, it was a giant metal warehouse that baked under the hot Florida sun. So you can imagine the respite that came with darkness and quiet. On the other hand, some of the graveyard shift cons were related to just being up when the world is sleeping, feeling tired and missing your bed, or worse, closing your eyes for a second and dozing off, screwing up the manufacturing process. Looking back I’d have to say it was fairly obvious that the cons outweigh the pros, I’m not sure why I endured this experience.
The machines ran 24-7 in a continuous process of plastic pellets getting fed into a machine that boils the stuff down, adds coloring, pours into molds, speed solidifies the plastic and spits out some sort of widget. These widgets were things like plastic medicine cups, fasteners or plastic clips that go to other crappy things, gaskets, plugs, and all sorts of overlooked innate things. Working in that capacity has influenced the rest of my life with regard to noticing the kind of plastic bullshit we made there. Everywhere I look, all the goddamn time I see pieces of plastic stuff on the floor, or maybe buy and IKEA something that inevitably has the bag of plastic fasteners and parts to hang or build whatever it was that I bought. It’s really out of control and has really permeated our human existence. It’s amazing how overlooked this gigantic industry is, it’s a world not really thought about too much because it functions as a secondary or tertiary global process. Not that we need more plastic bullshit in our lives. It’s really weird if you step back for a moment and think about it. Or maybe not, what the fuck do I know? I really wish someone would figure out a way to clean up and recycle the plastic garbage gyres. That’s definitely one of those things people don’t see or really think about but if it were dumped in our community there would be a mobilization of efforts that would be over the top.
|This is where your candy wrapper went.|
And with regard to my part in this process—
I, being one of many humans at the end of this process, had to open a hot door every 26 seconds and pull out the plastic pieces: finish them off (which basically meant removing the plastic doohickeys where the liquid channels of the mold were), inspect for quality control and throw into a box to be weighed or counted or something. I must have moved tens of thousands of plastic bullshit parts through the process. Which isn’t even a dent in the whole picture! The environment was really toxic too; the machines that produced the widgets were very loud, even with earplugs and protection on. The chemical stench in the air was sickening and heavy; it literally felt like a slow poisoning. The supervisors there wouldn’t let me listen to my Walkman and I felt like for my entire shift I was having my soul slowly sucked out of me. To pass the time and because it was so loud I would sing every song I knew at the top of my lungs. But this didn’t last long (thankfully); I think I might have only worked there for 2 months, maybe 2 and a half. It was just long enough to look closely at the people who came in for the next shift and know that I did not want to share that fate.