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  • Photo by Crystalline Radical

    It looked like a space ship landed in the middle of cactus and desert plants. Bright lights and smoke emanated from concrete and steel pipes. Startled lizards stood on hind legs as the bell of the factory caused a parking lot full of yawning men and sleepy eyed women to walk faster. They frantically dug into their pockets, wallets, plastic bags and purses to pull out glossy white badges, hair nets, plastic gloves, rubber boots, aprons and masks that covered faces and torsos and feet until workers looked indistinguishable and alien.

    Upon entering the belly of the machine, the scent of lubricants and chemicals immediately infiltrated the nose and the lungs. The powerful smells kicked off hacking coughs and runny noses, the teary eyes and the red faces were initiations to a microcosm of machine and metal. The noise defeated spongy ear plugs and helpless eardrums echoed the rub of steel, the squeaky metal wheels rotating hypnotically through ten and twelve hour shifts. Tick ….tock…. tick ...tock time moved slowly on factory clocks.

    The women stood elbow to elbow on the assembly line. They faced each other but were separated by a row of tin cans floating on steel rollers. The loudness of engines, the clatter of cans prohibited conversation. The limited work space coerced the women to move mechanically- grab chiles, fill can, grab, fill, grab, fill…for ten to twelve hours. Fingers and hands toiling incessantly until the next bell, then a five minute break. Women dashed to the bathroom, others dashed to the water fountains. I was eighteen, new to the steam, the heat, the artificial light, the sweat of pores and the evaporated dreams.
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