In Deborah Boe’s “Factory Work” (n.d.) the author paints a picture of the monotonous and sometimes dangerous work that goes on in the life of a low income factory worker. The character remarks how the hot glue machine she works “ate” her shirt once, and how one of her co-workers used to have long hair until the machine “got” it. The character has been doing the same repetitive job over and over. Now she no longer needs to think about what she is doing and her mind wanders as she is working. While the character thinks that it isn’t bad in the factory, there is an overall sense of boredom and sadness with the life she leads. People from a low socioeconomic class such as the main character are often forced into dull monotonous jobs where they make enough money to survive but not to advance out of the system. As a result of her class, the character is willing to put up with the dangers, the lack of stimulation, and the threat of being laid off because she is still bringing in a paycheck (Boe, n.d.).
This poem reminds me of two monotonous jobs that I had right out of high school. Since I was just a teenager with no work experience and no marketable skills, I had very limited options in the jobs that I could get. The first job that I had was working part time as a tour guide at a pumpkin patch. I would sit on the hay wagon and collect the tickets of the passengers, and once we had enough people loaded the tractor would start up and take us around the farm. This is where the monotony would kick in.
I had the speech so memorized that I could recite it perfectly several years after. I didn’t have to think about the words that were coming out of my mouth, I would just need to stand there and let the speech roll out. I think the cadence occupied more of my thoughts than the actual words. Even though the job was monotonous I still really enjoyed being outside and seeing people’s reactions to the farm.
The second job I had that was monotonous was working fast food in the mall food court. This was my first real job working 8 hours a day 5 days a week. The quality of workforce they had can be gauged by the fact that the owner offered me a management position after my second day there. I spent hours and hours standing behind a hot grill, dropping meat and vegetables on as the order was called over the loud speaker. While this job required as much thought as the pumpkin patch did, here I felt like I was trapped inside my mind as I worked.
At the pumpkin patch I could enjoy the sunshine, but in the mall you have very little understanding of what is going on outside. The sun could be shining, it could be raining, and it might be daytime or night time. In the mall you learn not to say good morning or afternoon because you’re never really that sure of the time. Your internal clock loses all perspective in the fake lighting. I would take working outside in real light any time. I can associate with the character in “Factory Work” (Boe, n.d.) because my socioeconomic class trapped me in a monotonous job.