All the World’s A Stage

The fall winds are beginning to whisper among the trees, and I hesitate to say farewell to summer. It has gone too quickly, and I’m afraid I’ve wasted the last few months lamenting the horrible weather. While the rest of North America endured days of heat, we had rain and cool temps.  Heat was scant and reticent.  July was nothing short of a warmish fall. We were able to escape to a ‘staycation’ where summer kindly smiled on our hiking adventures and sunset viewings, but it was merely one week amongst many.  I’m convinced I will have to wait an entire year for any more sunshine and summer hospitality.

The ‘hood on the other hand, withstood a veritable plethora of activity posted via Facebook, complete with visual documentation. I would say most were outraged, disappointed, and appalled by the utter gall of those damned teenagers acting like, well, teenagers. The absolute nerve. How dare they ring doorbells and run, pull their pants down on a trail and moon an old lady who was out for her pre-evening stroll; let out their pirate cat who promptly shit on someone’s back patio. Who are these heathens?  It’s the inevitable restlessness of youth and the audacity to think its funny. It is, but the lack of enthusiasm for humouring the young people has more to do with overly sensitive self-righteousness than the normality of teenaged angst. Don’t blame the teenagers, y’all. Blame your inflated sense of civility.           

The neighbourhood is just that. A neighbourhood. A community that is connected through family, children, and its inhabitants no matter the age, ethnicity, and religion. Let’s remember that our community encompasses a group of like-minded people who endeavour to maintain a healthy and active social network. Children inevitably grow into young adults and those young adults are inherently adept to making mistakes; errors in judgement; perhaps inducing a raucous gathering or vandalising property. The responsibility lies in the reaction of the adults to discourage the negative behaviour with the understanding that teenagers are also reacting. This has been a difficult and unprecedented year and a half. ‘Normal’ is gone and replaced with something unrecognizable. Masks, limited gatherings, sports activities disappeared then returned, and every occasion has been laced with restrictions. It’s hard to keep up.  Teens are especially sensitive to the ongoings of their social network and with the onslaught of limitations to their access to friends, school, and leisure activities, of course they would get a little, antsy; restless; thoughtless. It’s a by-product of the new social construct. They must figure out a new path, a new way to be a teen without the world watching, and commenting, and proclaiming the youth have become disrespectful degenerates.

No, they haven’t. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to show off their community mindedness due to the few that have reacted differently to a challenging situation. Or, you haven’t noticed.  You haven’t seen the youth who are volunteering virtually, who are helping behind the scenes, who are standing in line at the grocery store for their elderly neighbour, or who are working jobs and getting spat on for the inhuman act of asking someone to wear a mask. Instead, you’ve seen the vulnerable insecure few who have chosen to perform on a small stage and been ridiculed for it.  

Take a breath.

In the meantime, the pirate cat can come over anytime.

My Factory Gig

woman worker

One summer I worked in a car parts factory on the outskirts of town.  Close to the Detroit border, our town was booming with new factories supplying car parts to the American companies from the sweat of their good Canadian neighbours and we were more than happy to oblige.  I was about seventeen and was responsible for putting shiny new bumpers into plastic bags and moving them along the conveyor belt. I wondered how many parts the factory supplied given this was a mere one insignificant portion of a whole car, but I didn’t have time to ponder the complexities of building an entire shiny vehicle.   I was a fill-in for someone who had called in sick.  I don’t really remember how I got the job exactly, just that I had to be there from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon with a half hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks.

My first day on the floor I was shown the conveyor line.  Glittery new bumpers hung from the ceiling and were floating by.  I was to grab one, inspect for scratches, put it into a large plastic bag and hang it back on the line.  Easy-peazy…I guess.  I started in and my hands instantly became scratched along the edges of the bumpers.  I was thrown a pair of work gloves and started again. One guy noticed my two left hands and my slow ambling at getting the bumpers into the plastic bags.  Instead of berating or calling me down, he stepped beside me and helped me out.  He never said a word.  Just made it look easy and showed me a tip about inspecting the bumpers at a quicker pace.  He couldn’t have been more than twenty himself.  I was grateful for the lack of conversation at my obvious awkwardness.

I ate my lunch outside with some of the women from the factory.  They were older, some married and had kids.  I must have looked green and pretty shiny myself, still in high school and dumber than the bumpers I put into the plastic bags.  They wore kerchiefs around their hair and wore bland uniforms, some stained with paint from the bumpers.  Their hands looked rough from handling car parts all day and they smoked their cigarettes while eating sandwiches.  They didn’t seem to mind the quick pace of the factory or that their lives were so regulated by a boss that neither knew them nor acknowledged their presence.  They just seemed content to be working.  The young man that had given me a hand on the line came out for a cigarette.  ‘You’ll get used to it’, he said.  ‘Don’t worry about being slow right now.  It’s better to check for scratches and be right, than to be quick’, he assured me.  I felt better after that little pep talk. The women continued to eye me with long suspicious looks and mocked disdain, wondering how I got into a factory job so quickly with no union ties and no family around the business.  I wondered that myself, I told them.  Just lucky, I guess.  We all headed back in to get back to our lines.

My luck was short-lived.  I was told after my shift the following day the person I was replacing was coming back.  ‘Thanks for filling in, but we’re okay now.  We will call you if we need you again.’  That never happened.  I learned a few things about my very short time in a factory.  I felt awkward and slow and the name Norma Rae was what every woman was whispering around the factory floor.  Work that was repetitive, extremely fast paced and one that demanded strong arms, hands and a quick eye cemented my belief that I was no factory girl.  Norma Rae would have to live on without me.

I suppose had maturity and desperation been on my side, I could have made a more valiant effort in sustaining what little employment was offered to me, but my heart wasn’t in it.  At seventeen, a factory was not where I wanted to be.  I think that summer I moved on to becoming a waitress/counter person girl at a local restaurant.  It proved to be more my speed, although my awkwardness would rear its ugly head at the worst times.  I almost dropped a pizza on a table of customers and a freshly brewed pot of coffee inexplicably ended up on the floor…but, the tips were okay despite my clumsiness and I didn’t have to worry about scratched bumpers….and no, I did not suffer any bruised chins.  Thanks.