First Day at Work, Part 2
I’ll have to keep this short because it hurts to type. Okay, it’s not that bad, but the ends of my fingers have some sort of heat bruise; they ache when I push on anything or when I get them warm…I am a far less effective dish washer today than normal. The first hour and a half of my first shift as an industrial cleaner were kind of fun. We swept out the floor of the massive factory room, heaving desks out of the way and aiming pressurized air jets at hard to reach places. A quick break with the rest of my eclectically international cleaner crew, then the fun was over.
The factory makes foam car seats and who-knows-what-else (I saw no sign of paint production…makes me wonder about a temp agency that doesn’t know the work they are assigning) and they use large metal molds, which hang on a sort of giant nightmarish enclosed conveyor belt, and slide by continuously, emanating heat; I think the guy said they are about 160 C. They were covered in oily wax that we were to lean over and wipe off.
We wore heat resistant gloves and arm sleeves that reeked of chemicals unknowable and sweat immeasurable. By the end my shirt was soaked, and I am going to be somewhat embarrassed to return my borrowed steel-toe boots (and am deliberately not wondering how many sweaty feet wore them before me).
We used endless strips of stretchy nylon fabric that looked like someone shredded the world’s largest pair of stockings, which is kind of sad because I’m sure some Midwestern town would have been proud to have them in a roadside museum. The guys who actually work there used the air jets in the crevices, and we scrubbed, for six hours, at the searing metal. I escaped any bad burns, but I do have a decent sized red welt on my right forearm from one brief lapse of concentration.
There were six of us cleaners, Daniel the regular, who has done this often enough to be our de factor supervisor, a quiet Belgian kid whose pants were falling down to show us his technocolor skivvies, two Turkish dudes who talked more than cleaned, me, and a guy who looked kind of like Dave Chapelle, only super shy. I of course gravitated to the last dude, though I never did learn his name or what country he was from since our discourse was barely audible and mutually incomprehensible.
One of the Turks left at the meal break, saying it was too hot and unpleasant for him. His giving in made me feel tough, like I made it through to the second round of the world’s most boring reality TV show. I was next to the other Turk for awhile, but his uselessness got pretty annoying after a few hours (he just kept wiping the broad already clean zones, not understanding that we had to dig out the crevices), so I moved to the end next to Dave Chapelle, where I thought about how if I didn’t get my arm out of the mold before it moved under the wall the machine would rip it right off.
For at least the second half of the six hours of nonstop sweltering metal I thought we were surely almost done, which made it more bearable. I don’t know how anyone does that on a regular basis, knowing from the beginning what is in store. Especially when the normal shift is Friday night from 11:00 PM to around 7:00 AM. I am looking for work, but praise every kind soul in the cosmos that I am not yet so hard up as to need to trade my entire weekend’s energy for fifty euro and eight hours of scrubbing scorching metal molds.
So a toast to all the industrial cleaners out there! You make the making of our junk possible, bless your dehydrated hearts.