The geniuses had the maintenance guy, Walker, spray painting the ceiling. And they had me assist. Walker had on white coveralls, I was in my regular street clothes: flannel shirt, walking shorts. When I requested coveralls from Rodrigo, he and Walker were quick to shake their heads.
“You won’t need any. Besides, we’re out.”
Like I said: It’s a pathetic way to run a plant of this size (or any size, for that matter). I walk back there, to my original area where I first started with that screaming Ping woman. Walker has a bucket of paint on a pallet on the forklift, machine beside it, hose and spinner inside the paint can opening.
The sprayer in Walker’s hands is three yards long and he’s holding this thing up and spraying the ceiling with white primer. Paint all over; raining down like raindrops––only it is not rain. Walker is wearing an old ball cap/his eyeglasses/no mask. Doesn’t care. I’m different, I suppose, I give a damn about stuff like this. I simply do not want my lungs lined with paint.
I walk back to the foreman, ask for a paper mask (that will go over my nose and mouth). It does little good. Walker is spraying that paint, doesn’t give a sh*t. Not a care in the world.
Says to me: “When I wear the mask it fogs up my glasses.”
“You don’t care about the paint getting inside your lungs?”
He shrugs. “Only got one left. Spleen’s gone, a third of my intestines.”
“Yeah? How’d that happen?”
“I was in a prop plane crash in South America while working for the CIA.”
And we keep painting. One Vietnamese woman comes close to fainting, another lady starts hollering. Goes up to Walker. Gives him a piece of her mind. At this point we had been painting for close to four hours.
Walker lays down the spray gun. He’s got a door to repair. And it’s my job to clean up, sweep the dry paint (flecks, some of it, some blotches from the leaky spray gun), mop the floor. It’s a cement floor. I am covered in paint: spots, white spots all over: hair/shirt/shoes. The company just doesn’t give a damn. Somebody needs to call OSHA in Phoenix and complain about this. It’s too much. No real masks, no coveralls (or anything regarding genuine protection).
This spray painting should not be going on during working hours, not while people are here. The other shop foreman, Doris, who’s been here at the company for about three decades, agrees readily. Shows me a folder that had been sitting next to her computer desk and the paint film on it that had accumulated since Walker had begun the spraying that Saturday morning.
4:15 rolls around. Time to go home, time for the poor bastard slaves to leave the dungeon and get on home and a bit of freedom at last.
I get on that bicycle of mine, that black K-Mart bike and pedal slowly on out of there, south on Flowing Wells Rd., to Grant, and then east on Grant. No energy, no gusto. All gone, this 46-year old factory-hand running on empty these days. It is dark/overcast this afternoon, windy, but am sweating inside my blue ski jacket (due to the pedaling). My legs ache. They always do.
I continue on slowly, and then hear someone from across the street at the Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop parking lot, a woman/cycle mama, laughing, saying something to her male companion about how tough I am having it on the bicycle. Good-natured, she yells: “Keep the faith, baby!”
I don’t turn/don’t even look, keep on going slowly up Grant, staying on the oftentimes dirt/sometimes gravel sidewalk. It is a slower pace than is usual for me. Can’t be helped. Haven’t got the Go-Power lately. I do what I can (in keeping at least a steady, if not quicker pace) in hopes of beating out the impending storm.
Each and every revolution of the sprocket is a task, a job, ordeal. The pain is in the thighs mainly. Breathing heavily; no way around it. Keep going. Get home. The dog (you inherited) waiting to be fed. And you’ll be able to plop down in the chair and rest. Rest.
I make it to the purple gate at last. Get inside the yard. The dog is about to get frantic. I know she is happy to see me, but it is no fun. Too exhausted at this point.
I unlock the glass door to the duplex, go in. I grab the bag of Kibbles ’n Bits, pour enough in her red food dish and watch her go at it in a nearly maniacal way. I’m inside the apartment. Glass door closed. No sooner do I have the jacket off, the dirty/paint-covered work boots/pants/shirt, and drop into the comfortable chair in the middle of the living room, does it start pouring. And hard.
Got through another torturous day at the slave dungeon. How much longer? How much more of this can I take? How many more months? Weeks? Days?
My factory probationary period ends March 7th of this year. It’s Feb. 16th presently. Will I make it? Will I last? Will I? (There awaits for me either a 25 or 28-cent raise.) How magnanimous of them.