1982 was a difficult year for the American economy, not to mention those who would come face to face with losing their employment and possibly their living. This writer was faced with such a circumstance and I've never forgotten what it means to be unsure about the future. So, in a moment of reflection, and a little despair, the following short essay is presented. It was written that same year and still strikes a chord of sympathy for anyone in such a similar predicament.
"Anything that is worthwhile is never easy to get," said the man staring at me from across the desk. Dan thought this to be a really stupid thing to say. "Right now the last thing I need is to hear that from some under-achieving bureaucrat."
The day started as usual; an alarm clock, the smell of coffee brewing and a hesitant sun peaking over the hills from the east. Dan slipped on his work clothes, drank a quick cup and headed for the routine that was his for the last fourteen years.
As he entered the old factory building, the time clock gave its usual clang and clunk marching towards seven o'clock. The friendly hum of the boring machine let everyone know it was ready to get to work. Dan moved easily among the spindles, nuts, gears and other parts he learned to fashion from lumps of metal; his hands roughened and dirty from endless hours of touching his life's work. Soon the heat and sweat of the bowels of the pounding shop were part of his soul as the noise gave life to sculptured product.
Noon time approached and a shrill buzzer pierced the noisy cauldron as if to call a halt to the calamitous riot. Dan retreated to the lunchroom for a sandwich, soda and a few cigarettes until it was time to repeat the morning's ritual which would eventually become part of the finished day. The afternoon sun, however, bore no resemblance to its morning cousin. Now the rhythmic beat had forged a furnace; sweat and strain coming easily to all on the shop floor.
Occasionally, a foreman, or supervisor, would extol someone to finish a job or clean an area, but above this the smell, sights and sounds were endless, giving way only to the puncture of the buzzer as it kept watch over all in the shop. It gave its final warning now. Stop work and clean up, wash the grease from a hundred hands; dirt from faces of spent men.
As Dan made his way to the time clock it belched out a last clang, a bitter clunk. He then placed his card in the 'out' rack. As he left the factory the machines fell into a stone silence. Today would be the last day for Dan and for the plant; its heart permanently extinguished. Middle America had lost another son. For the first time in many years Dan felt the pangs of failure and dejection.
"We'll see if we can get you an interview over at the new auto plant," said the bureaucrat. "But they can be choosy since so many are out of work." Dan nodded in agreement. "After all," he said, " anything worthwhile is never easy to get."