It was another day at the factory, building a machine that's not for him. Gordon Sumner woke up, climbed into a shiny metal box, and fought the rush hour hell down to the plant to build his very small component of Ford cars. It all seemed so pointless, so dull, so much like any other day. But he had commitments to keep: a car payment to make, two kids to feed, a drinking habit to pay for. How else to survive a walking Hell without some Jack Daniels?
It wasn't all bad; a few of his high school buddies had gone off to college and gotten away from the factory town. One had even made it to Wall Street. Fucker was proud to show off all the gold on his fingers when he came back for the reunion. Drove a Lexus to the reunion, a god-damned foreign car in a city that builds American cars. Some of the guys were surprised his chauffeur didn't drive the car. And that new wife he dragged along? Bitch was cold as hell, but whoa, what a looker. Head to toe, she was packed.
As he approached the main gate (5 minutes early, wowee!), Gordon noticed something seemed different. A group of 15 or 20 guys were clustered around a car in the parking lot. This close to the beginning of the day, most guys were getting to their work stations, getting their gear on, getting ready to watch the clock for eight hours plus lunch. Gordon parked his ‘92 Taurus and walked over to the car with the crowd. Recognizing Henry Rodriguez in the group, he asked what was going on.
"Haven't you heard?" Henry asked, "they just announced on the radio that Ford is closing another plant and moving the jobs to Mexico. They haven't announced which plant yet Announcement should be made this morning. We're hoping the radio station knows."
"Hell, it can't be us," mumbled Gordon as he lit his Marlboro. "We make a ton of money for the company. I'm sure it's one of the other plants. I've got to get on the line, and I think you guys had better go to, before we're all out of a job anyway." As Gordon spoke, he voiced a common feeling among the workers, who were already ambling towards the locker room area.
Out on the noisy, hectic line, as he installed locks onto doors for cars he could never afford on his salary, Gordon's mind wandered. In high school he had imagined so much more. He was a decent shortstop in high school. Junior year he hit .425 and the scouts were out to see him. Gordon might have been picked in the amateur draft after his senior year and live out his dreams of playing in the majors. The dream was cut short by a careless pivot on a double play. He didn't jump high enough, had his legs cut out from below him, and *boom* that quickly his knee was blown out and Gordon's dream was over. His family didn't have any money and he wasn't smart enough to get into college without a baseball scholarship.
Gordon remembered the instant he fell and smashed his knee with intense clarity. The thing he remembered most clearly was the thought, as he fell, that he would son be here in the factory with his friends. Doing the same job that drove his dad to drink, and to eventually drive his dad to kill himself driving drunk one lonely night. The same job that killed his dad was now his. Gordon often wondered if his life would end the same way, depressed and drunken and dead to the world.
The whistle blew for smoke break two hours into the shift. That was union rules. The hours had flown by with Gordon's depressed reminiscence. This was nothing new. His work was so automatic that he could do the work without thinking about it. After the whistle blew, the shift supervisor came over the intercom. "Please come to the break room for an important announcement" spoke the voice of Tony Archuletto, one of his old high school classmates.
The worry and stress were visible on everybody's face as they walked a pallbearer's walk to the office. Everyone felt their heads in a noose. Henry found his way to a table shared by three women who also worked on doors. "How much notice you think they'll give us?" he mumbled to them as Tony stepped to the front of the room.
Tony Archuletto was the only man in the room who didn't look like a doomed man. "I have bad news and good news,:" he said. The room was silent. "The bad news is that the rumors are true, Ford is closing a plant. The good news is that our plant is not the one to be closed down. Instead, they're closing a plant in Indiana that makes 4- wheelers and moving production to Mexico. We are saved, people. We still have our jobs."
Smiles erupted on every face. Cheers cascaded through the room. Gordon was grabbed in a bear hug by Deloris Johnson, who was sitting next to him. "Hear that, Gordy? We can keep building doors till the day Henry Ford himself comes back from the grave and fires us."
Gordon sighed his relief. "I can make my mortgage! All right!" he half-heartedly smirked.
"Gordy, you're a downer, man, you know that?"
"Sorry," he mumbled. This whole cycle of threat and relief was running him down. Henry was as fed up as he could be. It was all he could do to stop himself from marching up to Tony's office and put in his 2 weeks notice right then and there. Instead, he ambled back to his work station and went back to work. In the end it was a day like any other day.
Another day of frustration continued on. Days tumble one onto another. People grow inevitably older and older before they even have a chance to live, their lives buffeted by forces out of their control. Life is over for some at an early age, and all that's left is living out the string because it's all just reflex. Until the day you end up dead on the side of the road after downing a fifth of Jack's and driving your car into a tree. Henry was one of those people, living his life of quiet desperation.