May 10, 2006

By Jim Kittelberger

The smell that permeated for miles around, a mixture of smoke, exhausts and that slight aroma of something electrical burning, was an unmistakable beacon, an unneeded street sign that harkened all who would encroach upon these streets that you had entered the dedicated area that the factory dominated, lock, stock and people. For indeed the people who populated the streets a mile hence and a mile yon were assets of the factory as if they were iron ore or coal.

The factory that spread over six city blocks consumed raw materials and people twenty-four hours a day, its insatiable appetite never sated never tired never rested. As it’s appetite increased, train tracks were laid to accommodate boxcars filled with more and more fodder pouring into the bottomless maw. Conveyer belts sped the metal, the rubber, the glass, north, south, east and west into every environ of the factory to be hammered, screwed, shaped, cut, shined, buffed, fitted, assembled into product by human beings rooted into one spot receiving, performing a task, moving it on; receiving, performing a task, moving it on; receiving, performing a task, moving it on and on and on until every muscle, every nerve, every part of the persons brain wishes to scream, STOP, I’m a person, I have an identity, I am someone. But the factory doesn’t care about your identity, your thoughts, your hopes, your fears. They want product, product, product. Do your task or move away to be replaced by another nameless raw material in the never-ending chain, in and out, in and out, faster, faster and faster. Product is profit, more product means more profit. A Christmas turkey and fifty dollars is yours if you hold on. What about the wife and kids, the bills, the bills, the bills.

Hands wrinkled, scarred and aching reach for the gold watch as the speaker talks about the years of devotion to the factory. Legs tired and arthritic struggle one last time through the factory saying good-bye to younger faces still not lined with worry, searching in vain for those he finally remembers went out before him. Slowly, sadly, he struggles toward the exit one last time. The factory has used him up, has taken all that he had to give and threw it onto the conveyor belt to be used along with the metal, the rubber, the glass, his sweat, his sinew, his spirit and converted it all into product.

The weather is sweet and the smell of the factory hardly recognizable anymore as the rocking chair on the porch beckons him and he willingly lowers his used up body, sighs a little and soon dies.

The factory sends its regrets, misspells his name, and states he was a fine man and is sure that his son’s will live up to their father’s legacy at the factory.

a postscript:

My grandfather and father both worked at the same factory. They spent their whole working lives there. My grandfather was a German immigrant and fathers did not speak freely to their sons about much of anything, as it followed with my father and me, so I really have no reason to believe they hated their work place. In fact, the opposite is likely. I think they loved their work and the factory. I did not follow them into the factory.

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