Odd Jobs

Okay. Deep breath. My first meme. Here’s hoping I don’t fall off the edge of the known universe and land, splat, on the cement in some alien’s backyard.

1. Write about the Strangest Job I Ever Had and tell what I learned from it.

2. Link to other "Lessons from Odd Jobs" posts.

3. Tag my post "Lessons from Odd Jobs".

4. Tag other bloggers, in or out of the HC network.

5. Link back to the Lessons from Odd Jobs page and and email this month’s host at “Marcus AT highcallingblogs DOT com”.

I grew up in a blue-collar family in a Midwestern factory town. In my neighborhood, it was understood that when you were done going to school, you simply walked inside one of those cinder block factories and never came out again.

It was the greatest horror story I ever heard. And my father had the oil beneath his fingernails to prove it.

My friends spent dark hours behind machines that never stopped, never broke, never cared about the whole flesh-and-blood dilemma. For a while after high school, I toiled in the factories too. But I couldn’t silence my brain. It was like being in hell.

Stand here, walk there, pick something up, bend down. Now repeat.

Four thousand times.

The funny thing is—in my mind one factory was off-the-chart horrific. In fact, it was so bad that I can’t even remember what we were making. And I only worked there for one day.

One incredibly long, unending day.

It all began, early in the morning, with some man explaining what my job was going to be once I was allowed to cross the threshold and enter the plant. All his instructions have since been erased from my mind. Because I was more focused on what was required to get inside. Earplugs, goggles, gloves, overalls and a gas mask.

I looked and felt like an alien.

To my dismay, a cavernous room waited on the other side of the door, a chasm strikingly similar to Dante’s Inferno. At 7:00 a.m., it was already peopled with faceless drones, unrecognizable behind goggles, gas masks and overalls. Stairs led up and down to nowhere in particular, machines beckoned humans to obeisance. Darkness hung in the air, as if light dared not shine in this place.

And over all of it, there rolled an overwhelming, choking stench. Sulfur. Even the mask I wore couldn’t stop the fumes. My eyes watered. The odor got in my clothes, my hair, my skin. It became part of me. It became my world. It colored the room and the people; it turned everything a hazy yellow ochre.

I couldn’t wait for the day to end, couldn’t wait to peel off the industrial layers and become myself again. In fact, I’m surprised that I didn’t run out the door screaming after an hour. But I will never forget the fact that there were actually people in there, willingly to work in that horrid stench. Willing to drench themselves in something foul every day.

They weren’t in prison. They weren’t wearing shackles. They were there by choice. In a place I couldn’t stand from one minute to the next.

While there was nothing morally wrong with this job, there was something about it that threatened to kill my soul if I stayed.

I guess the moral of the story is the fact that God has a different plan for each one of us. Today I know this is a good thing. Factory work is fine for other people. Back then, it paid well and I had a lot of friends who were more than happy to hang out with a mindless machine all day long. It just wasn’t fine for me. Those same friends would probably think I’m nuts today, laboring over sentences, sometimes spending nearly an hour to find just the right word.

God has a plan for each person. A novel concept. A beautiful concept. And I am so glad that His plan for me didn’t include that horrid factory. Thank you, Lord!

So, here are some other folks who have had odd jobs:
Becky Miller, L.L. Barkat, David Zimmerman.


sally apokedak said...

ugh! The job sounds horrific. The picture is great!

Merrie Destefano said...

Thanks, Sally!
And now the baton has been safely handed to my successor . . .

I can't wait to discover what job you're going to tell us all about!

Thanks for stopping, Sally!

L.L. Barkat said...

Why, I do believe that's sort of an Arabic spelling of my name. Minus the "a" is the real me (and it is almost too much to live up to, as "Barkat" means "blessing")

Hey, hope you don't mind me saying, but that's a creepy pic. (But then, that might be expected on a blog called "Alien Dream"... maybe? :)

Merrie Destefano said...

Sorry about the misspelling of your name. I think I fixed it.
Yes, creepy photo for creepy job.

Wish I could have found something that looked like the inside of the factory, but this one will do.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mark Goodyear said...

You know, I wonder if those people understood that they had a choice though. My grandfather worked in a factory (not quiet as horrific as the one you describe), and he felt like he had no other choice. It makes me wonder how we learn that kind of helplessness, and how we unlearn it.

Merrie Destefano said...

I know what you mean. It's hard to break free from an established pattern.

But also, there have been dark times in the past when people had no choice as to how they made their living. I always wonder about women who lived hundreds of years ago, who could have been talented writers and artists, but were never given the opportunity.

I'm so glad, that in our country today, the arts are much more accessible to both men and women, regardless of economic or social or racial background. I know a woman from Viet Nam who never would have been allowed to become an artist if her family had stayed in her native country. When they moved here, she made her own decision and today she's a graphic artist working on national magazines. She has a true understanding of what it means to follow your passion, something I think we often take for granted.

Thanks for stopping by, Mark!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

This is very interesting. I couldn't help but compare to my own factory job which I wrote about. Obviously the environment I was in was not nearly as unpleasant as the one you endured. But the idea that so many of these women had nothing better ... that was clear. No education. No job training. And they needed the money. Even so, they didn't stay with it long term. Couldn't.

Yet people used to. Used to do all kinds of things that went against their spirit.

I'm watching Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility on PBS—saw part 1 last night—and I was struck by how hopeless the existence of these women was. The best they had to hope for was marrying well. And "well" was defined differently for each one. Some, it meant a man of means who would then facilitate a woman pursuing her dreams. For others it meant a man she loved regardless of where that landed her economically, socially. What a life!


Merrie Destefano said...

Good point. Not very many people who work in factories have much of a choice. Where I came from, the people often worked in those places for ten or fifteen years. Sometimes until they retired. Before I went to college, I decided very quickly that I would rather wait on tables than serve a sentence in a factory. I'd much rather relate to humans.

And I liked your story about how you and the other folks in your factory job talked while you worked. The only problem I had was the noise precluded any conversations, in all of the factories I worked in. Hence the sense of isolation and hastily approaching brain death.

Ugh. So glad I'm not there anymore.

Looking forward to seeing you this weekend, Becky!

Prattman said...

Great photo. It captures the emotion of working in many factory jobs where repetition dulls the senses. That's how people lose fingers in machines, as their mind wanders.