November 29, 2005

Factory Life, pt. 2: On Being Ungrateful

It was pouring rain as I walked out the door, tip-toed across a flooding parking lot, climbed into my car, and began the long journey home from work today. I don't usually like the rain, especially driving in it, but today it felt appropriate somehow, like a well-needed cleansing. I mused over the day, exhausted, remembering with fondness the various illegal activities I'd been required to engage in. Well, only one actually. I was asked by my supervisor to pull small stickers off of boxes containing filters, stickers that said "made in Canada", and replace them with stickers that said "Made in the USA". Yes, it was illegal. Yes, I'm sorry to say I realized it halfway through my job. No, I didn't stop. *sigh* My thoughts wandered to the post I wrote yesterday.
As I thought through it, I found myself somewhat mortified at what I'd written. My only consolation was the "good lord, the arrogance" comment, about myself, somewhere towards the end. What I failed to mention yesterday, something that went through my head and never made it to the page, and something that should have been first, was something about the very people I kind of humiliated when I wrote.

While they are exactly as I so brutally describe them, they are also kind people. They accepted me unconditionally, as one of them, without question or reproach (though they did ask me what a guy with a university education was doing "in a place like this"). C, a guy who on the one hand has a daughter, no wife, and two girlfriends, was the first to welcome me, and the first to offer conversation (despite the continued invitations to discuss the various kinds of pornography he and D, ah, enjoy), his gentle running monologue enough to keep me awake on my first day there. S, a cultural Mormon (I didn't know they existed till I met her) and a girl who married her husband after three weeks in Vegas and who seemed to want nothing but to make her life easy by winning the lottery, asks me every day how my lunch break was, and was the person who asked me all about being a missionary on the first day I was there, an opportunity which hasn't really resurfaced since then. Not to mention she's read both the Bible and the book of Mormon all the way through. I can't claim that.

The pinnacle of this is what happened today. As I was pulling "made in Canada" stickers off of the boxes and replacing them with their USA counterparts, I began to talk with my partner in crime, Gene. Gene is an older gentleman, someone who has worked in factories most of his life. He says that Graver is a good place to work, mostly because it's very lenient on the rules (a bad in my book, since we had to use xylene with our bare hands, but no matter) and with policies for the employees. Usually he's a painter, spray-painting the massive filter housings that the welding department gives him. So here we are, pulling off stickers;

"Shit," he said.
"What?" I asked. His reply was to pull, with some exaduration, a sticker off of the box in his other hand.
"So you're a musician, huh," he asked, then paused. "You in a band or something?"
"Yes, well, sort of. I'm a worship leader at my church."
"A what?"
"A worship leader. I play guitar."
"Oh. Shit. Oh my, sorry. I shouldn't cuss around a worship leader."

As our little conversation progressed, I found out that he sincerely wished his life - the decisions that he'd made - had been different. He wished he'd gone to college, majored in some computer science or something of that nature, so he could work on things more interesting than painting, to do something more worthwhile with his life. I felt terrible as I thought about this, thinking that I HAD gone to college and yet, here I was, making gross generalizations about the people of this little world of a factory, people who I thought didn't care about their educations.

All this to say that I found my comments yesterday to be somewhat one-sided and harsh, not offering the humanity of these people who have been forced into working at a factory. I don't particularly regret my comments regarding the factory itself, nor about the church - the only good thing about a factory is its ability to give lots of people jobs, but a church that looks like a factory hasn't fully realized its own potential. I'm just sad to have made myself a part of the church factory with some of my judgmental comments. So, to those people (who haven't actually read this) of Graver Technologies NY, I'm sorry.

No comments: