Monday 21 April 2014

Ten Pounds of Nails

The first job I ever had was in a door manufacturing plant. It was loud, dangerous and the sawdust hung suspended in the air just waiting for some young, pink lungs to breathe it in. The work force was mainly first generation Italian immigrants who were paid minimum wages, worked hard and focused on doing the best job they could. I suspect that those that didn't work really hard were let go.

My mom worked in the office and was well loved by the management because she also worked hard for little money. I was put on jobs that were incredibly boring, but not as dangerous as some. I would feed a machine with large pieces of wood that would make small pieces out of them which I then neatly piled on a pallet which someone else would take away. There was no such thing as safety equipment back then, no glasses, masks, hearing protection or even gloves unless you were lucky (?) enough to be emptying box cars of rough lumber.

I can’t say I learned a lot during my time there. I did learn how to swear in Italian and how to tell the supervisor that I wanted a blow job. That was funny! I can’t blame them; I would have done the same thing if I were in their shoes. I spent a lot of time trying to and succeeding in recalling the words from the theme song of “My Mother the Car”, a sitcom from the 60’s about a guy who’s mom died and was reincarnated as a car. There were only 30 episodes made, but for some reason I liked it. I didn’t like it enough to have memorized the song, but after hours and days, it is amazing what you can dredge up from your mind.
I also learned how to flip a hammer into the air and catch it by the handle. My record was seventeen rotations, but I was only comfortable at fourteen. I did break a few hammer claws during the learning process, but it was time well spent. I don’t actually know why there was a hammer at my machine; it couldn’t have been there for me to flip. The only other thing I used it for was to drive a nail into a piece of wood every now and then so that the blades would eventually need to be sharpened and I could spend an hour or two cleaning the machine and surrounding area. I needed that break!

I have stolen something from every job I have worked at, and my first job was no different. This place really had nothing worth stealing, there were large machines which I had no use for, lumber which I had no use for, sawdust which I had no use for and quite a few hammers with broken claws which were of no use. The lumber was stored in huge piles out in the yard and was covered with plywood which was used over and over again. The plywood kept the rain off and gave a flat surface to pile other stacks of lumber on. They nailed the plywood on with two headed nails, which were good for the job because you could drive the nail in to the first head and still be able to pull it out easily with the second head, assuming you could find a hammer with both claws intact.
The nails were all over the yard, and I chose to steal them. I suppose I was actually doing them a favour by cleaning up the yard, but to my 15 year old mind, I was raiding Fort Knox. By the end of the summer, I must have had ten pounds of these nails and I brought them to the cottage with me because dad and Gram were always using nails for something. It turns out that the two headed nails were only good for holding sheets of plywood on a large pile of wood. When dad and Gram nailed something, they generally wanted the nail to stay buried in the wood. Those ten pounds of nails ended up as filler in a hole made by taking out the root of a tree.

I look back on those days fondly, but I really shouldn’t. It was hot, dirty, mindless work that paid very little and the only things I took away from it was an idea for a blog and ten pounds of useless nails.

My Mother The Car
Everybody knows in a second life, we all come back sooner or later.
As anything from a pussycat to a man eating alligator.
Well you all may think my story, is more fiction than it's fact.
But believe it or not my mother dear decided she'd come back.

As a car ...
She's my very own guiding star.
A 1928 Porter.
That's my mother dear.
'Cause she helps me through everything I do
And I'm so glad she's near.

My Mother the Car.
My Mother the car.

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